MANILA, Philippines – Giving Manila a facelift could start from replacing those “ugly” lamp posts on Roxas Boulevard.
Saying the multicolored street lamps make the city look like a carnival, Mayor Joseph Estrada said those will have to be replaced with more tasteful lamps.
The street lights were a project of former Mayor Lito Atienza to deter crimes and promote urban development, which was continued by Mayor Alfredo Lim.
“It was made to look like a carnival, colourful, it’s embarassing. That will be changed, it’s ugly,” Estrada said in Filipino and English, adding that he was studying an offer for a donation of lamp posts.
Estrada made the comments about Manila’s garish lamps during a recent roundtable discussion with Inquirer editors and again in a telephone interview afterward.
Running what he claimed was a cash-strapped city government, Estrada said he considered himself lucky that businessmen were offering private-public partnership projects and that the national government was funding urban renewal programs.
The Department of Tourism recently unveiled plans to redevelop Roxas Boulevard to “reestablish the importance of Manila as a capital city.” Estrada also cited the P50-billion fund for the relocation of squatters and dredging of the city’s canals and other waterways.
On the mayor’s table are proposals to modernize the Manila Zoo, construction of three public markets and a plan to make Binondo an “authentic Chinatown,” which he counts as a local project that could make the most impact in reviving Manila.
Much is expected from the deposed President, who was convicted of plunder but subsequently pardoned and sought the capital’s mayoralty position with a promise of bringing back its former glory. But “any project boils down to funding. We have no funds,” Estrada said.
And that’s why on his first few weeks in office as Manila mayor, the city government has taken up measures that did not involve money: all-out war against illegal gambling and one-strike policy for policemen, clearing operations in theRecto area, night market in Divisoria and the ban on buses without franchises.
“My consolation is businessmen are coming to Manila. They are starting to believe in the leadership. So I have to maintain this confidence level,” Estrada said told Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday.
Aside from the P2.5-billion modernization of Manila Zoo proposed by Lim Chee Yong of the Manila Ocean Park, SM has also offered to rebuild three public markets in a public-private partnership project.
Estrada said three-story markets with roof-deck parking can be put up in less than two years where the Central Market is currently located in Sta. Cruz, at Quinta Market in Quiapo and the Dagonoy Market in San Andres Bukid.
Next month, he will go to Beijing, a sister city of Manila, for the development of Binondo.
“It’s a priority to redevelop Chinatown. I’m meeting Chinese architects to make a study. I’ll make it a very authentic Chinese motif,” Estrada said.
“Hindi na magdidi-Lim,” he added, taking a jab at his predecessor Alfredo Lim.
Estrada is racing against time to make an impact in just a single term and lay the groundwork for his supposed successor, Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.
Badgered by Inquirer reporters and editors if he has plans for 2016, Estrada raised his right arm and reiterated that Manila will indeed be his “last hurrah.”
Estrada said, “My idol is (former US president) Ronald Reagan. I want to retire while I can still carry my luggage.”