Roamer's Roundup

Towards a Cable-Free City

There was a recent news item that reported about the Intramuros Administration’s actions in taking the first steps for the Walled City to be completely “cable-free,” which would mean that the distracting overhead wires coming from electrical, phone, and cable utilities would now be placed underground, giving an unobstructed view of the many landmarks in the area.

this part of Intramuros will soon be free of those cables in the foreground (courtesy of city-data.com)

This development is the latest episode in the question of putting these cables that have long been seen overhead  in most parts of the metropolis, something that has been a source of contention for some time.

There are those who believe these wires need to be placed underground for aesthetic and safety reasons. Aesthetic because these overhead wires ruin what should have been a great view of a structure, or, in worse cases, makes that structure, and the city in general, look ugly and “chaotic”. There is also a safety issue as well as these wires, especially the worse types AKA the “tentacled” connections, are a safety risk as it can cause fire hazards.

There is also the concern that they are more prone to dangers like storms and winds, or at least vehicles, that can topple the poles these cables connect to. The recent onslaught of Typhoon Glenda illustrated such risks as a great portion of the metropolis suffered from a widespread power outage due to the toppling of the cable poles where electricity was connected to, thanks to the strong winds the typhoon packed. The damage was so much that power utility firm Meralco and telecom firm PLDT are seriously considering moving their cables underground.

fallen poles and power lines post-Typhoon Glenda (courtesy of Rappler)

On the other end, there are those who are not in favor of putting these cables underground primarily because of the metropolis’s topography as it is very prone to flooding which may affect the underground connections. There is also the matter of infrastructure as many parts of the metropolis do not have the necessary infrastructure like tunnels that can  dissipate possible overheating of the cables. These tunnels have to be earthquake-proof as well.

But it is not to say that there are no existing examples of an underground wiring system in the metropolis. The Bonifacio Global City district in the former  military area that used to be part of Fort Bonifacio has its electricity and other connections already set underground, thanks to the stipulation that such connection would be put in place even before the district was developed.

cable-free BGC (courtesy of the Alveo Ayala Land site)

While Intramuros’ utility system was originally laid out at the turn of the 20th century above ground, plans have long been made (way back in the 1970s during the initial plans of Intramuros redevelopment) to convert them into an underground system, not only for aesthetic and safety reasons but also to recapture what Intramuros was like during the Spanish colonial period, during which it was established and thrived.

Personally, I would love to city the metropolis be rid of its overhead cables that are not only a blight in the view, but also poses risks as mentioned above. On the other hand, I understand that such changes in the system would not be easy and there are challenges that must be addressed if such move is to be done. Certainly, this will something that cannot be done overnight, but it has to start somewhere.

That being said, I am glad the Intramuros Administration has taken the first step in making these changes, and if successful, Intramuros would serve as a model community the rest of the metropolis can emulate as to how to fix its existing tangled overhead connections. We wish all the best to the Intramuros Administration in its endeavor and may it be a successful for the rest of the metropolis to emulate.

from an illustration by Architect Paulo Alcazaren

On a related note, an online petition has recently been launched asking the City of Manila to fix the existing wiring system in the city and place them underground. One can view and sign (which the Urban Roamer highly encourages you to do) the petition right here.

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