Congestion problem has plagued major urban centers around the world for many decades. Metro Manila’s congestion, however, may be one of the worst.
Urban planning is defined as “a process concerned with the development and design of land use in an urban environment.” In other words, it is a blueprint to make the city more livable.
However, after decades of neglect, a city can only be made more livable through urban renewal, which is “the process where an urban neighborhood or area is improved and rehabilitated, typically involving the clearing of large sections of existing property.”
There are hundreds of barangays in the metropolis that are made up of narrow, usually dirty and run down streets and alleyways and old, often dark and dank homes way past their expiration date that are also often unsafe.
These are not necessarily inhabited by people we call the urban poor. It is just that the buildings are old and should be replaced or rehabilitated. The public sector has not had the funding or the political will to do this. The private sector faces massive public relations problems and costs that usually make building new homes in old urban areas impossible.
The answer then has been to create suburban areas. Singapore, since 1973, built townships in areas that were sparsely populated or uninhabited and tried to make them self-sufficient. However, there was always the problem that the jobs were located someplace else.
In Metro Manila, the private sector—sometimes through a joint venture with the government—has created such places as Eastwood City, Filinvest City, Bonifacio Global City and the under construction Ayala Land project Arca South on the site of the former Food Terminal in Taguig City.
Job creation in these areas is still a problem but the nightmare is transportation. It takes steel determination as well as a critical reason to go from Filinvest in the south to Eastwood in the north. While these “suburbs” are great, it does not solve the urban renewal and transportation problem of the rest of Metro Manila.
Beginning in 1987, Singapore began connecting its townships to the central area by subway. However, what transpired as the system grew was that the route of the subway created more townships as more lines were constructed. The proposed Metro Manila subway may do the same thing.
More exciting may be the proposed Makati subway, which will initially run underneath Ayala Avenue up to the Circuit, before going through JP Rizal Avenue up to the other end in Comembo past Bonifacio Global City. This will certainly help to ease traffic congestion in and around the Makati Central Business District (CBD).
However, perhaps the greater potential may be that there will be increased residential and commercial development both at the stations and along the proposed line. This is a great opportunity for Makati to undertake “urban renewal” for middle and working class neighborhoods like it did for the high-end residential development around the CBD.
If you examine the amount of affordable housing in Makati, most units are old and decrepit. It is easy to buy a luxurious P50-million condominium along Ayala Avenue but it is virtually impossible to find a new condominium for under P2 million that could be financed through Pag-IBIG.
If the Makati subway is going to really perk up the city, it must not only provide transportation. It should spark a genuine urban renewal process for the not-so-rich. We have many upscale townships in the metropolis but what we need is much more affordable housing for people who are going to use the Makati subway system.
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