METROPOLITAN Cebu, along with the Pampanga Megalopolis, One Negros Island, and Davao Gulf Megalopolis, among others, are the future of the Philippines. Metro Manila is already decaying, and it has too expensive and too complicated to reverse the many urban ills, most especially addressing the confluence of system traffic congestion, which are deeply rooted in land use, and spatial and physical development.
There is hope for Manila, but it is bleak as the time is prolonged. For now, the future are these emerging metropolises and not Metro Manila.
Metro Manila, despite having an average national economic share of 34 percent of the national income, major activity centers and nearby regions, is experiencing critical planning, resiliency, and sustainability problems. Incidence of social gentrification, social inequity, and environmental degradation is high, as well as the uneven quality of education and health care in adjacent provinces. Slowly, cities in the Visayas and Mindanao are repeating the mistakes of Metro Manila, and this is something that we need to prevent through immediate action, short-, medium-, and long-term planning.
Metropolitan Cebu is not like Metro Manila. I do have to caution that some areas of Cebu are slowly mirroring the traffic mess of Metro Manila, especially in major arterial roads and major activity centers like the Cebu Business Park, Mactan airport transport link, and other central business districts. Let us plan Cebu and the other cities and regions of our country that are worthy of human dignity across present and future generations.
Six types of infrastructure
After visiting more than 2,000 cities in 74 countries, I observed that there are at least six types of infrastructure for the world-class and more successful cities such as Paris, London, New York, Dubai, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore. These are: progressive, hard, soft, institutional, green/sustainable, and the latest is digital infrastructure. For a Metropolitan Cebu, as well as the other emerging metropolitan areas, to succeed, they will need all of these kinds infrastructures.
Progressive infrastructure consists in the development of international airports, seaports, universities, hospitals, and tourism facilities. Singapore, Dubai, and South Korea have been very successful in developing all of these. It increases the capacity to accommodate more tourists, entice more talent because of very good education and job opportunities, and attract more elderly who are looking to retire because of good healthcare. Back in the 1970s before I was invited and hired by the rulers of Dubai, to plan and develop Dubai as a first world city in less than 15 years, the number of paved roads was close to zero, and the airport was nowhere close to the then Manila International Airport. I didn’t know anything about the country, and even in one of my uncle’s books, the name of the country was misspelled. But in the 1970s, the ruler asked us to carve a garden city out of the desert, build the biggest seaport and harbor, and now they are building the biggest airport in the world.
Hard infrastructure are the roads, highways, transportation corridors, urban-rural link, regional linkages, urban logistics connectivity, and farm to market roads. Soft infrastructure is the ease of doing business. Institutional infrastructure is the development very good, pro-active, responsive honest, and corrupt-free government institutions. Green/ sustainable infrastructure is taking into account environmentally and ecological responsible technology, design, and development methodology.
With the rapid technology development, the digital infrastructure has turned from a luxury into a necessity. The digital infrastructure has contributed greatly towards today’s globalization—people are able to conveniently obtain data from far-off places in a matter of minutes. Significant news and happenings are being broadcast through the entire globe as they happen. It has also provided humankind with great comfort and convenience, allowing people of different abilities to be able to contribute as well. The technology advancement has also contributed in prolonging humankind’s life. Digital technology has helped people monitor their health better. World-class hospitals have successfully integrated digital technology into their daily hospital operations, providing better services for the patients.
Similarly, this digital infrastructure has paved the way for international collaborations. National projects may now be done by a team of international individuals working in their own countries, allowing for greater synergy of thoughts and an exchange of cultures. Data are being transferred via cloud storage; the team can access these data no matter where they are. In our office, projects and reference materials are stored in a database so our offices in Cebu and Davao can access these data as well, allowing for easier exchange of information across the country. With cloud storage, projects can be readily produced, archived, and retrieved, allowing our teams more time for enhancing the projects, providing better output for our clients. Our office has been moving towards digital database, so our administration can better monitor our employees’ performance, and our employees can easily do transactions. This also allows for less use of paper, which is more environment-friendly. Our library also makes use of the digital infrastructure through creating a portal to easily find and retrieve reference materials.
A Cebu megalopolis
The land area of the region of Cebu is four times the size of Hong Kong, and six times the size of Singapore. The area for development is vast, and if we plan the city like Hong Kong and Singapore, the province can comfortably accommodate 30 million people, while preserving heritage, ecological sites and the natural environment.
Development should not end in Metropolitan Cebu. Urban growth centers should be established in the north (e.g. Bogo City) and south, so that these emerging urban growth centers will act as counter-magnets and balance urban development. Quality education, quality healthcare, good infrastructure, and job opportunities should be accessible throughout the region. Development should spread out evenly like butter on a piece of bread.