A CITY can be likened to a human body. It is made up of different organs and it interacts through a complex synchronization of nerves and arteries. The heart is the central business district, the lungs are the parks and green open spaces, and the arteries are the roads and transport corridors, among others. If one of the organs does not function properly, the body gets sick, and it is the same with cities. If the transport corridors are heavily clogged by traffic, the movement of goods and people towards the central business district is impeded. And if the cities reduce the land area of their parks and open spaces, the air quality deteriorates and urban heat increases.
In a city, quality of life, the economy, the environment, culture, health, and spirituality are all intertwined. They are all inter-related. Planning and development should not be focused in one sector, rather they should be planned with all sectors in mind. For the longest time, this has been the problem of national government agencies, schools and universities, and the business community. Each is moving in its own sphere. You would have national roads built without sidewalks and landscaping, economic development plans and business developments without considering deep social and cultural impacts. And school and university researches collecting dust in library archives, never seeing the light of day for public consideration and implementation.
The city cannot be planned with only one or two sectors in mind. For example, when a specific national agency is tasked to build a road, it should not only be for cars, but it should also consider walkability, air quality, and disaster-mitigating measures. And the same goes with economic development. Government should not only invest in what “the market demands” like developing a mass transport only when the city is already crowded. By that time, real estate and land would have become very expensive, and would almost take more than a decade to acquire.
Moving forward, we should make sure that the emerging metropolitan areas in other parts of the country should not copy the mistakes of Metro Manila. We need to realize that there is more to our country beyond Metro Manila and start considering what other regions have to offer.
I am happy to share that just this October, the Mindanao Development Authority, in strategic partnership with the Davao Regional Development Council and National Economic Development Authority, awarded the Urban Master Plan of Metro Davao to Palafox Associates.
Metro Davao master plan
The total land area of Metro Davao is approximately 600,000 hectares and the entire Davao Gulf is approximately 860,000 hectares. This includes the municipalities of Panabo, Carmen, Tagum, Island Garden of Samal, Mabini, Maco, Pantukan, Banaybay, Lupon, San Isidro, Governor Generoso, Davao City, Sta. Cruz, Digos, Hagonoy, Padada, Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, and Jose Abad Santos.
The Davao Gulf megalopolis is 16 times the size of Singapore, four times the size of Hong Kong, and twice the size of Dubai.
Metropolitan Davao is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. In 2016, the region grew 9.4 percent—the third fastest—and it contributed 4.1 percent of the gross national product, the fifth largest contributor to the Philippine economy (Philippine Statistics Authority GRDP, 2017). According to the 2013 economic research of the Urban Strategies Group of the University of Asia and the Pacific, Davao City ranks second in the index of market potential for cities. The index has three dimensions, namely market growth, market spending capacity, and business and commercial support (UA&P Urban Markets Adviser, 2013).
In 2016, the then Mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo R. Duterte, won the national elections as President of the Republic of the Philippines. Along with the strong economic growth of the Davao region, the election of President Duterte helped propel the increase of investments, political significance, and urbanization of the region, most especially Metropolitan Davao.
For this study, Metropolitan Davao includes Davao City, Digos City, Panabo City, Tagum City, Island Garden City of Samal, and the municipalities of Sta. Cruz, Maco and Carmen.
Due to the increasing development and rapid urbanization, the metropolis is experiencing growing concerns over population growth, traffic congestion, mobility of goods, waste management, water security, and power, among others. But these concerns also present more opportunities that can translate into technological innovations, human capital and development, and public and market capital for sustainable infrastructure and city planning. With increased sources of revenue for the metropolis, the quality of life of the citizens can be lifted.
Metropolitan Davao has the opportunity to become a model for a sustainable, pedestrian and transit-oriented, technologically innovative, livable and resilient city in the country. First and foremost, it should learn from, and not copy, the urban ills of Metro Manila and the National Capital Region.