What went wrong with Manila, and why Davao is not following suit

Paulo Rizal
27/02/2018 7:40:14
Photo of Ar. Felino Palafox speaking at Canadian Chamber of Commerce Business Briefing

Internationally acclaimed urban planner Ar. Felino “Jun” Palafox, in a business briefing organized by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Friday, said Metro Davao could turn into a first world city in less than 15 years.

Palafox is an internationally renowned urban planner and environmental planner, who together with his firm Palafox Associates, has planned more than 16 billion square meters of land and designed more than 12 million square meters of building floor area in 38 countries.

He obtained his Architecture degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1972 and earned his master’s degree in Environmental Planning two years later at the University of the Philippines.

In 2003, he graduated in Advanced Management Development Program for Real Estate at the Harvard University.

The future of Metro Davao

Metro Davao will be composed of Maco in Compostela Valley, Tagum City, Carmen, Panabo City in Davao del Norte, Davao City, Sta Cruz in Digos City, and Island Garden City of Samal.

This is in contrast with Metro Manila, which he said is “decaying” because of little to no foresight in urban planning.

What happened to Metro Manila?

Palafox said Metro Manila is an example of “what not to do” in planning a city.

Among the problems of the country’s capital city are heavy traffic congestion, pollution, health problems, and the overall higher cost of living.

Then 26 years old in 1976 Palafox worked with government in the making of the masterplan for Metro Manila. Unfortunately, almost none of his team’s recommendations were followed.

He said they already predicted the problems of Metro Manila in the 1970s, but his recommendations went unheard.

“We told government that time, with the do-nothing-scenario, we’ll have catastrophic traffic, lack of decent housing, [we’re] not prepared for disaster, we cannot collect garbage. We said that in 1976,” Palafox said.

Palafox further argued that Metro Manila’s problem with traffic stems from its use of the Los Angeles model, which is a very automobile centric design. He said this model is the “worst poster for urban planning” especially for a country like the Philippines because it prioritizes private vehicles over mass transit.

In previous interviews, Palafox echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements that the way forward is to steer development away from Manila, and spread it to the regions, especially emerging urban centers such as Cebu and Davao City.

Like Duterte, Palafox said it may be “too late” to fix Metro Manila because of decades of corruption and mismanagement.

A vision for the future of Davao City

At 27 years old, Palafox worked as as Senior Architect and Planner for the government of Dubai in 1977. He is now working on a new master plan for Davao City.

In crafting their recommendations for Metro Davao, the master urban planner looked at the best practices of first world cities, which feature vastly improved mass transit and more green spaces.

He said building more cities will be necessary for even development.

Palafox also shared snippets of his vision of public spaces that allow for more walkable and bikeable spaces, which he said are important for a healthy population.

Set for completion on April, the plan was commissioned by the Mindanao Development Authority.

Palafox said the plan could help make Davao City a first world city in less than 25 years, because Davao City is home to “strong leadership.”

Davao City is the bailiwick of the Dutertes, where now President Rodrigo Duterte was mayor for 20 years before being elected as president in 2016. Her eldest daughter, Inday Sara, is currently mayor.

For more information about why Davao is the ideal city for your retirement years, read on here!