TAKING off from my previous article on my vision of the Philippines, I would like to emphasize that in my observation of progressive nations, I conclude that their success can be attributed to five factors: visionary leadership, political will, good planning, good design, and good governance. All are necessary ingredients to be able to bring the Philippines well into the 21st century.
Also, here’s a brief summary of what I shared last week on how far transportation infrastructure affects economic growth. Government expenditure on infrastructure, especially in intermodal integration and connection, is one of the main drivers of economic development. While the Philippines is enjoying an unprecedented economic growth average of 6 % compared to the 2 % and 4 % average of the 1980’s to the early 2000, growth will stagnate if the concentration of development will solely be in Metro Manila.
The goal is the decentralization and integration of regions so that development will be evenly spread out. Coupled with a national sustainability plan, improved taxation laws, the freedom of information law, whistle blowers protection act, and fair-competition act, my vision for the Philippines is realistic and attainable. It has been a good sign that the government has increased infrastructure spending over the years, and we can expect that these will have tremendous impact in the coming years.
Transportation, traffic, housing, poverty, pollution, too much politics, infrastructure and incompetence, corruption, criminality, and climate change, and selective justice must all be addressed effectively.
As the North and South of Luzon develops and creates new urban growth centers, it can be expected that population migration towards Metro Manila will slow down and eventually decrease. There will also be lesser traffic congestion as about 2 million citizens from Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will be diverted to nearer urban areas, the emerging growth centers.
This dispersion of traffic, coupled with a more mature mass-transit system (such as the development of MRT 1 – MRT 7) and hopefully the success of developing a bus rapid transit, pedestrians can slowly regain a fair share of the road in the Manila Megalopolis. If Singapore, one of the top economies of the world and smaller than Metro Manila and Laguna, has revived its city from aged districts, certainly the Philippines can also slowly adopt urban renewal and revitalization projects. With developments happening outside Metro Manila, holistically the city will experience fewer cars, be able to breathe more, and be able to widen walkways.
Citizens that live all the way in Quezon City will be able to travel faster going towards Makati, as it takes two to three hours due to poor transport systems today. Once mass transit systems are in place we can expect massive development especially along Commonwealth and all the way to Bulacan. But living in the North may prove that it might be a better option for them to work in the nearer new growth centers such as Bulacan than to go Makati or even Fort Bonifacio or the South new urban growth centers in Laguna and Cavite.
In the heart of Manila, we can also expect that urban revitalization and renewal will occur especially in the Museum cluster near Luneta Park, Intramuros, and the old district of Binondo and Escolta street. These areas will be transformed into an integrated heritage area that are highly walkable and bikable. Currently, Intramuros had begun its movement into a people-centric area from being car-plagued. These areas had been the center of commercial and cultural activities throughout the centuries, but over the years buildings have aged, cars have dominated the streets and vendors are all over the streets.
With pedestrianization, widening of sidewalks, and the development of better transportation systems, we can expect urban renewal and revitalization to occur. Simply reversing the trend of car-orientation towards people-centric streets creates an atmosphere of social interaction and increase in foot traffic, which also attracts new economic and business opportunities.
The conversion of Escolta and Binondo into a heritage city will attract more investors and eventually retrofit old buildings and develop new infrastructure that can aid in the preservation of monuments and old buildings.
Ortigas, Cubao, and portions of Makati will become more highly urbanized and will be converted to highly walkable and bikable cities as well. It is with great news that Ortigas center is finally mulling in widening its sidewalks and some have already undergone redevelopment.
By 2021 we can also expect walkable, bikable with the river walk promenade on both sides of the river. Pasig River will be utilized more for urban transportation. There is somewhat recent improvement in the current state of the Pasig River. Through continuous and more rigorous efforts in cleaning the river, we can expect that it will get better.
Integrating with outer Luzon
All of these that I mentioned are very possible. I have high hopes, as some of these developments have already begun. It is a matter of persisting until it is accomplished even though it is very challenging.
And of course, our vision does not end with Manila Megalopolis. It extends to the entire nation. For my next article I will be exploring and sharing my vision of the rest of Luzon, Visayas ,Mindanao for 2021 and beyond. The Philippines well into 21st Century.