Special Feature

A Dream Plan for Metro Manila

Metro Manila as we know it today sadly has been borne out of unrealized plans coupled by shortsighted planning that did not take into account how fast it would grow over the last 30 years or so. (something I have talked about in the past here) Now we are suffering the brunt of these problems as a result: the traffic, the lack of proper housing, the overpopulation in the metropolis, pollution, and unchecked urbanization to name a few.

typical EDSA traffic (taken from the web)
informal settlers along a creek (taken from the web)

With all these problems the metropolis is facing right now, and considering what happened before, is there hope for Metro Manila? As critical as I am of what is happening in the metropolis, the Urban Roamer still believes there is hope for the metropolis. I’m glad that this optimism is shared by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which recently jointly came up with a “dream plan” for Metro Manila that will not only address the aforementioned challenges, but will also serve as a catalyst for the future growth of the metropolis, as well as the surrounding areas that is envisioned by the year 2030. A video was posted online about the details of the plan, as posted here below:

This dream plan identified 5 key problems of the metropolis that it aims to address: traffic congestion, households living in hazardous areas, barriers to seamless mobility, excessive transport costs for low-income groups, and air pollution. The key takeaway of this plan is to redefine the development of Metro Manila from the original circumferential layout (which was actually envisioned before by Daniel Burnham more than a century ago) to a “ladderized” layout to improve mobility and spread out development.

In addition, the plan envisions the creation of new centers of growth outside Metro Manila, polycentric development as it is called as opposed to the present monocentric development that contained only within the metropolis, which has caused congestion in the metropolis. Such philosophy would entail a more balanced development as the ports of Subic and Batangas will be utilized more.

Then there is the matter of the airport. The plan calls for two gateway airports that will help spur development. One of them would be the existing Clark Airport, and the other would be the new Manila International Airport which JICA recommends to be built in Sangley Point in Cavite, something San Miguel Corporation would say otherwise, but we shall see.

The plan made a number of recommendations, some of which are already under way like the construction of new expressways to decongest existing congested thoroughfares like EDSA, allowing seamless connection between North and South of Metro Manila. (which the Urban Roamer touched upon previously)

The plan also calls on the improvement of the existing rail lines and expanding the metropolitan rail network, something that been quite a challenge for government to complete in recent years. One of them is the improvement of the present at-level rail commuter line operated by the Philippine National Railways to become elevated in most crossings. Most intriguing though is the proposal for a subway line that will run from San Jose del Monte in Bulacan to Dasmariñas in Cavite.  (this should not be confused with another subway proposal which I talked about in a previous entry)

But more than just a blueprint for the future, this dream plan actually serves to continue where Burnham’s Manila plan left off, taking into account how much Manila has grown from a city of 300,000 people to a metropolis of 15 million and counting. I’m glad that this plan takes into account what came before in laying out what is hoped to be a better future for the city. The video itself does a good job explaining what Manila before beautiful and livable city that was the Pearl of the Orient.

It is that sense of history which this dream plan banks in the realization of these proposals and projects. As the presentation stated: “Our own history provides the model for our better future”

Now the ball is in the hands of our policymakers to get their acts together and work on realizing that dream we deserve to  have as a reality someday. Let us all fight for a better future and ensure the people on top do what we want and need them to do.


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