A lawmaker on Sunday called on the government to explore the possibility of decongesting Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR) by relocating some agencies to other regions, a move that he said would also spur economic development in other areas.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the government’s decision to focus majority of its infrastructure projects in Metro Manila instead of spreading them to other regions has resulted in a huge rise in population in the NCR.
Metro Manila now has a population of 19,137 people per square kilometer, much higher than the Calabarzon region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) that has 758 people per square kilometer.
Cayetano noted that in the 2013 approved projects of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) with a P184-billion budget, the big pie of P142 billion went to Metro Manila, of which only one project—the proposed train line—will potentially benefit Cavite province.
Another portion of the budget or about P42 billion went to Bulacan province for the bunk water project but this is only because it will also benefit Metro Manila.
“We should not concentrate everything in Metro Manila, there are other regions in the country that could also benefit from the national budget,” the senator said.
He added that transferring some government departments from Metro Manila to the other regions would not only decongest cities in the NCR but boost economic development in the countryside.
“If we want a long-term solution to decongest Metro Manila, the government must bring growth to the countryside. While economic planning should have national vision and coherent policy, there should also be 17 regional strategies,” Cayetano said.
He proposed that the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department Agrarian Reform (DAR) be transferred to Central Luzon, the country’s rice granary, while the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) be moved to Cavite where the agency is eyeing to build a new airport, and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to Cebu in Central Visayas.
He also suggested that the National Anti-Poverty Commission be relocated in Mindanao, which has some of the poorest provinces and municipalities in the entire country.
“Metro Manila will continue to be the political and financial capital of the Philippines but this should not mean economic activity should be concentrated in [it],” Cayetano said.