Zamboanga Hermosa, which used to be a city of flowers, will again blossom as a beautiful, world-class city that deeply values heritage, an Asian Latin city, multi-cultural, inclusive, inter-faith and one of the capital trading centers in the Southern Philippines. It will no longer be just a backdoor, but a frontdoor of development. It will be a gateway to the BIMP-EAGA region, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
There are high hopes for the city and for the people of Zamboanga, and I and my colleagues at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture are excited for her future.
Zamboanga city alone is twice the size of Singapore, but the whole Peninsula has an area as big as 24 Singapores and 16 Hong Kongs. To imagine the vastness of Zamboanga, with all her geographic splendors, one cannot but feel elated over the many possibilities that Zamboanga could become. Currently the population of the city is around 800,000. With the design adapting smart, safe and sustainable approach, it can comfortably accommodate up to 12 million people in Zamboanga City, and millions more in the rest of the peninsula.
In the plan that we presented to the people of Zamboanga, we emphasized that we will not make the same mistakes of Metro Manila. Development should be balanced throughout the city, not only at the center. Urban growth should be established in the East, West, North, South, and the 25 islands so that the seven proposed urban centers will act as counter-magnets, creating a more balanced urban/rural development. Quality education, quality healthcare, good infrastructure and job opportunities should be accessible throughout the city and the rest of the peninsula. Development should spread out evenly like butter on a piece of bread.
The current development pattern is heavily situated in a 7-kilometer radius, and as early as now, we should address it. Traffic congestion, housing shortage, as well as disparity in access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities, should also be addressed.
On a general overview, Zamboanga is designed to become a mix of an Agropolis (the farm and the city) and an Aerotropolis (airport-driven urban development), utilizing three major seaports.
It is also envisioned that the Mindanao Rail Development from the North, will be extended all the way to the central city. This will give access and strengthen intermodal transport connectivity and linkages to the rest of Mindanao.
We call this concept Rurban. It is developing central business districts that are integrated with agro-industries so that food security, airport, seaports, transport and others concerns are addressed. On the other hand, it is a smart city design that properly pinpoints which areas will become urban growth centers and development corridors and influence the directions of urban growth and development.
Seven development clusters
We identified seven development-planned units (7 DPUs). Each DPU is planned to be self-reliant communities but interdependent with the needs of others. While it is independent, its plan is made to be integrated with other communities so that transportation and other services will become seamless.
DPU 1 & DPU 2 – the Tumaga Central Business District and the Mercedes CBD expansion. This will become the tandem aerotropolis with the proposed Mercedes Airport. The aerotropolis concept, such as that of Dubai, Singapore, Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Dallas-Fort Worth, are integrated multi-model transportation hubs which are strategically connected with central business districts and warehousing industries.
The two DPUs are also envisioned to become a transportation hub that will have a strong emphasis on heritage tourism and the development of a University Town.
DPU 3 – is envisioned to become the agro-industrial complex. Crops and industries such as coconut, mango and sardine production may thrive in this complex.
Same as DPU 5 – in the Sangali area, where an integrated fish and seaport complex is envisioned. The Sangali seaport complex should be fully utilized for both fishing and agro-industrial use. With its utilization, it can provide a lot of jobs and opportunities for the people of Zamboanga. As in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai, seaport services are significant to their economy.
DPU 4 – the Labunan area is imagined to become a mixed-use development economic center with the development of an intra/inter urban transport. This community center can also become a place for residential and hotel development.
DPU 6 & 7 – the Curuan and Vitali area is imagined to become an agro-industrial and agro-tourism area. In Curuan, the culturing of high valued crops is seen offering much potential. Also, it could become a site for community relocation development that will move people away from hazard areas. The Vitali area is proposed for the development of a seaport as well.
Zamboanga, among other cities around the country, has potential to become one of the best cities in the world, although there is still so much to be done. We, at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, are finalizing a Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning. In addition, we have included a transportation/mobility, tourism, security by design, disaster preparedness plan and urban design with conceptual architectural perspectives, which we presented as “Postcards from the Future.” I believe that with strong political will, visionary leadership, good planning, good design and good governance, the city will be able to realize its high development potential.