MMDA chair: Metro Manila is bursting; time to build ‘new showcase capital’
(The author is chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority)
I believe that it is time to plan deliberately and with foresight for another city that will be the new seat of the national government and cultural center of the country. It is time to build a new and world-class city that will serve as a model for the construction and expansion of other cities in the country, and perhaps in Asia as well.
We cannot plan for Metro Manila on a clean slate because of accumulated historical biases, among other things. It has already reached its carrying capacity. Nevertheless, we should continue to rehabilitate and renew degraded and blighted areas in Metro Manila.
As we march together with our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world toward a future of unstoppable urbanization, there is a need for us to create an ideal city—intelligent, competitive, green, and inclusive—a “New Metro Manila.” That city will showcase to the world what Filipino talent can conceive and produce, an enduring legacy for future generations to cherish and build upon.
Showcase of Filipino brand
It should have a distinct Filipino brand of planning that incorporates world-class design principles. Previous plans for Manila and Greater Manila were not reflective of Filipino culture as the foundations for planning were predominantly colonial in nature. The new city must be a grand showcase by Filipino architects, engineers and urban planners employing cutting-edge technology and producing culture-based but forward-looking design.
The new capital must feature technological innovations in governance, as well as state-of-the-art technology in the areas of information management, transportation and communication. This will help the national government make more informed, sound and timely decisions. The physical location will not be an issue.
The new city must lead the way in efficient energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient technology, equipment and configurations. According to worldwide estimates, cities use about two-thirds of final energy demand and contribute about 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. The new city can show that it can be part of the solution with its compact structure and the less energy-intensive lifestyle of its residents. It should give space, for example, to cyclists and pedestrians.
Perfect for iBus
The perfected “intelligent bus” (iBus) system by Filipina inventor Elma Arboleras, which won the British Invention Award for 2011 for “Outstanding Contribution and Application of Innovation for the Public Transport System,” can be installed.
The system was invented by Arboleras to address the traffic problems in Metro Manila’s bus transportation system, such as loading and unloading or overstaying at unauthorized stops, sometimes straddling two lanes. Under the iBus system, machine-readable tags digitally identify a vehicle and include it in a computer-managed database, which can then detect whether buses are properly positioned at designated stops. If a bus is improperly positioned, the system will not allow passengers to alight.
There must be provisions for an elevated or subway rail system to complement the bus system utilizing renewable energy sources. That rail system should be integrated and managed by one authority only in order to avoid problems of interconnection experienced in Metro Manila.
The new city must have a land use plan that reflects function and priorities. Creating an environment of trust in real estate investment at the national level and at the same time launching an intensive marketing drive for the new city will boost real estate prospects and effectively counter a poor image and engender a positive overall perception of the country.
Greenery a must
The new city should promote an environment-friendly lifestyle where residents have access to waste management technology, with arrangements for recycling, reusing and disposing wastes. Greenery and open spaces are a must in the city’s overall design.
It should also be a veritable melting pot and dynamic hub for culture and the performing and fine arts, which are some of the most environment-friendly activities known to mankind. I envision cultural centers, schools, festivals and competitions for music in diverse forms, creative writing, dance, filmmaking, painting, sculpture and other artistic endeavors—operating year-round.
The new city will be conducive to academic institutions that provide higher learning, produce highly skilled individuals with masteral and doctoral degrees, and churn out research and development outputs for technological innovation and industrial growth. It should become an oasis for partnership between the academe and the business sector.
2 possible sites
Where will the new city be located? There are two possible sites which are not flood-prone, do not have volcanic activity and are not directly in the path of the Philippine fault line system. Each of these two sites has a large area where environment-friendly structures may be constructed.
One possible site is Tanay in Rizal province, located 57 kilometers east of Manila and home to several natural attractions and resorts. With a land area of 200 square kilometers, it has gently-rising hills and mountainous relief, ranging in elevation from 100 meters to 900 meters. These are covered mostly with forest, with coastal plains along the southwestern portion of the municipality.
Tanay contains portions of the Sierra Madre mountains and is bordered by Antipolo City in the northeast; Baras, Morong and Teresa in the west; General Nakar, Quezon province, in the east; and Pililla and Santa Maria in Laguna province; and Laguna de Bay in the south.
The other possible site straddles the municipalities of San Rafael, San Ildefonso and Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province. These municipalities, with a combined land area of 1,214.12 square kilometers, also contain portions of the Sierra Madre and are near Angat dam and watershed reservation. The Bulacan Agricultural State College, which has a 192-hectare reservation, is located in San Ildefonso and also has a campus in Doña Remedios Trinidad.
This new city must be attuned to the demands of a 21st century Philippines—with a strong urban agenda, an infrastructure that is not under critical stress, with spatial growth that is not haphazard, circled by townships occupied by middle-income families instead of shantytowns.
Building it will require massive investments. But I am confident that serious investors, foreign and local, will be willing to take part in this momentous undertaking, as long as the cost-benefit analysis of the project is presented in a clear and transparent manner.
From Tolentino’s 2012 book
“A New City—A New Metro Manila, A New Future”
Possible sites for the new city
Location Land Area Topography Travel
Tanay 200 Hills and 1-2 hours from Manila
(Rizal province) mountains with forest cover
San Rafael 152.43
San Ildefonso 128.71 Mix of plains, hills and
(Bulacan) mountains with forest cover 2-3 hours from Manila
Doña Remedios Trinidad (Bulacan) 932.98