Lessons from Australia


DURING my 30-day sojourn Down Under, I once commented to a Filipino friend living there that Australia is a place where you can “get tired” of all the open space with trees and vegetation in its cities and suburbs. There are just too many public parks even with facilities for recreations and sports that we, Filipinos, are not used to.

Easily, my estimate is that there is at least 50 percent of open space in the suburbs that are owned and maintained by their respective councils (Local Government Units or LGUs in the Philippines). In the cities, there are also pleasant parks like in Sydney and Melbourne that are an oasis to the structures of concrete, steel and glass.

In Sydney, they have the Royal Botanical Garden just beside the iconic Sydney Opera House. It is connected to another vast greenery of park with beautiful gum trees called the “Domain” where the Art Gallery of the New South Wales (NSW) is located. The Domain is also just beside the famous Hyde Park with the awesome St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Museum on Natural History just across the street.

There is even the 583-hectare Western Sydney Regional Park (WSRP) that my family and I went to for a picnic (they call “barbecue” ) and leisurely walk. It is complete with amenities such as for grilling and of course, public toilets. The WSRP was developed for the western suburbs of Sydney and the first of its category of land in NSW.  It is part of the huge 5,280-hectare Western Sydney Parklands, the largest urban park in Australia.

As I have written in my two articles on Australia, it is so easy to see the network open spaces and wooded areas in Sydney and Melbourne from the plane as it descends for its landing. You can appreciate the urban planning that was done in the cities Down Under even with the networks of motorways (expressways) and other major thoroughfares. This is even much more pronounced in the beautiful master-planned capital of Canberra.

My wife and I were at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig last Wednesday to do some errands. Having just arrived the day before from Australia, what we observed at the supposedly world-class BGC was in stark contrast to all the open space and greenery that can be seen in the major cities of Sydney, Melbourne and the capital of Canberra

I have actually noticed the aberration earlier in the past three years (2012- 2015).  The apparent high-density mixed-use development is still being exacerbated with all the additional buildings under construction. Then the crowded Bonifacio Global City has relatively narrow main roads. Ayala Avenue in Makati built in the 1950s during the time of Joseph R. McMicking is even wider than the three major parallel roads inside the BGC.

Other than the issue of congestion, there is obvious lack of open space for parks with trees in the Bonifacio Global City, the newest Central Business District (CBD). It is interesting that the Fort Bonifacio Land Corporation (BLDC) failed to designate parks in the 240-hetare property. Ayala Corporation, with Mr. McMicking then at the helm, did far better in Makati with its parks at Legaspi and Salcedo villages and the Ayala Triangle.

(There was also the Greenbelt Park before that once had an aviary which was sadly removed  with its redevelopment under Ayala’s new management. The Greenbelt Park has now been marginalized with the remaining open space and trees just enough to support the commercial establishments, such as the restaurants, stores, movie theatres and others.)

The planning of the BGC began in 1995 through the BLDC after the Metro Pacific Corporation won the bid a year earlier. The BLDC is a joint venture of Metro Pacific holding majority share with the government’s Bases Conversion & Development Authority (BCDA). However, in 2003 Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) and the Evergreen Holdings of the Campos family acquired the controlling interest of Metro Pacific in the BLDC.

Sad to say, there are hardly any public parks inside the Bonifacio Global City today. The parking areas planted with narra trees at Market!Market! owned by ALI does not count as a park. The same can be said with the other parking lots operated by ALI and some of which are now being developed as condominium buildings by Ayala Premiere and Alveo, subsidiaries of ALI. There are only two small parks at the BGC.

The lesson to be learned here as done in the great nation of Australia is that government should look after the public welfare because business cannot be expected to do it. In the case of BGC, the BCDA should have stipulated in the Development Guidelines that around 20 percent of the total 240 hectares or 48 to 50 hectares should be designated as parks and open spaces (exclusive of the roads!).

The other option is from the outset to exclude the areas for parks and open spaces from the total area to be bid out. In the case of the 244 hectares in Fort Bonifacio, the BCDA could have bid out only 200 hectares and set aside the 40 hectares for the open spaces for parks to be planted with trees, vegetation and other facilities and amenities.

The high density congestion at Fort Bonifacio is even worse with the development projects of the, to some, notorious MegaWorld with a  total combined area of 100 hectares. The four-lane main road in its 50-hectare McKinley Hills is even narrower than the main roads at BGC. Even the parking slots for vehicles is inadequate at its Tuscany project that there is hardly space for pedestrians to walk and the rear portion of cars protruding to the road.

The same lack of parks and open spaces happened in Muntinlupa when the national government bid out in 1995 the 244-hectare Alabang Stock Farm of the Department of Agriculture that is now known as FILINVEST CITY. The only open space there is the landscaped center-island of Filinvest Avenue and the recent development at the rear of Festival Mall. Again, just like with Ayala in BGC, the open spaces at the parking areas of the mall do not count.

The national government could have done the same thing in Alabang with FILINVEST CITY as what should have done in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. Either impose the 20 percent condition or restriction for parks and open spaces or set aside the 44 hectares for such purpose separate from the total area to be bid out.

However, the national government never seems to learn from its mistakes . Again, there was no condition for the same open space requirement when 74 hectares of the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) was bidded out in late 2012. Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) won the bid and has renamed it as ARCA South in 2013. Based on its development plans, there will be more of the same as what ALI and other developers did at BGC in the past years.

