PH cities lack ‘visual harmony,’ walkable streets, says expert | Inquirer News

PH cities lack ‘visual harmony,’ walkable streets, says expert

/ 01:17 PM November 06, 2015

What is the identity of the Filipino city?

While agreeing that the Philippine urban landscape was a product of various colonial influences, experts from the academe, government, and architecture and planning were also one in saying that cities in the country, particularly the bustling National Capital Region, have deteriorated through the years.

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Dr. Fernando Nakpil-Zialcita, anthropologist and professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said Metro Manila particularly lacks visual harmony and walkable streets.

“Though we are supposedly a democracy, our cities ignore the needs and rights of the vast majority who do not own private vehicles, and who must do some walking,” Zialcita said during the 24th national convention of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners in Makati City on Friday.

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“Though the capital city, Manila has been allowed to degrade visually,” he said.

READ: Manila youths offer ‘doables’ in int’l urban planning tilt | Urban planner speaks out on worsening Metro traffic

Zialcita was part of the team that succeeded in including Vigan as one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. He was also a member of the consultancy group commissioned by the Department of Tourism under former president Fidel Ramos to envision a cultural tourism master plan for central Manila, which was not implemented.

Zialcita said streets should be walk-friendly and must be recognized as public spaces not merely intended for vehicular use, so that one “can actually enjoy them without being part of the traffic.” But he noted that even sidewalks today have become parking spaces.

“Mixing influences is not a problem. The challenge is how to combine these influences together,” Zialcita added.

‘Consensus building’

Asked to comment on the controversial Torre de Manila, which obstructs the view of the Rizal Monument in Luneta, architect and environmental planner Michael Tomeldan said that while “variances happen all the time,” vision and consensus are important factors in urban planning.

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“It’s quite common, but this one has brought in a lot of attention. The variance happened, but variance happens all the time,” said Tomeldan, who teaches at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

“There should be a vision. Remember that stakeholders here include the Filipino people,” he added.

READ: Unesco advisory body urges ‘removal’ of Torre de Manila

Zialcita, meanwhile, stressed that height limitations should have been imposed on the 49-story D.M. Consunji Inc. structure, noting that “there was something fishy” in the construction.

“It is rather perplexing to know that in the middle of the construction, they decided to extend it (from the original plan),” Zialcita said.

“We say we have ‘pakikisama,’ that we are a democracy, but consensus building is not given much importance. We like to change the rules without due notice,” he added.

But on the part of the government, assistant secretary Jonas Leones of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who represented Sec. Ramon Paje, agreed that there are “a lot of issues” hounding Torre de Manila such as zoning and permits, but noted that they are addressing these aspects on policies.

“There’s no hard and fast road to identity. Pa-iba iba kasi eh. Hindi pwedeng fixed. (It varies. It cannot be fixed.) We need to have a dynamic vision,” Leones said, adding that the identity of the Filipino city will continue to evolve.

However, Zialcita noted that even government itself, particularly differences and transitions in local politics, gets in the way of an efficient urban planning.

“They mayors simply have their own ideas of what Manila should be like. Planners don’t seem to be respected,” he said. CDG

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TAGS: architecture, Cities, Cultural Tourism, heritage site, landscape, Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners, Philippines, public spaces, streets, Torre de Manila, Unesco, urban, visual harmony, walk friendly, walkable
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