A Greener Metropolis
I am an advocate of making cities and human settlements safe and sustainable. My decades of experience in providing housing to millions of Filipinos taught me valuable lessons about the aspirations of many Filipinos—they want peace and security, a decent quality of life and a shared prosperity with neighbors.
In this modern world where climate change is becoming a concern for our young population, a greener community where parks and trees blend with the concrete is a better alternative than the limited open public spaces and air pollution that have characterized the rapid urbanization of Metro Manila.
This is the exact reason why I envisioned my family’s Villar City. For one, it’s a more ideal community that will provide access to safe, affordable and accessible transport systems for all. It will have inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces as well, as I’ve discussed in my previous column here.
But the private sector cannot do it all. The government must also take the initiative in restoring the health of the metropolis by re-introducing the green landscape and providing a more livable environment. The optimist in me tells me that baby steps are the right direction to take despite the gargantuan task ahead.
I am referring to the agreement signed last week by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine Reclamation Authority to establish the Roxas Boulevard Promenade from Epifanio de los Santos Avenue to Libertad Extension in Pasay City.
The MMDA has earmarked P70 million to construct the 800-meter park along the scenic boulevard to create a “greener, more vibrant, and more interconnected metropolis.”
As I’ve said, the agreement is a baby step but I’m glad the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is taking a pause to revitalize that part of Metro Manila. MMDA Chairman Romando Artes deserves credit for the project, an offshoot of the agency’s Adopt-a-Park project that seeks to promote an active lifestyle and contribute to the overall wellness of Metro Manilans, through the rehabilitation and development of parks and open spaces within the metropolis.
Residents of the metropolis deserve a break in their routine. As envisioned by the MMDA, the park will feature biking and jogging lanes, a pet park, a football pitch, and a space for family bonding, fitness advocates, and or just plain leisure.
I also welcome the plan of the MMDA to develop parks in the city of Manila, Pasig City and Taguig City in the coming months. Parks and open spaces are the lungs that Metro Manila residents need to breathe fresh air.
Our previous policy makers obviously erred in developing urban areas. The uneven development resulted in traffic congestion, air pollution and the unmitigated migration of people to Metro Manila in search of jobs.
In my own way through the Villar City that spans 3,500 hectares across 14 cities and towns in Metro Manila and portions of Cavite, my development will create a new center of growth. The masterplanned Villar City will be composed of self-sustaining districts or urban centers, such as a modern central business district, a tech valley and a university town, among others.
This multifaceted, multifunctional development will be in a class of its own. We’ve seen such communities abroad and we hope to have it also here, to be experienced by our fellow Filipinos. It will also be a premier lifestyle hub, set amid verdant landscapes with one million trees, in keeping with the social agenda of the United Nations.
We should perhaps take the observation of the UN seriously when it comes to building sustainable cities. Per the UN, the world’s population reached 8 billion in 2022, with over half living in urban areas. The figure is expected to rise, with 70 percent of people likely to be living in cities by 2050.
Many of these cities, says the UN, are not ready for the rapid urbanization, outpaced by the development of housing, infrastructure and services, which will lead to a further rise in slums or slum-like conditions.
Many cities, adds the UN, are also more vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters due to their high concentration of people. Building urban resilience, thus, is crucial to avoid human, social and economic losses.
We’ve seen that in the Philippines. A poorly planned urbanization has led to the creation of huge slum settlements, congested traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, or poor air quality.
Is it too late to reverse the pitfalls of past urban development policies? Nothing is impossible and we can always envision the future. All we have to do is put more teeth on our decongestion policy.