Manila starved for urban renewal

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Palafox
Felino Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates

Long-term urban renewal plans are desperately needed in Metro Manila, a metropolitan agglomeration of nearly 13 million, if the Philippine capital is to stave off negative effects placed on the economy caused by congestion, poor health and negative foreign perception.

One way to achieve this is by diffusing the population away from Manila and thus circumscribing wayward growth.

“Metro Manila congestion can be reduced and migration to the big city can be scaled back,” Felino Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates, an architecture firm, said during a speech at the Asia CEO Forum in Makati on May 29.

Strong urban growth away from Metro Manila can be achieved through the clustering of major cities and by establishing major corridors away from the capital, he said, pointing to urban agglomerations that could take place across central Luzon, such as in Cavite.

Yet the Philippine capital faces an uphill march to turn around the current situation, a reality which Palafox comically notes is considered an urban development example of how not to do things.

In Metro Manila, roughly 43 per cent of the city’s population live in informal settlements, according to the Asian Development Bank. The Pasig River, once the lifeblood of the city, is now rancid with the waste of industry and wastewater from unzoned residents.

Furthermore, Palafox pointed out that there was no consistent city planning to speak of in Manila – instead, politicians, contractors and engineers were charged with urban development despite there is a City Planning and Development Office supposed to govern the issue.

Palafox himself, an out-of-place visionary of sorts in the Philippine context with a background from Harvard, has come forward with a smart city design for San Juan, a suburban enclave in Metro Manila prone to severe flooding.

The project, to be put on exhibition next week in Berlin, Germany, incorporates a “three-level entry point” design, whereby monorails, walkways and drainage systems are layered into the urban landscape. Facing the reality that carbon-reduction initiatives fall on deaf ears of many developers, Palafox has proposed than San Juan go up using an “impact fee,” which will charge developers 200 peso per square meter, providing funds that will go to public transport integration infrastructure, such as pedestrian bridges.

Admittedly, these designs will remain lost in a digital dreamworld and will not be fully realised if political will is not mustered, as well as myriad other forces moving in lock-step towards a common goal.

“Successful cities need not just good leadership. They also require a long-term economic strategy, immense institutional capacity, well-financed infrastructure, high-quality education and a constant pursuit towards design excellence.”

The largest hurdle to following through with urban development strategies is what Palafox has termed “institutional memory” – or the lack of it in the Philippines’ case. Besides absence of infrastructure funds and transparency measures, the Philippines also must battle high poverty rates, pollution and venal police.

For Manila, a great deal of that onus will be placed on the newly elected mayor and former Philippine president, Joseph Estrada.

The showcasing of San Juan in Berlin comes at a time of economic euphoria in the Philippines that demands urban development while ensuring sustainability.

Megaworld, the current landlord of 30 per cent of the BPO industry’s office space, the leading shareholder of real estate in the vibrant service sector, is planning to tack on another 1 million square feet by the middle of 2013, Vice President of Property Management Rigoberto Santos of Megaworld told Inside Investor, further stressing urban centers in the Philippines if sustainability is not checked.

Palafox Associates has gotten approval for its design of the new energy-efficient Asian Development Bank headquarters, to be located in Ortigas, Manila, what will be a much larger base than its current location.

The firm is also working on the green design for what would be the largest building in the Philippines, the Lankmark Tower, a skyscraper including a sky garden and natural ventilation in the upscale neighbourhood of Fort Bonifacio.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Felino Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates

Long-term urban renewal plans are desperately needed in Metro Manila, a metropolitan agglomeration of nearly 13 million, if the Philippine capital is to stave off negative effects placed on the economy caused by congestion, poor health and negative foreign perception.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Palafox
Felino Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates

Long-term urban renewal plans are desperately needed in Metro Manila, a metropolitan agglomeration of nearly 13 million, if the Philippine capital is to stave off negative effects placed on the economy caused by congestion, poor health and negative foreign perception.

One way to achieve this is by diffusing the population away from Manila and thus circumscribing wayward growth.

“Metro Manila congestion can be reduced and migration to the big city can be scaled back,” Felino Palafox, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates, an architecture firm, said during a speech at the Asia CEO Forum in Makati on May 29.

Strong urban growth away from Metro Manila can be achieved through the clustering of major cities and by establishing major corridors away from the capital, he said, pointing to urban agglomerations that could take place across central Luzon, such as in Cavite.

Yet the Philippine capital faces an uphill march to turn around the current situation, a reality which Palafox comically notes is considered an urban development example of how not to do things.

In Metro Manila, roughly 43 per cent of the city’s population live in informal settlements, according to the Asian Development Bank. The Pasig River, once the lifeblood of the city, is now rancid with the waste of industry and wastewater from unzoned residents.

Furthermore, Palafox pointed out that there was no consistent city planning to speak of in Manila – instead, politicians, contractors and engineers were charged with urban development despite there is a City Planning and Development Office supposed to govern the issue.

Palafox himself, an out-of-place visionary of sorts in the Philippine context with a background from Harvard, has come forward with a smart city design for San Juan, a suburban enclave in Metro Manila prone to severe flooding.

The project, to be put on exhibition next week in Berlin, Germany, incorporates a “three-level entry point” design, whereby monorails, walkways and drainage systems are layered into the urban landscape. Facing the reality that carbon-reduction initiatives fall on deaf ears of many developers, Palafox has proposed than San Juan go up using an “impact fee,” which will charge developers 200 peso per square meter, providing funds that will go to public transport integration infrastructure, such as pedestrian bridges.

Admittedly, these designs will remain lost in a digital dreamworld and will not be fully realised if political will is not mustered, as well as myriad other forces moving in lock-step towards a common goal.

“Successful cities need not just good leadership. They also require a long-term economic strategy, immense institutional capacity, well-financed infrastructure, high-quality education and a constant pursuit towards design excellence.”

The largest hurdle to following through with urban development strategies is what Palafox has termed “institutional memory” – or the lack of it in the Philippines’ case. Besides absence of infrastructure funds and transparency measures, the Philippines also must battle high poverty rates, pollution and venal police.

For Manila, a great deal of that onus will be placed on the newly elected mayor and former Philippine president, Joseph Estrada.

The showcasing of San Juan in Berlin comes at a time of economic euphoria in the Philippines that demands urban development while ensuring sustainability.

Megaworld, the current landlord of 30 per cent of the BPO industry’s office space, the leading shareholder of real estate in the vibrant service sector, is planning to tack on another 1 million square feet by the middle of 2013, Vice President of Property Management Rigoberto Santos of Megaworld told Inside Investor, further stressing urban centers in the Philippines if sustainability is not checked.

Palafox Associates has gotten approval for its design of the new energy-efficient Asian Development Bank headquarters, to be located in Ortigas, Manila, what will be a much larger base than its current location.

The firm is also working on the green design for what would be the largest building in the Philippines, the Lankmark Tower, a skyscraper including a sky garden and natural ventilation in the upscale neighbourhood of Fort Bonifacio.

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