Two of the country’s top conglomerates have differing views on reclamation as the quick, and maybe, the only solution to Metro Manila’s congestion problems.
According to Arturo G. Corpuz, director at Ayala Land Inc., a strategic development plan should be the first thing to do, and that doesn’t even talk about reclamation as a requirement.
“For example, if we decide that we really need an airport in Sangley area and it would require reclamation, of course, that will make sense,” Corpuz said.
Corpuz is an urban-regional planner involved in private practice and public planning and policy studies.
“But to put it [reclamation] at the start of the plan or process, I think that’s a mistake. It can be a part of the solution, but that’s not an automatic part of solution…before it can be considered,” he added.
Corpuz was referring to Sangley Point in Cavite, one of the proposed sites for the plan to transfer the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Jose Ma. K. Lim, president and CEO of conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), has a different view. He said reclamation has to be used to improve the infrastructure, in general, so the problems faced by the city will not be multiplied by bringing in more people to the city centers.
“It [reclamation] should be used to even out and disperse [people from] more problematic areas into new areas; that I would be in favor of. But for me, what is more important is that the infrastructure must be in place,” Lim pointed out.
Last year former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada approved a multibillion-peso reclamation project in Manila Bay, involving a 318-hectare mixed-use development along the shorelines of Roxas Boulevard.
The project, which will have commercial and residential buildings, will be spearheaded by the Gatchalian family and will be called Manila Waterfront City, the fourth reclamation project of the Estrada administration in less than two years.
In June last year, Estrada also signed an agreement with J-Bros Construction Corp. for the development of a P100-billion, 419-hectare commercial district in another portion of Manila Bay that will be called Horizon Manila.
It involves the construction of three islands between the Manila-Pasay border in the south and Roxas Boulevard in the east, stretching to about 3.5 kilometers on the shores of Manila Bay.
The other signed project is the 407-hectare development called New Manila Bay International Community, spearheaded by the UAA Kinming Group Development Corp.
Before Estrada, the Manila City government in 2012 signed the P7.4-billion expansion of the Manila Harbour Centre in Tondo by R-II Builders Inc. and the 148-hectare Solar City, led by Manila Goldcoast Development Corp.
The reclamation idea is not new in the Philippines. A master plan was developed in 1905 by American David Burnham for the development of coastal road properties along the southern segment of the Manila Bay coastline stretching from Luneta to Cavite City.
It was in the late-1970s that the Marcos administration decided to pursue a project that aims to reclaim a portion of the Manila Bay, part of that is now known as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
That project was called Boulevard 2000 and was later changed to so many other names, including Bay City.
The grand plan was that the CCP will eventually be subsidized by the commercial properties that will dot along the thousands of hectares of area that until today—more than a hundred years later—still needs further reclamation.
The CCP area barely has a commercial and residential area since its purpose was to serve art and not to decongest the city. But the nearby Mall of Asia Complex, which was another reclamation project, has several facilities, including residential condominium buildings.
MPIC’s Lim believes Metro Manila has big challenges to face in terms of development.
“Fifty percent of GDP of this country comes from the greater Manila area. So like it or not, the success or failure of this country depends on the success or failure of Manila,” Lim said.
He said city planning has to be done in a way that avoids the problems that the country’s capital is facing today.
“The plan that was drawn for Manila in 1950s when Manila was a very small city had to be expanded and the utilities were not properly [planned]. Instead, what we are finding is that in order to lay a road, you will have so many utilities buried under the ground that you have to relocate. It’s expensive and creates so much delay,” he added.
MPIC’s business is mostly in infrastructure that emanates from the city center to the provinces. It is into toll-road operation, water utility, among others.
“If you take out all of the streets of Metro Manila, it is at 80-percent capacity. Half of the roads are traveling less than 20 kilometers per hour. So you will see the magnitude and dexterity of congestion,” he said.
“I believe that if the transport issue is resolved, that will lessen the amount of informal-settler families. The reason they are here in the first place is they have no way to go to work, so they are forced to stay in the fringes. They are the ones that are most at risk from natural calamities,” he added.
Metro Manila also suffers from water issues, since it only has one source—the Angat Dam—and utilities are having a hard time pumping water from the northern part to the southern part of the metropolis.
Manila was the subject city of the third year of a Southeast Asia research activity, organized by the Harvard University Graduate School of design, and Aecom, an American engineering firm.
The said collaboration focused on the design of human settlements, new types of dwellings and the challenge of designing for the human condition against future tension.
The forum held recently was the first part of the months-long program, in which thoughts and ideas were presented from students of the gradual school and local urban designers and planners.