THE Philippines, being an archipelagic country, has the third longest shoreline in the world, with great potential for development. In undertaking such development, the fragile ecosystem of coastal land must be recognized, marine life must be conserved, and the seascape enhanced, to add to the amenity value of these water and coastal resources.
Moreover, the Philippines has many rivers and lakes that need to be protected from degradation and pollution. The current practice of treating our waterways as “back of the house,” as in the case with most developments along the Pasig River and more than 400 rivers nation-wide, encourage the proliferation of informal settlements along the banks, and the indiscriminate disposal of untreated industrial and domestic waste into the rivers. It is important to initiate waterfront developments that assign prime value to waterways traversing the metropolis, cities, towns, and communities.
Creating successful waterfronts
The more successful urban waterfront developments have effectively integrated several best practices. This includes having a mix of uses within the development, like places to live, work, play, shop, dine, and worship, among others. In turn, this ensures 24/7 activities within the waterfront community making it alive and economically sustainable. Roads should also be laid out in such a way that use of private vehicles is minimized and visitors and residents and induced to walk, jog, or bike. To maximize the marina, travel by boat should be included in the transportation mix as one of the best ways to get around and enjoy spectacular views.
A marina development should also exhibit a pride of place and must be identifiable, unique and memorable. This can be achieved by showcasing local identity and using iconic buildings. The Sydney Harbor, for example, is easily recognizable because of the iconic Sydney Opera House facing the waterfront. Through effective management and creative programming, marina developments can draw crowds and likewise contribute significantly to the economy and tourism in the community, town, or city it operates in.
According to Eric C.Y. Fang of Perkins Eastman, the rediscovery by cities of their abandoned waterfronts has been one of the most important trends in urban planning and development in the past 30 years. “First seen in American and European cities, projects like Battery Park City in New York and Canary Wharf in London brought the cities to their edges by bringing development, open space, and public access right up to the water,” he adds.
All over the world, countries that once abused their rivers have come full circle and resuscitated their precious waterways. It is often taken for granted that grand rivers like the Seine, Thames, Hudson, and Danube also went through what Pasig River is going through—years of indifference and abuse brought about by industrialization and so-called progress.
By relocating the informal settlers onsite or near the site through socialized housing developments, the Pasig River can once more reclaim the once wide riverbanks and watercourses. It is also strongly recommended to respect the 10-meter easement.The Manila Bay, Pasig River, and Laguna Lake can be interconnected through water transport and walkable, bikeable, waterfront promenades. Once fully redeveloped, they will enhance, expand, and encourage a change in lifestyle, conserve marine life, and most importantly, bring forth the appreciation of a long neglected asset.
On the flipside, predictions on climate change have also affected the design of waterfronts to become more resilient. In a recent review of the Rebuild by Design program in the Urban Land magazine, six winning designs show insightful ideas on how coastal cities can be planned to manage the rise in water level and extreme weather events while still offering land use opportunities.
One of the winning designs called for creating a multiple layer of protection designed to keep water out and prevent water from spreading within the area. This “green belt” of public space around the low-lying land along the southern side of Manhattan also creates breathing spaces for its inhabitants. Each team was also advised not to assume to know the problem, because by imposing solutions from the outside will make designers miss out on crucial top-down exchange and grassroots needs.
This type of interdisciplinary approach is only slowly gaining ground in the Philippines. In our on-going project for San Vicente in Palawan, where one of the plans is to develop the 14-km long coast of Long Beach, our planners, designers, and engineers at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group conducted a comprehensive study through site visits and extensive interviews with the locals living along the coast so that the firm can develop a sustainable approach in the coastal development of Long Beach. Thus, the whole development has a 50-meter setback and a no-build zone. We also put forward Adaptive Architecture for houses and buildings, which will be elevated above the flood lines in case of tsunami, storm surge, flooding, and rising sea levels.
On February 20, I will be given the opportunity to present my take on waterfront and marina development in the Philippines at the 7th Sea-Ex 2015: The Philippine Boat Show and Premiere Nautical Lifestyle Expo and Conference in SMX Convention Center Manila. For more information on this event, you may visit www.seaex.ph.