Special Feature

I Have Redrawn Metro Manila’s Administrative Units

I’ve long held the belief that Metro Manila as an administrative unit is a mess. I’m not just talking the disjointed governance of its independent local government units and the lack of a central administrative power (which I discussed here some time back). It’s also the fact that there seems to be a disparity in terms of demographics and representation, especially when it comes to its legislative districts.

There’s also the fact that the boundaries of some of these local government units were arbitrarily drawn straight lines that disregard the economic and demographic markup of the communities lying around these boundaries. The boundaries of the City of Manila, Quezon City, and Pasig are the biggest culprits here as these boundaries divided what were once large communities such as Novaliches (which was itself a former town that was eventually erased from existence), Baesa, Balintawak, Santa Mesa, and Ugong.

Nowhere in Metro Manila has it been adversely affected by arbitrarily-drawn boundaries than in Pateros. While Pateros has long been fighting to gain control over most of Fort Bonifacio and the “EMBO” barangays which Taguig won against Makati, there is actually a stronger case for its claim over the Pasig barangays of Buting, San Joaquin, and Kalawaan. After all, the Pasig-Pateros boundary is actually a series of arbitrarily-drawn lines which do follow a semblance of logically following a river or road. Not to mention these Pasig barangays generate much economic activity which Pateros need especially if it wants to become a city in its own right.

Then again, boundaries between independent cities do not make sense if we are to have a central authority for the whole Metro Manila. We’ve seen how these boundaries have created conflict in the case of Makati and Taguig. Perhaps we should get rid of these existing boundaries and create something new that adheres to the idea of One Metro Manila.

It is with this idea that the Urban Roamer decided to embark on a project that answers the question: what if we get rid of the old boundaries and create a more “equal” and “respectful” administrative system for the metropolis? Truth be told, it was an idea that has been in this Roamer’s mind for a long while but after having come across the work of yeontura of Skyscrapercity and Reddit, it gave me the motivation to pursue this idea further.

User yeontura’s map of a proposed 435 legislative district setup for the Philippines is a delightful nerdgasm for someone like this guy who is interested in maps and geography. But as good as it was (and the resources he provided such as tables and shapefiles were very helpful), it still pretty much followed administrative boundaries within Metro Manila, which is something I intended to get rid of completely.

So after tabulating populations and learning QGIS, this is what I came up with: a new Metro Manila envisioned to have a central government and to be divided into 54 metropolitan councils.

Why 54? This just happened to be the result after it was decided that the population of a metropolitan council should not exceed 300,000 people (as per the 2020 census). As such, most of these metropolitan councils range between 200,000-299,000. Except one: Metropolitan Council 1 or Manila Proper which has a population of 15,214. The reason for this is to recognize the historic and cultural significance of this area as it has the areas of Intramuros, Rizal Park, Liwasang Bonifacio, Arroceros Forest Park, and Manila City Hall under its jurisdiction. Think of Manila Proper within Metro Manila as the City of London within Greater London, albeit without the unique traditions.

While the composition of the barangays are such a mess themselves (which is another story in itself), it was decided to have the boundaries of these metropolitan councils aligned with the current barangay bouindaries, provided that the barangay boundaries are logical, i.e. folloing the alignment of a river, road, the perimeters of a property or gated residential area.

So here is the map (click on it to get a larger view of it)

And below is the list of metropolitan councils as labelled on the map and their respective land area, population, and constituent barangays. Do note that the names were given based on their affiliation within a larger communities (e.g. Cubao, Diliman, Dagat-Dagatan). Some were given the names of the local government units based on the fact that their administrative centers are located. (e.g. San Juan, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Marikina)

If you want to view the spreadsheet in its own window, you can click here.

Apart from the population, the decision to create these metropolitan councils are based on how they are logistically connected to one another. At the bare minimum, there should be a street that links most of the barangays together that will form the metropolitan council.

The idea is that each metropolitan council will have a seat in an envisioned Metro Manila or Greater Manila legislature. Given the requirements for a seat in the House of Representatives, each metropolitan council may have a seat in the national legislature as well. This will ensure that the entire population and all areas of Metro Manila are adequately represented and will equally receive the benefits due to them as citizens of Metro Manila.

Given the radical nature of this proposal, the Urban Roamer does not expect this to be touched upon even by a 10-foot pole. But it is my hope that this can spur a meaningful discussion on how to make Metro Manila be administered and divided in a more efficient and manageable manner.

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