Decongesting Metro Manila: A failure of foresight

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Aug 30 2019 10:06 PM

Foreseen and forecast for decades, but for an abject failure of foresight! 

Finally, Metro Manila’s decongestion and population dispersal (people redistribution) seems like an official epiphany, albeit much delayed. Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian have both recently proposed moving the administrative machinery of the national government away from its festering chaos and inescapable doom. To the provinces……Hallelujah!

This gives me pause and cause to sound like a broken vinyl record, once again and for the very nth occasion. I have been at this advocacy for decades. Too long have I internalized this infernal malaise. So, here we go again! Succor from Metro Manila’s daily calvary? “Hope springs eternal….it is human nature to hope against all odds!”

Are we then seeing the beginnings of the formation of a national policy precisely “conceived, concerted and undertaken to address the chaotic congestion and the suffocating overpopulation of our National Capital Region by way of decongestion and population dispersal?” For certain, the thought has been formulated, expressed and recommended before (and many times, too) by noted professional urban planners and demographers. But actual legislative action? Nah!!!

Sotto and Gatchalian deserve encouragement for jump-restarting and generating fulsome conversation and debate. There is in it something for them to ponder upon. How about personal legacy? Nobody doubts that the Senate President is in dire need of it. This could be his proverbial ‘second chance.’ In fact, his defining moment it could very well be! A catharsis well-earned and he will deserve it. 

Pursued without predatory politics, their declared concept can be a mother lode of existential value to the nation. Good and beneficial economics decongesting Metro Manila is, good and beneficial politics it will be! “Smart plus Smart” is language politicians can not fail to comprehend!

Their initiative is followed by Indonesia announcing the relocation of her capital, Jakarta, from the island of Java to another. They are moving the seat of government to the northern part of Borneo, (Kalimantan) Asia’s largest island, where East Malaysia and Brunei also are. Indonesia is doing a ‘Brazilia.’ We recall that in the early 1960s, out of the highland jungles of northern Brazil was carved out a new capital to replace Rio de Janeiro. Amidst initial doubts and some whining, Brazilia has emerged vibrant, highly successful and already seeing potential tightness!

For additional historical perspective, relocating national administrative capitals has always been common sense. 
Intelligently guided growth and maturation, as it were. In fact, a government center ought to be set apart as a venue from any other such use of space! Australia made sure of this by having its administrative central created in Canberra, away from Sydney and Melbourne, from the very get go. Washington D.C., of course, stands out!

In such manner, a more even geographic distribution of socio-economic growth opportunities is engendered.

More recent examples are: a) Myanmar replacing Yangon (Rangoon in old Burma) with Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital; and, 
b) Putrajaya has already replaced Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. 

In fact, Egypt is now working on developing a new capital some 45 kilometers away from Cairo. In my view, however, that is too close to the old one, for any truly lasting benefits.

Reasons given for this intelligent human discernment have always been uniformly the same: congestion and overpopulation.

Having said that, Metro Manila has been an anomaly. And why not? Apart from being the densest populated urban spot on the globe (greatest number of persons per square kilometer), we all also share the same location and address as the National Penitentiary, the National Mental Hospital, Congress, and all the General Headquarters of all branches of the military. All cheek by jowl! All already irrelevant and anachronistic where they still remain when located from inception.

It is worthwhile to repeat for the sake of Senators Sotto and Gatchalian, and to inspire their respective ‘working stiffs’ and staff, as well. “Metro Manila is not only the political and administrative capital of our country. It is also the seat of commerce and industry, of banking and finance, shipping, manufacturing and services. We are also the religious, military, media, cultural scientific, educational, tourism, entertainment and gambling capital.” No other country on planet earth suffers such overloading and abuse of limited space! Our national life has been dominated by a magnetizing and imperial Metro Manila. This has got to stop!

It is my hope that whatever legislation might evolve, it would include the overriding principle that henceforth, there shall no longer be allowed any for-profit undertaking that will tend to attract and to increase the population of Metro Manila. 

Specifically, this means no more reclamations in Manila Bay nor in adjacent wetlands that will impact upon the general vicinity’s ecological balance.

The serious pursuit of the Sotto-Gatchalian initiative can be the single most potent job and wealth-creating endeavor this country may ever undertake and witness. It is unquestionably the conscious creation of economic value! Basically, here is why. Massive new taxable property values and venues will evolve where there are none presently. Consequently, this will bring about business and employment opportunities generating a more wholesome quality of life. Such is the very essence of moving on and relocating. 

Only the leadership of government can bring about the impetus and stimulus that can marshal an out-migration as far away as possible from Metro Manila, such as intended. Socio-economic re-engineering exemplified by decongestion and population redistribution can only happen with government taking the lead, beginning with enabling sensible legislation. The private sector is never shy to partake and participate in opportunities opened to them by government.

And to be lofty about it, Senators Sotto and Gatchalian may wish to call upon a Constitutional tenet for their aspirational and philosophical guidance: “Article II - Declaration of Principles and State Policies….. Sec. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
Decongestion of Metro Manila and the consequent geographic redistribution of population is in pursuit of that principle. Inevitably, it will partake of a social and economic stimulus, the magnitude of which the Philippines has never seen. It could well be our very own home-grown “Marshall Plan,” using our own resources. 

And without molesting the Constitution, too!



Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.