The Asian Development Bank’s Asian Development Outlook for 2013 stated that one of the ways to sustain balanced economic growth and energy security in our country is to build “smart and green” cities.
As a developing nation with inchoate cities, the Philippines has an incredible opportunity to create a series of smart cities whose importance could help propel our country toward sustained economic growth and a more globally competitive country.
Smart Cities as growth centers
The term “Smart City” emerged around 2004 from the Smart Growth movement of the late 1990s and became an indicator of different characteristics to measure the performance of cities towards smart mobility, smart environment, smart economy, smart governance, smart living and smart people.
Consider these facts: More than 50 percent of us live in cities today. By the end of the century, 90 percent of us will live in cities. Thus, there will be more investments in the next 40 years in urban areas that will propel many countries towards careful, sustainable urban planning and green urbanism.
Smart Cities are now widely viewed as the sound solution towards inclusive growth. If we are to develop smart cities in our country, good connectivity is crucial—how we can live, work, shop, dine, learn, worship, with healthcare, wellness centers and 24-hour cycle activity centers as closely as possible to each other. We must improve the mobility and connectivity in our cities and our country by creating smart urban developments.
May we cite for example, our planning projects in Clark, where we were tasked to masterplan the 177-hectare state-of-the-art logistics and technology park within the Clark Special Economic Zone. The Sabah Al-Ahmad Global Gateway Logistics City is strategically located across Clark Airport, creating an aviation logistics support hub in the Industrial Estate 5 area, as well as enhance and complement the anticipated development and prospective market that the airport and the nearby seaport of Subic will generate within the foreseeable future. It is a premier aerotropolis, an airport driven urban development comprising of industrial and mixed-use commercial offices, residences, institutions and civic centers. While the airport terminal is envisioned to be the core of the development, it also coincides with the progress of the Clark Freeport Zone as the Philippines’ premiere gateway and business mecca.
Live, work, play
A smart city is also a sustainable city. In a recent exhibition entitled, “Smart City: The Next Generation” that I attended in Berlin, Germany, our firm was invited to feature one of our ‘Smart City’ projects and share the challenges and solutions for smart mobility in the Philippines and our relevant projects in this context. The project, a collaboration between Palafox Associates and the city government of San Juan, aims to reshape the city through the application of green architecture and green urbanism concepts, sustainable development principles and global best practices, and engage its citizens towards a greener approach to city planning and thus, transform San Juan from a vulnerable city into a sustainable smart city. The San Juan City plan called for changing the city’s land use plan, zoning, transportation, mobility, disaster-preparedness towards a sustainable, smart city. If San Juan City follows Palafox Associates’ plan, the city will become a smart city by 2023.
A 60-year-old planning mistake might not be easy to correct, but a city built on the principles of sustainable development is not just resilient and adaptive: It also promotes urban investments. In cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, Copenhagen, London, Munich, Bogota, Vancouver, New York, among others, what made them such successful sustainable cities is because they are not just led by willful political and business leaders, but also by a host of concerned citizens who believe in the value of civic involvement.
Collaboration, not confrontation, is their key to progress. Our country is yet to fully develop its own smart, green, and sustainable and smart cities. With a rigorous private-public partnership, we can lift it towards re-planning, remaking, and rebuilding our cities into globally competitive smart cities of the future.
FOOTNOTE: Arch. Felino ‘Jun’ Palafox Jr. is the Principal Architect and Managing Partner of Palafox Associates, a multi-disciplinary firm he founded in 1989. He is the president-elect of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) for 2013 and 2014, and his firm has been involved in the planning of more than 14 billion square meters of land and the design and architecture of more than 12 million square meters of building floor area in 38 countries. He earned his Architecture degree from the University of Santo Tomas and his Masters in Environmental Planning from the University of the Philippines. He also holds seven diplomas from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.