The designation and development of public parks in the Philippines for the enjoyment of our people for sports, recreation and leisure is one lesson we can all learn from Australia Down Under.



Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. Great article, and I totally agree that greed rears it’s ugly head in all corners of Philippine government. There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by profit, that’s why people invest. But then I can also imagine someone at the planning and development boardroom suggesting what Rick here has eloquently pointed out concerning the need for much green spaces, only to be laughed at due to the Pinoy attitude of “sayang yung space! pwede pang tayuan yan ng anim pang residential high-rises!” (So much wasted space! We can fit in 6 more residential high rises in it!”)

    Therein lies the problem. Profit maximization is one thing; the unreasonable quest to line one’s pockets to the detriment of society is another.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Thank you, Ben. This is why the national government should have a Declaration of Policy on the Designation and Development of Public Parks in Urban Areas. There should been at least 50 hectares of open space for parks with trees and amenities in 240 sqms Bonifacio Global City (GBC) in Taguig. The same for the 244-hectare FILINVEST CITY: at least 50 hectares. These alone would have created 100 hectares of two public parks and eastern and western Metro Manila.

      With the 74-hectares in the former FTI in Taguig, the national government should have set aside 15 hectares for a Public Park. The remaining portion of the 46 hectares of FTI that can be redeveloped in the future can have another 10 hectares for a public park. All told, a total of 25 hectares for Public Parks in the former FTI.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      MegaWorld is NOTORIOUS for using every available square meter or square inch to built. Their subsidiary, Empire East, built the California Square along Libertad St (now D.M. Guevarra St) in Mandaluyong and it has open space for greenery inside. I will NOT recommend MegaWorld and Empire East projects.

  2. Filipinos love to tell other filipinos this or that is world class. Most will have no idea if it is or isnt as most havent been anywhere that is world class so they have nothing to compare it to. Filipinos are indoctinated with everything filipino from the weather when every single channel will mention the philippine area of responsibility. No other coutry in the world uses that pfrase. They would say something like the typhoon will hit southern england tomorrow. Then when saying about something good that a filipino is doing they will say we tell the story of the filipino. It sounds foreigners do nothing good. In any other country when they talk of something good being done by a fellow countryman they will say john smith from london did this. It is all very subtle but its there i think to indoctrinate the filipino. In my local golf club its cheaper membership for a filipino than a foreigner. I told them thats racial discrimination, they said no we are trying to encourage more filipinos to become members. If they lived in my country & we charged them more for anything than we would to a fellow brit they would accuse us of racism, they wouldnt accept we are trying to encourage more english people to become members.
    A problem with the congestion in metro manila, look how difficult it is to get from one place to another there are few cross city routes. They go all round & round so all the traffic has to go down the same roads. I pointed it out to my friend on google maps the other day.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Yes, there should be equal treatment and NO Discrimination.

      Anent the detriorating traffic in Metro Manila, it is the Legacy of the Aquino Administration. What can we expect? President B.S. Aquino III appointed a friend and former college classmate as MMDA Chairman. He is a lawyer and a politician who is now doing traffic experiments together with his GM and the Head of Traffic Dept, who are both Lawyers.

  3. Very good and accurate article Rick. One of the problems here is that the Filipino people accept it . Instead of enjoying the wonderful fresh air , grass and trees , they are instead opting to spend their leisure time in the air conditioned malls. And unfortunately the small amount of grassed areas that do exist stink of male urine.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Yes, John. Very SAD. The national government and LGUS have deprived both the Filipino people and foreigners living in Metro Manila and other regional centers and provincial cities, the Simple Joy of being in a Public Park. Th city of Paranaque has NO Public Parks. The only parks we have that people go to walk or jog are two memorial parks for dead people . This simply shows how the country has been MISMANAGED by the elected and appointed officials in the past 50 years (at least).

  4. Rosie Whitman on

    Imagine New York without Central Park. How tragic that would be! – yet BGC will end up without any open green space, destroying the very quality that promised to set it apart from all the other errors of greed in Manila. BGC, ahh, so much promise, so little delivery.

    It’s not overpopulation that is ruining Manila, nor poverty. It is the greed and rapaciousness of the local governments in Metro Manila who have resolved to exploit public trust for their private purposes. Public open green space is a benefit to society, a quality of life, not another development site.

    These developers have stolen, and are stealing your quality of life.

    I am Filipina born but Australian at heart. Great article, Rick, tell it like it is. I’m going for a walk around the park.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Rosie, thank you. Your observations are Most VALID. Yes, public parks benefit society with the quality of life to its people. In Metro Manila and the rest of PH, the only ones with parks in their neighborhood to go are those inside gated villages. The property developers built them as an attraction. Yes, we have a nice park in our village. But I pity the residents of other areas adjacent to others. They have NO Park to go to!

  5. That’s why we Filipinos in Australia are proud to be Australians… Thanks for the good article….

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Thank you for the compliment. Filipinos who have migrated to Australia and changed their citizenship can both be proud to be Aussies and Pinoys as well. So many things to be proud of as Filipinos. There are only a few hundred people, mostly politicians and vested-interest individuas and groups, who are putting the Philippines and the Filipinos to a advantage with their lack of patriotism. The thousands and millions of Filipinos can Make a Difference if only they become Responsible Citizens