The demand for space for housing, business, and government centers has propelled the urbanization of previously rural areas outside of Manila. Urbanization outpaced urban development plans and in most cases in the Philippines, has proceeded in a virtually unplanned manner.
Architects and authorities on urban planning have, for decades, been pointing out not only the necessity of urban planning but also the opportunities it presents.
In August 2012, Architect Felino Palafox noted that Metro Manila had used wrong models in developing urban areas:
Palafox also noted that Metro Manila has been using the “wrong models” in its urban planning.
He said Metro Manila is a low-rise, sprawling community patterned after Los Angeles, California, when it should practice vertical urbanism similar to that of Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Palafox said he will again propose his ideas to the national government in light of the recent floods.
The world-renowned urban planner said he has been giving recommendations and suggestions to improve urban planning for free, something he’d like to refer to as “patriotic architecture.”
Also in August 2012, the Urban Land Institute described the situation:
Being the political, economic, social, cultural and educational center of the Philippines that has reaped the most significant effects of the modern phenomenon of the BPO (business process outsourcing) sector and overseas Filipinos’ remittances, Metro Manila may already be bursting at the seams.
Experts have observed that rapid urbanization could lead to poor environmental quality, severe traffic congestion, substandard public amenities and utilities, housing shortages, socioeconomic inequity and deteriorating infrastructure that can, in turn, result in overall diminishing competitiveness among other cities in the region.
Keith D. Cameña writes about Urban Planning in the Philippines in Best Architect:
It is indeed a tragedy that the cities across the Philippine archipelago developed in a random and haphazard fashion. Typical planning displayed by the government is not predictive but rather remedial in approach. If the opposite is true, problems like housing, traffic congestion, water supply, electrification, sanitation, sewerage, flooding, and urban dilapidation among others would have been addressed to punctually.
In the cities of other countries, rivers and other bodies of water were an important element of the city. What is common with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other cities in the Scandinavia and Southwestern Europe is their brilliant exploitation of the bodies of water in planning of their cities. Had the Filipino planners and leaders possessed and understood the same vision, the cities across the archipelago would have been developed into urban satellites enjoying commercially viable ports.
The vision for the Manila Solar City is in line with calls to develop this centrally located coast line into the country’s front door and this is a point that was stressed by Palafox in holding up Cebu City as a model for reclamation:
Manila, the core city of Metro Manila and capital of the Philippines, has long run out of space for new residential and business areas.
In a statement sent by e-mail, Palafox said reclamation could “do the country a lot of good if done properly.”
“Reclamation, if done properly, is the solution to flooding in Metro Manila. It is the solution to tsunamis, the solution to storm surges, solution to (producing) additional prime land,” said Palafox in the presentation he made for the conference.
While some have claimed that reclamation has caused negative environmental impact such as flooding, Palafox said inefficient waste disposal and the absence of flood-mitigating infrastructure were the primary causes of floods in urban areas.
“The Philippines has the world’s third longest waterfront but we don’t use our waterfront properly. We don’t use them as front doors to development but as outhouses where garbage is thrown,” he pointed out.