Planning future cities in the Philippines

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ON April 17, 2015, the Philippines will once again be at the forefront of discussions on the most promising real estate opportunities in APEC as the FIABCI (Fédération Internationale des Administrateurs de Biens et Conseils lmmobiliers) Philippines, in coordination with the International Real Estate Federation-Asia Pacific, hosts the 19th FIABCI Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat Summit for the first time in Manila.

The Philippines has been experiencing a positive economic growth and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With good governance and properly addressing peace and order and climate change, among others, our country could be in the Top 20 economies by 2021. In order to boost this progress, I believe that we should build/rebuild our cities better, smarter, safer, and more sustainable.

Many cities in Metro Manila are opting for urban renewal infill developments in their key areas to bring new vitality to the city. Urban renewal infill developments allow for the maximum use of idle or underutilized land in the metropolis, thereby helping reduce the pressure to expand the city and extend its effective boundaries. Urban renewal infill developments help arrest blight and decay of the old centers and inner cities by infusing new investment into these areas. Urban renewal, if made part of a comprehensive investment “package” for the long term health of the city, can ultimately stimulate additional economic returns.

The spread effects of managing the timing, scale and location of infill developments and coordinating this with public and private activities, within a framework for the city, may be huge. Investing on a redevelopment of a decaying public space, for instance, benefits private property holders in the vicinity because these properties become more attractive places to live and conduct business in.


While infill development spells urban renewal to an idle or underutilized land, a corollary development is the establishment of “edge cities,” which refers to the development of areas in the peripheries of a city. When properly planned and developed, these peripheral areas will become self-contained communities. Traffic will therefore be alleviated, pollution shall be checked and other environmental ruins prevented. In Metropolitan Manila, would-be “edge cities” are those places from Alabang to Canlubang. These would cover Alabang in Muntinlupa, Southwoods in Carmona and Biñan and Sta. Elena in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Northwards, edge cities also include Subic and Clark, among others.

If we are to develop smart cities in our country, good connectivity is also crucial—how we can live, work, shop, dine, learn, and worship, with healthcare, wellness centers and 24-hour cycle activity centers as closely as possible to each other. Connectivity goes beyond the physical, beyond the distribution systems – roads, mass transit, and communications. Connectivity refers to the integration of the activities that define the character of the city, including its social, economic and cultural links. We must improve the mobility and connectivity in our cities and our country by creating smart urban developments.

Another significant change that we, as architects, planners, engineers, and designers at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, would like to see happen in the near future is the adoption of walkability and bikeability in our cities. Among the recognized walkable and bikeable cities in the world are the American cities – New York, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, the old European cities – Paris, London, Venice and Florence and some prominent and world cities of Asia – Fukuoka in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. A comfortable and pleasant walk is made possible to and from destinations by clustering related establishments close to each other. Streetscapes are characterized by vibrant activity and architectural elements designed for the human scale, emphasizing their history and spirit of the place.

To complement walkable and bikeable cities, the concept of transport-oriented development was further refined. The concept recognizes the potential of lending complete mixed-use and multi-use communities to transit and inter-modal terminals, airports and sea ports. International gateway airports will be as important to urban development in the 21st century as road-based transport such as automobiles, buses, and trucks were in the 20th century; trains/ railways in the 19th century; and ports and water borne transport were in the 18th century.

The cities of the 21st century will develop around transportation facilities that serve people and cargo leading to a new aviation – linked urban form: The Aerotropolis or airport cities.

By focusing on our cities, we in turn strengthen the whole nation. Global competitiveness measures nowadays give special attention to the success of each city as drivers of growth and productivity of countries and regions. It is important for the Philippines government to empower its cities by putting in more effort and developing each of them. To quote John F. Kennedy, “…neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.”

Author’s Note: FIABCI is a worldwide federation of 100 national real estate associations and an international business club of real estate professionals in 60 countries. Founded in Paris, France, FIABCI enjoys the honor of being a Special Consultant to the United Nations Organization Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), providing advice on various aspects regarding property activities and formulating and developing policy concerning property matters among others. FIABCI Philippines is currently led by Ar. Felino Palafox as President. For inquiries on the 19th FIABCI Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat Summit, you may send an e-mail to fiabci.ph@gmail.com.

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