AFP faces 'Bayan o Sarili' moment: Saving Metro Manila

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Sep 30 2015 09:53 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2015 06:42 AM

With apologies to “Heneral Luna,” the movie, now generating a respectable degree of socio-cultural brouhaha, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has the singular opportunity to heroically face a “Bayan o Sarili” (Country or Self) moment. Perhaps, like at no other time and at a most poignant juncture of history, our military conquers, at peace time, urban blight!

I speak of our AFP coming to the rescue of Metro Manila from her unrestrained malaise and self induced slow torture and death by strangulation. There is absolutely no other national entity that can conquer this challenge. As circumstances stand, the military holds the ultimate key to the humane decongestion and the intelligent population dispersal of Metro Manila. This, they can eloquently achieve by relocating away from Metro Manila, now an irrelevant location!

The “Distinguished and Ever Loyal City” of Manila now possesses the startling record of being the No. 1 city in the world with the highest population density! This is on the basis of people per square kilometer. Hooray! Manila is Number One!

In fact, of the world’s tightest 30 cities, of planet earth’s first thirty cities with the highest population density, 8 are in Metro Manila. They include Pateros and Caloocan being number 2 and number 3, respectively; Malabon and Pasig are number 16 and 17; while Pasay, San Juan and Makati are designated at position numbers 24, 25 and 30. And if this still does not jar your sanity, sense and equanimity, to the world’s 30 tightest, India contributes only 6 cities. Mabuhay! We beat India!

Is there any wonder why we are now assaulted by this daily, hourly calvary in the very vicinity of our forced existence? For so long now, this has been staring us in the face! Hello, Filipino leadership!

To highlight this demographic anomaly, here is a perspective offering for you to mull over. The national average density for the entire Philippines is 334 persons per square kilometer while Manila’s no. 1 status is bolstered by the presence of, fasten your seatbelts, 42,857 persons! Manila’s area is almost 30 sq. km. (My hometown of Calbayog in Samar, with an area of 900 sq. kms.+ has a population density of 181. In fact, as the uwak (crow) flies a mere 50 kilometers to the northeast, east or southeast of Metro Manila, there are unpolluted below national average densities of verdant venues awaiting new population, refugees from the “gates of hell!”) I am tempted to relate the foregoing to the sparse densities obtaining in the scattered military encampments all over the country, away from all metropolitan areas. I also wonder why the AFP insists on a Metro Manila presence.

IT'S THE POPULATION, STUPID!

That these numbers were forthcoming was not unknown 25 years ago. Professional demographers and population statisticians, urban planners as well, have been crying to high heavens. Concerns and protestations over the burgeoning urban blight and the ills of human congestion have been well established through ordinary pulse-taking as well as forecast in academic statistical probes since before the 1990s.

Metro Manila’s sad and presently irretrievable misfortune is that the threat of numbers and utter unconcern for genuine people’s dismay were never accorded logical attention much less imbued with a sense of urgency. Evidently, both national and local government leaders were concerned with something else, whatever the fuck that was!

We have been at the ‘gates of hell’ and for so long now, it has been staring us in the face. Relevant public policy has been in an immobilized stupor and trance. Failure to recognize the nature of a problem is failure to solve that problem. Recognizing a problem requires an all-encompassing comprehension of the total gamut of the cause and the inseparability, the indivisibility of its effect. Yet, absolutely nothing has been done to address the ultimate cause. All these talk and blabbering, all the walk and strutting go around interminably in circles dwelling on whatever is politically visible, concentrating on the effects: vehicular congestion, flooding, informal settlements, infrastructure enhancement.

Indeed, all that we have seen are band-aid-brained! Why the fear to publicly address and admit what that principal cause staring us, 24/7, really is. It is the population, stupid!

Our political leaders concentrate and pontificate on the effects but never the principal cause. What lighting from the gods of nature must first strike our leaders for them to finally wake up and accept that the ultimate solution to Metro Manila is decongestion and population dispersal. Only then when all else will fall into areas and levels of manageability. Without decongestion and population dispersal/redistribution, Metro Manila is beyond salvation.

Because of its uncontrolled population growth, Metro Manila has long become abused space. When physical limits of space are breached and overloaded way beyond its carrying capacity, chaos and breakdown ensue. Today, we are there!

AFP TO THE RESCUE

It is common knowledge that the immediate environs of all the military camps in Metro Manila (throw in Camp Crame as well) are surrounded by communities of enlisted men and their families backed by commercial and social support activities, literally a considerable population of camp followers. This represents a not inconsiderable volume of population. It is also common knowledge that these vicinities are mostly squatter colonies.

Is this an acceptably decent manner by which we treat the so-called defenders of the nation, the soldiers (and their families) of the Republic? We are tolerating as par for the course the substandard human accommodations for our military personnel. How nice! Why do we insist on deploying them within the inner cities of the metropolis. Does it not beggar a general’s conscience? Was not the Bases Conversion Development Authority also intended to relocate the military away from the metropolis? What about whatever remains of the original 73,000 hectares in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija?

Imagine a Metro Manila without military camps. Imagine a military population in their own military towns, relocated as self-contained, self-sufficient economic units, enjoying more pleasant living conditions away from the environmental degradation that unfortunately they, too, are contributors.

Where the military relocates its various population sets and the very process of relocation indeed partakes unmistakably of an omnibus economic stimulus, smartest of ‘priming the pump,’ as it were. The decongestion of Metro Manila and consequent population redistribution creates new wealth! Additional business opportunities, jobs, new venues for taxation are natural progenies. The decongestion of Metro Manila is an investment banker’s dream. A bump in the GNP! Thank you, Generals.

By its very existence, the military lives by and is steeped in discipline. The military is the very epitome of a well-ordered life style. A command is an order obeyed. Orders to relocate for greater beneficence is therefore called for. The ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ may not be a military shibboleth, but today’s Metro Manila is crying for a moral maneuver and imperative only the Generals and their Commander-in-Chief can provide. So, why not issue the command?

Instead of paying for full-page advertising manifestos objecting to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, how about the same coterie of retired flag officers espousing the decongestion of Metro Manila, the dispersal of soldiers and families to more pleasant, sanitary and healthful environs and in so doing, save Metro Manila while promoting an irreversible enhancement of their beloved country’s GNP?

Gentlemen, “Bayan o Sarili?”

[N.B. We intend to continue with a series on “Bayan o Sarili” in an endeavor to promote decongestion and population dispersal as a long-term national policy with the AFP in the lead. NEDA, (National Economic and Development Authority) are you also listening?]

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