OPINION: Saving Metro Manila: Out-of-the-box imagineering

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Sep 08 2019 07:25 AM | Updated as of Sep 08 2019 08:12 AM

A comprehensive masterplan addressing the otherwise doom and demise of Metro Manila must be anchored upon the ‘sine qua non’ relocation of all military Camps as far away as possible from Metro Manila. (Potential destinations are for future discussions.)

For purposes of this and ensuing discussions, let it be a matter of record what this small voice has for years tirelessly advocated with seemingly ‘ex cathedra’ audacity: That anything less or any other than “Decongestion and Population Dispersal” as the quintessential antidote to the malaise of Metro Manila will be an unmitigated waste and failure. 

Throwing good money after bad, repeatedly, is madness. Too long have we been at it and we never seem to learn. Indeed, it has become sheer imbecility!

Now, let us imagineer! 

What to do with the space vacated by Camps Aguinaldo and Crame. That is a bare combined total ground space of 210 hectares in the very heart of Metro Manila. It is centrally along the length and breadth of EDSA, the nation’s principal urban thoroughfare. We are, but of course, undeniably hoping and dreaming that the ever elusive political will has finally been captured, tamed and marshalled into genuine public beneficence.

Without fail, there will be competing ideas. I also have mine. I hitch mine upon a star that says: NO MORE MALLS !!! I dare that to be the irreducible guiding principle of this bainstorm. The utilization of the new space must aim for the highest public good, to benefit the greatest many! Summum bonum is indeed possible when pursued with sincerity and integrity. Real possibilities being present and available, sense and sanity in public management is not fantasy!

IMAGINE! Imagine former Camps Crame (32 hectares) and Aguinaldo (178 hectares) connected underground, (by pedestrian walkways and vehicular driveways) as well as above ground, into one new massive, continguous urban space. Such physical continguity materializes an additional footprint that could augment the total space by another 20 or 25 hectares more. With an overhead reinforced concrete slab/canopy cum podium that hovers above EDSA and even above the Metro rails! Might I reasonably describe it as a concrete ceiling. A roof over EDSA! For starters, let our minds loose and wonder what 250 hectares of new ground level floor space could mean. (Example: A good portion of downtown Seattle hovers above Interstate 5, with cross avenues and other public facilities above.)

IMAGINE! My first order would be to delineate the boundaries, making of the entire consolidated space an ‘island,’ surrounding its periphery with urban forestry and foliage, dotted with promenades and park-like nooks. Veritably, a brand new urban ‘respiratory’ system for a city that is perennially gasping for dear breath! How about a park on the very airspace above EDSA’s length fronting both camps! (Conceptual drawings, anyone?)

IMAGINE! Imagine, harnessing Crame and Aguinaldo’s once totally unutilized airspace and rising above it, a new skyline a-forming! A complex of high and multi-rise, mammoth structures designed exclusively as a gigantic public transportation terminal (accommodating all the buses that traverse EDSA at any given span of time) and metropolitan traffic interchange, turnaround hub for northbound and southbound buses, with expertly engineered ingress and egress, on and off ramps, to and from North, South, East and West directions; and, with dedicated U-turn driveways for EDSA. With taxi and jeepney pick up stations distributed along convenient exits from within the complex , that facilitate vehicular flow. There will be much more than ample maneuvering space within such complex, to be sure, with discipline-oriented directional driveways and ramps, for the sake of an efficient movement of vehicles. 

I imagine this Central Terminal to be the fulcrum upon which the commanding preponderance of metropolitan public transport traffic flow can, without gridlock, pivot around, to and from destinations and points of origin.

IMAGINE! The complex could very well be the largest man-made structure in the Philippines! Eventually, a multi-rise concrete township built around people mobility, equipped with social services. The presence of accommodations for commercial ancillary services is a given. Considerations of social housing for rigidly selected folks must be incorporated in the overall planning should space still be available.

The existence of such a facility will certainly allow for a more effective enforcement of stop and go passenger pickup discipline among competing bus companies. I am certain that MMDA’s traffic control operatives will find value in a centrally located one-stop bus terminal. When such a facility exists, there need not be any picking up of passengers along EDSA, except in strictly enforced satellite stations along the stretch for that very purpose, every so many kilometers. 

Obviously, the presence of such Central Terminal will eliminate the myriad bus stations that crowd around Cubao, other hubs along EDSA and its backstreets. Thus, obviating threats of bus terminals situated before entering Metro Manila jurisdiction. This centralized public facility addresses directly the concerns of a travelling population coming from the southern and northern provinces. From their vicinities, instead of cumbersome transfers prior to entry, direct to the heart of the Metropolis! And from that central location, they fan out to their specific destinations.

The idea is not at all original. There is such a massive service facility and multi-level edifice in the very heart of New York City. The New York Port Authority Bus Terminal along 8th Avenue, just across the New York Times building. The facility serves as the main gateway for interstate busses coming into Manhattan. It is walking distance to New York City landmarks such as 5th Avenue, Macy’s, Broadway, Madison Square Garden and St.Patrick’s Cathedral.

For the same reason, our dream Central Terminal will be walking distance to Cubao and even to Ortigas. Or, perhaps there ought evolve a shuttle service by smaller vehicles to satellite destinations within an agreed upon radius. An all- day “Ikot” (turn-around) vehicular service. Criss-crossing EDSA either via underground or by way of the overhead podium towards radiating destinations. Why not! IMAGINE!

Now. Why the urban military camps? Twin reasons: 

They occupy patrimonial public property that over time has become irreversibly irrelevant and anachronistic to their mission and purpose of existence. Indeed, an irrelevance of location and occupancy! Unquestionably, these camps can exist and in fact, perform superiorly better, outside the Metropolis! Circumstances more than justify devoting use of such space to an inarguably superior existential need: Saving the Metropolis from doom and demise! 

Secondly, only the Armed Forces, imbued with patriotic discipline, can pull off this near miracle of population dispersal. There is no other entity. And no other opportunity!

Four years ago, I have argued this point. Here is a reprise:

Ultimately, there too is a lofty socially redeeming outcome from the successful implementation of such a grandiose schema. Most of the enlisted men (and their families) invariably have inadequate and substandard housing in slummy, unhealthful environs, if not in colonies of informal settlers, that are within the vicinities of these military camps. By relocating them to new venues in non-congested areas in the provinces, our soldiery will be provided better opportunities for improved housing and definitely, access to a better quality of life! Can you IMAGINE a better way to regard and reward the defenders of the Republic?

IMAGINE! The Armed Forces of the Philippines not only saving Metro Manila from infernal perdition but, as well, for making available space for redevelopment and gentrification! 

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