To repeat, to reiterate as well as to sear into public and political consciousness and acceptance, there is absolutely no substitute for, nor other recourse than decongestion and population dispersal in rescuing Metro Manila from damned self-strangulation!
And here are my recommended essentials:
- Manila to remain the symbolic and national seat of the Republic.
- No more malls! Absolutely no commercial reclamation in Manila Bay.
- Relocation of all military and police camps and general headquarters as far away as possible from the boundaries of Metro Manila, as well as selected executive branch departments. This means departments that do not require a Metro Manila presence to fulfill its mandate.
- Utilization of the length of riparian Pasig River (there’s a new word for you, it means riverbanks) as an East-West vehicular corridor, either as a viaducted elevated freeway, a ground-level throughway, even overhead people gondolas or another railway system!
- A similar concept may also be adapted for Marikina River; and as well, adapting the interconnecting utilization and a non-housing redevelopment of the former Pandacan Oil depot.
(A guiding thought in this consideration: Pasig River need not be that wide nor that silted shallow! The river’s midsection can be desilted and deepened with the debris deposited behind a system of double-steel sheet piling to shore up the widened banks. Given the required sources, the problematic Pasig River is beneficially solvable.)
- Disallow industrial barging along the Pasig by taxing away all industrial and manufacturing activities along the river that relocating becomes the only economic option.
- Relocate the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa/Bureau of Corrections/Correctional Institution for Women. Prison reform can thus be jump-started and effectively implemented. There are already in existence under-utilized regional facilities and penal farms (Abuyog, Iwahig, San Ramon, Davao) that deserve redevelopment, devoted towards truly reformative/rehabilitative and humane objectives. Surrounding communities of penal facilities do become self-contained socio-economic units. For the perennial problem of drug lords and heinous criminal convicts, there are enough isolated, underpopulated islets in the Visayas that deserve serious evaluation as potential venues for the incorrigibles. Special criminals deserve special accommodations, like their own isolated “Alcatraz.”
No flights of fancy but let us dare to dream--and IMAGINE! Por ejemplo:
- The Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources can best perform their respective mandates if they were sited in strategic Mindanao locations. That is where the bulk of their concerns are to be found, anyway. How about DND headquartered right smack where the action is! Take your pick. Zamboanga or Basilan? Davao and Cagayan de Oro have distinct possibilities as hosts to other national offices.
- Villamor Airbase-Philippine Air Force GHQ and flight training facilities will find superior environs in the higher elevations of Bukidnon. (That’s where General MacArthur and party took off from, on their escape en route to Australia in March of 1942.) The Air Force can also take along with them their par-72 golf course that is mindlessly and truly selfishly just luxuriating, cheek by jowl, in our space-starved (and deprived) international airport, competing with terminal and runway space. Not too many people know of the existence of such golf course that merely serves the recreation and amusement fancies of a few privileged hundreds while depriving millions of air travelers of what could have been more comfortable arrival and departure amenities. In that regard, the Philippines most probably has the tightest and most hideous looking international airport area which we pass off as the gateway to the nation!
- The Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard must be headquartered in the dead center of this archipelagic nation. It certainly stands to reason, instead of sharing the vicinities of a yacht club, of cultural and convention Centers, of the Mall of Asia and that of the Philippines’ Las Vegas strip, right along Roxas Boulevard. Ridiculous! How about our Navy homeporting in the regions of northern Panay island, which consists of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique provinces. Or alternatively, even splitting venues, with Ragay Gulf in south Luzon. Subic can remain commercially non-government.
- The Army can finally establish its permanent home and GHQ in Nueva Ecija. They have been allocated since the 1950s Fort Magsaysay, which is the country’s largest military reservation. Did you know that Fort Magsaysay is larger than all of Metro Manila?
- And why should the Department of Agrarian Reform insist on holding office in the middle of this concrete jungle of urban chaos and disarray? Central Luzon logically offers some ideally likely destinations for its offices, like Cabanatuan or Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
- The backside of Quezon City has much ample and accessible space to accommodate the campus requirements of the Philippine Senate and the Supreme Court. Frankly, I find their announced intent and plans to build and to eventually relocate in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) as insensitively masochist! Just cutting across a mile’s distance inside BGC can now take a good part of an hour, and our Senators and our ‘Supremes’ are threatening to join and reinforce the urban rat race!
Before I wrap up this weekend’s ‘cyber tertulia,’ please allow me to share a bit of relevant recollection.
In the US, a number of years ago, I recall that Congress passed an appropriations bill creating a new Naval Carrier Group, for deployment in the Caribbean, Southern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. A carrier group is a naval fleet consisting of aircraft an carrier, with support destroyers, frigates, other defense seacraft and fighter aircraft, of course. And the personnel, usually in the thousands. A carrier group requires a homeport, pretty much like San Diego in California and Norfolk in Virginia, the most prominent of navy towns in the world. Where the homeport is decided to be, is followed by the relocation of the Navy personnel’s families. This is what I would characterize as a “self-contained socio-economic unit,” relocating to where the new fleet is to be homeported.
As a consequence of this budgetary milestone, the States of Florida, Alabama and Texas, all having sea coasts fronting the Gulf of Mexico, went into highly competitive undertakings applying for and aiming at being awarded, the privilege of hosting the new carrier group. Beyond all doubt, “It’s the economy, stupid!” as principal motivation. Best foot forward enticements and incentives, packaged proposals, went into play. After Pentagon evaluations, one State won the contest. I no longer recall which State stood out and won as homeport. I think it was Florida.
Nonetheless, I have taken the opportunity of sharing this relation because of what Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian have proposed a few weeks ago. They both espoused the relocation of some of the executive branch’s Cabinet departments out of Metro Manila to the provinces. Although both legislators have shown a bias for Pampanga (Angeles and the Clark area), I think that is simply being shortsighted. They ought to engender, instead, the wider spread of economic development opportunities to equally deserving or better endowed relocation venues.
I therefore raise the question: have we elected a sufficient number of progressive and forward-thinking public managers who are prepared to compete and vie for their cities and provinces to host the relocating national government offices, as a consequence of Metro Manila’s decongestion and population dispersal?
Let me repeat and reiterate. When the national capital region is intelligently decongested and its population wisely dispersed, a more evenly geographic distribution of economic development opportunities will definitely materialize.
It is political maturation, without molesting the Constitution!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.