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Livable cities

/ 05:04 AM October 10, 2019

Ours aren’t, and no one seems to care. Take Bonifacio Global City (BGC). I won’t even mention the destroyed disaster that is, was Baguio. But BGC was a blank piece of ground some 13 years ago and is now an overcrowded, appallingly designed calamity. Its roads are too narrow, intersections abound, ingress and egress are a nightmare, there’s nowhere to park or off-load off the street, a quiet central park doesn’t exist. Cities must have trees; BGC has far too few. What it does have is a proliferation of high-rises blocking out the sun.

There’s excuse for Manila, none for BGC. Yet the Senate is moving there. Why? As I wrote in my Sept. 5 column (and much earlier), Clark/Subic must be the new capital of the Philippines. There is the space to build a properly designed and controlled city, one that Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Vince Dizon has been doing rapidly but in a well-controlled manner. That control must be continued.

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Art Tugade took a courageous step by moving the Department of Transportation (DOTr) head office to Clark. Good on him. Others must follow Tugade. The government is reportedly exploring the possibility of transferring the Departments of Science and Technology, Justice, Environment and Natural Resources, the Office of Civil Defense and the Climate Change Commission to New Clark City (NCC). That exploration should result in action. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is constructing a currency production facility in NCC. The Supreme Court broke ground recently to build a magnificent regional center that will also be its academy and archive center.

The decision-makers in the Senate need to rethink their move to BGC. Whatever the cost of cancellation is miniscule compared to the savings over the next 50 years of being in the right spot.

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Indonesian President Widodo has done it. Indonesia’s capital will no longer be Jakarta, it will be East Kalimantan. Jakarta only has an estimated 11 million inhabitants, while Manila has  about 15 million and no place to expand, making it even more urgent to move. Widodo recognized that Jakarta can’t be cleaned up, so start anew. Manila can’t be either, so time to move and not just endlessly talk about it, or thoughtlessly develop BGC even further. The oceans are predicted to rise 1 meter, but Manila is no Venice.

I’ve recently returned from visits to Sydney, Melbourne, Christchurch and Queenstown. Each one was well-organized, clean and a joy to travel around. In Sydney, the 10-kilometer trip to the airport was mostly on underground roads that traversed the city in minutes, so unlike the nearly an hour it takes to get from the edge of Makati to its center. An underground railway is a decadeslong overdue step that President Duterte has undertaken, but why not road tunnels, too?

It’s time for a drastic rethink of what can be done with the cities in greater Manila without further expanding them, but acknowledging they have a limited life. In those cities I mentioned, you could breathe the air, see the stars. There were real parks, not pretend pockets. BGC has no redeeming feature that I can see.

As for Clark, it’s the place to go. I visited again recently for the Supreme Court groundbreaking, and remained impressed at what a great job Dizon is doing. The 12-kilometer road to the courthouse was completed in 18 months, a speed others might want to emulate. There’s a master plan for the city, and it’s being adhered to. Aside from wide roads, there are dedicated lanes for bikes and another for pedestrians. There are roundabouts to speed traffic through intersections, overhead solar-powered lighting, no wires, and the buildings are sensibly spaced.

You should see the stadium, world-class in every way. According to BCDA, the Athletics Stadium and Aquatics Center meets the standards of the International Association of Athletics Federations and the Federation Internationale de Natation. It is beautiful, built by the MTD Group in 17 months, and is already being used by some 120 athletes preparing for the Southeast Asian Games in November. Filipinos can be proud as they host the Games.

Meanwhile, the new airport terminal is on track for its 2020 opening, and the airport can accommodate up to 12.2 million passengers annually.

Clark is the place to go, BGC isn’t.

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TAGS: BGC, Bonifacio Global City, Clark, Like It Is, livable cities, Peter Wallace
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