WORKING for Dubai made me realize that religion is not a hindrance in developing cities and nations. When culturally and spiritually diverse countries assimilate into one society, there is economic vibrancy, proliferation of artists, and more appreciation for identity, and respect. We can take inspiration from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, and other European countries.
Any form of extremism is caused by many factors. In the case of the Philippines, poverty, poor housing quality, lack of job opportunities, and lack of education are the primary factors. It is reported that members of extremist groups are paid monthly just like in a regular job. It is also reported that they are under the influence of drugs. Social cohesion breaks down when problems are aggravated by inadequate urban conditions.
Despite these setbacks, I have high hopes for Mindanao. I believe that Mindanao is one of the key contributors that will bring the Philippines into the top 20 economies of the world. Aside from its rich culture and scenic environment, Mindanao is the gateway not only to Southeast Asia but to the entire continent of Oceania.
After the 9/11 bombings, I went back to school and studied in the Harvard Graduate School of Design to learn about security by design that is applied in architecture and planning. I want to share some practical recommendations for the redevelopment of Marawi.
Remaking Marawi through security by design
1. High blank walls should not be allowed. I learned that criminals are not afraid of walls. It increases expense because you will have to put security on both sides of the wall. If someone throws a grenade, rapes, kills, or puts up a shabu laboratory, a drug facility, or an arms depository inside the house, there will be no witnesses. You are also providing a free wall for vandals, informal settlers, and, unfortunately in our part of the world, undisciplined males to urinate on.
To be able to increase security, hedges (instead of fences or walls), ample lighting, and street CCTV are better options. In cities like Paris, London, and New York, whenever crime happens on the street, the criminal is easily identified and caught. Having more eyes on the street discourages criminals from committing a crime.
2. Wider and more walkable sidewalks. The impact of walkability goes a long way for security purposes, and it also contributes significantly to potential economic activities and health of the citizens. Sidewalks should be able to accommodate the elderly, children, women, and persons with disability.
Metro Manila is how not to do it. Ours is a car-oriented metropolis that is influenced by Hollywood and Beverly Hills planning, which has been obsolete since the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s. Cities are for people, not cars.
3. Lake Lanao as a cultural, spiritual, and economic center of the city. Around the world, waterfront development is prime real estate, and preferred social gathering places. Open parks and commercial areas can be developed around the lake. With good design, the lake can be protected against environmental polluters and at the same time it can be a reflection of Mindanao’s colorful culture.
4.Well-lighted streets. There are case studies that white light should be used instead of orange/yellow light. With white light, the face of the person would be more recognizable, especially in CCTV cameras.
5. Avoid/do not allow tight alleyways in between houses and buildings. Poorly designed alleyways, and especially unlit ones are prone to crime. Proper setbacks and spacing should be implemented.
6. Mass transportation system. The key to attract more investors is when transportation and mobility are easily accessible. Good transportation reduces operations costs and accidents, and promotes faster travel. There are more than 20 kinds of transportation while the private cars is only one. In the entire country, maybe only 2 percent of Filipinos own cars. Therefore, the roads should be proportionally appropriated to the pedestrians, cyclists and mass transport.
7. Develop service roads, utility lines, and parallel major roads. If the city will industrialize, it should learn from the mistakes of Metro Manila. There is no proper truck and service route, causing traffic congestion and delays in the delivery of goods. Inspection of goods are also difficult to do when there is no defined route.
8. Zone hazard areas and enforce special ordinances and building permits for those areas. Flood, earthquake and soil erosion-prone areas, among others should be zoned properly so that the community will be aware of potential disasters. Special rules and permits should be enforced when an identified area is seen to be hazard- or disaster-prone.
9. Basic utilities should be readily accessible. The usual culprit for social unrest is the unavailability of basic utilities such as clean water, energy, food, clothing, healthcare, housing, and education. There are many strategies to be able to provide each utility, such as alternative energy, community food farming and production, and rain collection, among others.
10. Community participation in planning the city. All citizens and stakeholders should participate in planning the city. It is in this manner that they will feel involved and equally responsible for their neighborhoods and communities.
Ingredients of success
After visiting and observing more than 2,000 cities in 74 countries, and being able to work and help 39 countries, I have observed there are only five ingredients of success: strong political will, visionary leadership, good planning, good design, and good governance. With these key ingredients, I believe that there will always be hope to build back better, safer, smarter, and more sustainable cities and communities in the Philippines, especially in Marawi.