Manila youths offer ‘doables’ in int’l urban planning tilt
A proposal to convert sewage in the city of Manila into potable water and provide additional power to the city won one of the top prizes in an urban planning competition recently held in Singapore.
Six students of the Singapore School of Manila (SSM) suggested building a self-sustaining machine to convert sewage into something useful for Manila’s almost 1.7 million residents.
The idea was just one of several submitted by the SSM group, led by Lance Basil Sy and composed of Kariann Tan, Jeremy Chan, Lanz Ling, Platinum Madrid and Andrea Gerada.
While their proposal would seem like a fantasy, an actual project along this line had been sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “to help improve sanitation in poor countries.”
Bill Gates, on his website www.gatesnotes.com, said the Janicki Omniprocessor was a machine that would boil and treat human excrement to turn it into safe and potable drinking water.
“Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare,” Gates said of the machine designed and built by United States-based engineering firm Janicki Bioenergy.
Planting seeds in minds
The SSM team won the top prize in the junior category of the fourth International Town Planning competition, an annual initiative of the Singapore-based Activistar Advocacy. It aims to encourage the youth “to think about the future and how they can make it better for themselves.”
The other winners this year were Singapore schools Hwa Chong Institution (senior category A) and Temasek Polytechnic (senior category B).
Activistar founder Sylvia Tay-Van Remoortele said the program sought to help “transform the minds” of the youth.
“You have to start with the young people (so) when they grow up and take positions in the government or private companies, they already have this seed planted in their heads that, whatever you do, you have to be aware of sustainable development and the environment,” Van Remoortele said during the awarding ceremonies for the nine Philippine teams that made it to the finals.
The SSM group received a trophy, certificate and cash prize of P100,000 from Activistar.
According to Sy, adopting a technology similar to that promoted by Gates would help address the problems of shortage of resources and pollution in Manila.
To make Manila more environment-friendly while addressing the perennial problem of congestion, Sy said his group also proposed parking buildings with vertical gardens and capable of blocking storm surges.
Another finalist, a group from Ateneo de Manila High School, proposed the redevelopment of the Quiapo district. Perennially congested, noisy and filthy, the district seemed not very conducive for businesses to grow and for communities to live harmoniously.
Group leader Luigi Anton Alcañeses, 16, got the Future Young Mayor award given to a participant who embodied leadership and inspired his fellow youth to become leaders.
Alcañeses, who wants to be a neurologist, bested over 200 other students from 36 teams from the Philippines, Singapore, India, Malaysia and Qatar.
The Ateneo team proposed communal townhouses in Quiapo with open spaces for microfinance ventures.
“Informal settlers in Quiapo continue to face the problem of living in subhuman conditions. Efforts to relocate them fail because these residents seek opportunities to get a sense of solidarity in their community,” the group said in its proposal.
The group, which included Jericho Bascos, Daniel del Rio, Ryan Encarnacion, LA Ibarrientos and Cisco Ortega, said open spaces would provide “additional job opportunities” for residents.
To address the chaotic business environment, the group said startup and medium-scale enterprises should be reorganized into business complexes housed in commercial buildings.
No need for politics
“This provides better opportunities for small-scale enterprises to do their business and allows residents and tourists to browse through the different foods and services Quiapo has to offer,” the group said.
As for the traffic problem, the group suggested, among others, the construction of car parks on top of buildings in the commercial strip and designating jeepney unloading and loading terminals.
The group also suggested green innovations, such as solar panels on the roof of communal townhouses and a rainwater collection system in the commercial center.
In spite of his award, Alcañeses said he was not considering working for the government.
“What I learned [from this competition] was that you didn’t have to be in politics to help the world. Each person has (his/her) own responsibility,” he said.
In developing their proposals, he said, “Our motivation is the people (of Manila). . . we looked at (the problem) from a person’s perspective . . . We considered how they lived and [the] social acceptability [of the proposal],” Alcañeses said.
Van Remoortele said the local government should consider the simple yet doable ideas from the youth.
Since the program started in 2012, Van Remoortele said response from the cities, which were the subjects of case studies, had been positive.
“Most of the government agencies… look at this program very favorably and definitely have taken [the students’ proposals] into consideration in planning their cities,” she said.
On its first year, the program’s subject was Hanoi, Vietnam. It was followed by Iskandar Johor in Malaysia and Yangon, Myanmar.
In choosing Manila this year, Van Remoortele said “the city has so many aspects that can be improved, which can bring back vitality and tourism, and make it a livable city for its residents.”
This year’s top proposals were presented to the city government of Manila.
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