Metropolitan Manila: a dream unfulfilled (an Urban Roamer editorial)

As I am writing this entry, heavy rainfall for the past 2-3 days thanks to Typhoon Maring (international name: Trami) has submerged much of Metro Manila under floods…again. While in a way, this highlights how serious climate change has affected the global climate, especially here in the Philippines, there is also another issue that lingers in the horizon that few seem to take note of:

Manila is a badly planned metropolis.

What’s heartbreaking is that this has been foreseen decades bacl, even more than a century ago when Daniel Burnham first laid out his plan for the city. Over the years, we have seen competent planners like Harry Frost, Juan Arellano, Felipe Mendoza, among others who strived to make this metropolis a livable city that has the necessary aesthetics and room for growth.

But look at our metropolis now. Today, it is hampered by an unchecked growing population of 12 million and rising which is beyond what was envisioned for its population. Many of them live in areas where they shouldn’t be in the first place. I’m not even talking about just the informal settlers, even those living in exclusive villages that lie within some filled up waterways which caused worsening of the floods or even those living near the fault line.

Infrastructure-wise, for a population this big now, we still only have 3 mass transit lines and one railway line, most of them being poorly designed and beyond normal capacity. Flood control infrastructure is lacking as well when the proposed Parañaque Spillway back in the 1970s which would have helped ease flooding is still unrealized to this day.

Then, there is that still-stalled National Capital plans which could not seem to get off that it is now ignored altogether. It would have been nice to see the Presidential Palace, the two Houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court located right next to each other not only as means of physical convenience, but also a symbol of our government working in harmony to progress. Instead, we have to contend with these four structures located far away from each other, somehow illustrating how messed up and how badly coordinated our government is. I’m not even including the various government offices here which makes this scenario even more messed up.

How can those well-laid plans not come into fruition? As I mentioned before, there was the issue of funding, which was understandable in the context of 1945 postwar period. But for that reasoning still used during the 1950s-onwards? I have some doubts about that. Which leads me to the second culprit, corruption. With the recent headlines blaring about the graveness of corruption in the country, that should be a no-brainer.

But for me, these issues boil down to one thing: our government’s indecisiveness. For some reason, our policymakers cannot seem to make long-term commitments as far as the development of the metropolis is concerned. They can’t seem to get their acts together. They don’t seem to offer clear-cut, long-term solutions to the city’s problems.

Petty as some may see that proposal of moving the national capital somewhere else, when you read and think about it, it just goes to show how bad our leaders before have failed to make a livable metropolis that we deserve to enjoy today. Now we bear the brunt of their indecisiveness and greed and perhaps, as optimistic as I am, this will go on for future generations.

While we can no longer turn back the clock and right the past wrongs, there is still that opportunity to make things better for our metropolis. There is no time to waste and there is no room anymore for indecisiveness. At the same time, it is time to really make a cohesive, comprehensive plan for the metropolis so that future generations may not have to suffer what we are suffering because of the mistakes of the past. If that entails moving the capital away from the metropolis, to a new, better planned location that has room for development unlike what is currently available here, I will not oppose such moves.

To our policymakers if you get to chance upon this blog and this particular entry, please do your jobs and realize the dream of livable metropolis not only for us, but for the future as well. Prove us wrong and not frustrate us anew. Show us you are at least decisive in your plans and the people will support you in whatever capacity they can.

© The Urban Roamer

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