Lampposts out to start Roxas Blvd face-lift

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OLD GLORY Clowning around, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada shows Inquirer editors and reporters a news clip on the financial state of the city, which he vows to restore to its old glory. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

What’s wrong with color, music and revelry?

Nothing, really, except that the mayor of Manila would have nothing of the carnival atmosphere that now characterizes the long stretch of Roxas Boulevard.

Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada said giving Manila a face-lift should start by replacing those “ugly” lampposts on Roxas Boulevard.

Saying that the dizzying multicolored streetlamps have made the city look like a carnival, Estrada said those will have to be replaced with one that has a tasteful standard design imbued with a sense of history.

The streetlights, made in China, were a project by former Mayor Lito Atienza to deter crimes and promote urban development, which was continued by his successor, Mayor Alfredo Lim.

“Parang ginawang carnival, iba-ibang kulay—nakakahiya (The street was transformed into a carnival, with multicolored lights—it’s embarrassing). That will be changed, pangit eh (it’s ugly),” Estrada said.

Private funding

With a cash-strapped city government to run, Estrada counts himself lucky that businessmen are offering private-public partnership projects on top of the national government’s funding for urban renewal programs.

The Department of Tourism and the Department of Public Works and Highways unveiled recently plans to redevelop Roxas Boulevard to “reestablish the importance of Manila as a capital city.”

Estrada also cited the P50-billion fund from the national government for the relocation of informal settlers and dredging of esteros or waterways.

On the mayor’s table are proposals for the modernization of Manila Zoo, the construction of three public markets and the transformation of Binondo into an “authentic Chinatown”—a local project which, he said, could make the most impact in reviving Manila.

No funds

Much is expected from the former President, who sought the capital’s mayoral position with a promise of bringing back its former glory. But “any project boils down to funding. We have no funds,” Estrada said.

That’s why on his first few weeks, Estrada has taken up measures that did not involve money: all-out war against illegal gambling and one-strike policy for policemen; clearing operations in Recto area; night market in Divisoria; and the ban on “colorum” or unlicensed buses.

“My consolation is that businessmen are coming to Manila. They are starting to believe in the leadership. So I have to maintain this confidence level,” Estrada said in an interview with Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday.

Aside from the P2.5-billion modernization of the Manila Zoo proposed by Lim Chee Yong of Manila Ocean Park, SM has also offered to rebuild three public markets in a public-private partnership project.

Estrada said three-story markets with a roof-deck parking can be put up in less than two years’ time at Central Market in Sta. Cruz, Quinta Market in Quiapo and Dagonoy Market in San Andres Bukid.

 

Authentic Chinatown

Next month, he will go to Beijing, 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 (It will no longer be dark),” he said, 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.

Asked if he has plans to run in 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.”

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