Build new cities and depopulate Metro Manila

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

After reading our fellow STAR columnist Ernie Maceda’s article entitled “Failure of flood control systems” last Wednesday, you can very well say that the solution to stop the problem of flooding in Metro Manila started a long time ago... way back at the time of then President Fidel V. Ramos, but apparently in President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s time, then DPWH Sec. Bayani Fernando put the brakes on the CAMANAVA Flood Control Project which is why it remains uncompleted. Again, ugly politics enters the picture... when there is a new kid on the block who doesn’t like the project... it simply goes to waste and it is the Filipino people who suffer.

I also read a report in another broadsheet that said, “Disaster blamed on rapid dev’t of Metro Manila.” That report was about the questions asked by Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, CEO of the environmental group Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines. Mr. Tan said, “The latest disaster to hit the Philippines was a result of an unfettered and mindless march to urbanization that had replaced soils and trees, which could absorb the rains and reduce flooding with concrete jungles.”

While I will not question Mr. Tan’s statement... let me say it here that there really was no such thing as “rapid march to urbanization” that transformed Metro Manila. The whole shebang is... the policies of a centralized system of governance that created Metro Manila... where everything is poured into what used to be “Manila” only. Then came Quezon City and then they transformed Makati, Marikina, Novaliches, Antipolo and moved up to Bulacan and went down to as far as Cavite and Batangas.

Alas, the political class that has been ruling Imperial Manila since we got our independence from the Americans refuses to recognize their own misdoings. I’ve always believed that if the Philippines is federalized... the power and authority of government would spread to the provinces and the economic growth of the nation would spread throughout the rest of the Philippines.

A case in point is the development of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) or the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) which in effect makes it easier for Metro Manilans to go around the metropolis. This in effect has allowed more people to move around within Metro Manila and live there because they have a rapid transit system to go to work and back. However when these workers earn more... they still end up buying their own cars... and contribute to the already worsening traffic situation, which is happening in EDSA today.

We already suggested to P-Noy that perhaps he should forego temporarily the P35-billion North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) connection to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) that he mentioned in his State of the Nation (SONA) because clearly there is some kind of urgency to solve the flood problem of Metro Manila. But on the other hand... perhaps this flooding became an eye-opener for many people living in Metro Manila to seek a better way of life in other provinces of the Philippines, like in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro or in Bohol, which are experiencing growth.

If I had the chance to realign that project... I would (perhaps it would even cost more) pour it to the plan that would link Cebu Island to Bohol via a tunnel from the South Road Properties, linking to Cordova and into Mactan Airport... then the tunnel goes behind Olango Island where it would become a surface bridge all the way to Bohol. You can see a similar “over-the-water” bridge in Cebu City’s South Road Properties. Or if you saw the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster movie “True Lies” that movie scene was taken in Key West, Florida which links the numerous islands south of Miami. 

This project was already approved in the Regional Development Council (RDC-7) for a feasibility study. For sure, it would trigger an economic boom unheard of and it gives the national government a chance to develop that part of Bohol which is sparsely populated. Yes, you can depopulate Metro Manila by creating new cities from ground up. Of course with the condition that the new occupants of this city would be immigrants from the nation’s capital region. It can be done... if there is a political will. 

Perhaps now is the right time to ask yourself, who actually promoted the rapid urbanization of Metro Manila? All one needs to do is open up any national newspapers or watch TV ads and see those wonderful advertisements of new villages or subdivisions, so enticing people with a little bit of money especially those who do not live in Metro Manila are lured to invest in these homes for their future. But the bottom line is, while these conglomerates make a hefty profits in these projects, they only bring more people to living in Metro Manila, when the real solution is to depopulate Metro Manila and create new cities in areas in the countryside that are still sparsely populated. The exodus away from Metro Manila can be led by the business sector. 

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