‘Smart approach key to PH inclusive growth’ 

A smart approach is key to realizing inclusive growth in the Philippines, Felino Palafox Jr., managing partner and founder of Palafox Associates, said during his presentation at The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities Forum 2018 at Conrad Manila, Pasay City, on Tuesday.

The formula for inclusive growth, he added, must have “visionary leadership, good planning, good designing and good governance.”

Palafox noted that smart-growth approach, particularly in advancing cities, include “[establishing]mix land uses, [taking]advantage of compact building design, [creating]a range of housing opportunities and choices and [fostering]distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.”

This should not only be pushed in Luzon, but also in the Visayas and Mindanao, he said.

Palafox cited the need for planning regionally and cooperatively, as well as focusing on developing existing areas.

The urban planner cited the 50-year development project “Pampanga Megalopolis” that he crafted and is aimed at addressing congestion in Manila.

The massive development has the size of two Hong Kongs, wherein it would develop and boast four clusters: airport-driven aerotropolis (Angeles City, Mabalacat City, City of San Fernando and Mexico town); the agriculture-driven agropolis (Lubao, Guagua, Santa Rita, San Luis, San Simon, Santo Tomas and Magalang towns); water-driven aquapolis (Sasmuan, Minalin, Macabebe, Masantol and Lubao towns); and the ecology-driven ecopolis cluster (Arayat, Candaba, Floridablanca and Porac towns).

Palafox is optimistic that the four clusters could attract domestic and foreign tourists, proving that Pampanga could become an urban growth center.

He said inclusive growth can be achieved given the Philippines’ strong local business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, rich mineral resources and marine biodiversity.

Palafox noted that the country is 400 times the size of Singapore, which is considered to be a country with one of the strongest economies.

He said the Philippines was marked as the best country to invest in amid the current administration’s massive infrastructure initiative, making it Asia’s rising star.

Based on his company’s data, the Philippines can secure the 16th spot as one of the top economies in the world by 2050.

Meanwhile, an official of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) also on Tuesday said poor urban planning is to blame for making the Philippines vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.

Julia Nebrija, DBM Assistance to Cities program manager, added that the target for open space should have 45 percent of land, where 30 percent are allocated for streets and sidewalks, while the remaining 15 percent are for green spaces and public utilities.

Citing data from the World Health Organization, she said every urban citizen living within 15-minute walk of a green space needs at least nine square meters, while Manila can only offer 5 square meters of open space per person.

“We haven’t hit that target,” Nebrija said during her presentation at The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities Forum at Conrad Manila.

She said the “harsh reality,” where “space is eaten up by poor planning, disinvestment and neglect,” results in vulnerability to natural disasters, like flood, restricts mobility, threatens identity and affects people’s health
She said one major opportunity to fix this is to redesign streets to give way for pedestrian lanes, bike lanes and other spaces to allow people to have social mobility.

Nebrija urged urban planners to include plazas, parks and waterfronts in property developments “to strengthen the social function of city space as a meeting place that contributes toward the aims of social sustainability.”

The government has earmarked P2.5 billion to address this issue with a campaign dubbed as “Green, Green, Green,” seeking to make 145 cities “more livable and sustainable through the development of public open spaces.”

The project aims to “create forest parks, arboretum and botanical gardens; improve livability of urban areas through various activities and methods such as landscaping, turfing and tree planting; and transform streetscapes through installation of eco-friendly street furniture, fixtures, and shading,” the DBM said in a statement.

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