In 2050, the Philippines’ population is projected to rise to 148 million, and we would need to plan now and develop 100 new cities by then. Otherwise, our existing cities will be as congested as Metro Manila. According to the United Nations, by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Here in the Philippines, 50% of our population already live in cities based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. Growth will inevitably continue to surge in our cities, which is why we should strongly support the creation of growth centers outside of Metro Manila.
In 1975, the Planning and Project Development Office (PPDO) of the Department of Public Works, Transportation and Communications (DPWTC) submitted the National Physical Framework Plan. It emphasized that in order to spur overall national development, a spatial strategy is vital, which would encourage the geographical distribution of economic progress and inclusivity that would counterbalance the glaring dominance of Metro Manila. The plan identified emerging metropolitan areas like the following: Cebu City, Davao City, Iloilo City, Baguio City, Bacolod City, Naga City, Cagayan de Oro City, Olongapo City, Laoag City, Dumaguete City, Dagupan City, Zamboanga City, General Santos City, Cotabato City, Lucena City, Sta. Cruz in Laguna, Iligan City, San Fernando City, Batangas City, Angeles City, Tacloban City, Tagbilaran City, San Fernando City, Legaspi City, Dipolog City, Butuan City, San Pablo City, Tarlac City, Tuguegarao City, and Cabanatuan City. At Palafox, it is our goal to help promote regional development beyond Metro Manila while still enhancing its livability, sustainability, and resilience. We work with the government and the private sector to plan and design new urban centers and communities that are inclusive and sustainable.
Luzon has several promising growth centers such as Bulacan, Pampanga, Clark, Calabarzon, and Metro Ilocos. The province of Pampanga is known as the business and financial core of the Central and Northern Luzon regions. Located in the province is Clark, which provides an ideal setting to establish our very own “city of the future,” and it will play a pivotal role in Central Luzon’s progress. This is where we can apply proper urban planning and design for smarter, greener, and more efficient and resilient areas that were not duly implemented in our cities in Metro Manila. These will hopefully prevent us from duplicating the urban ills of Metro Manila. The massive development comprises New Clark City, Clark Freeport Zone, and other areas. With a newer Clark International Airport to be completed along with other major projects such as the Malolos-Clark Railway Project directly connecting Manila to the airport and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Extension Project, Pampanga is in position to become the Gateway to Asia.
Metro Ilocos, particularly Ilocos Norte, holds amazing opportunities for sustainable tourism development. The land area of Ilocos Norte can fit approximately five Metro Manilas and four Sinagapores. The region is brimming with historical heritage sites and stunning natural landscapes that it can capitalize on. With intensified ecotourism, heritage conservation, and infrastructure projects, Metro Ilocos will be a main contributor to Northern Luzon’s equitable and sustainable development.
Alongside the developments in Luzon, we look southward to harness the immense potential that Visayas and Mindanao, particularly Metro Davao, Zamboanga, Pagadian, and Siargao, hold. Both regions have rich natural resources and biodiversity and booming hubs for trade and industry, and they have been receiving extensive infrastructure developments. Under the Build, Build, Build program, the Visayas has four flagship projects to be completed. These are the new Cebu International Container Port and the construction and enhancement of additional facilities for the Iloilo International Airport, the New Bohol Airport, and the Bacolod-Silay International Airport. In Mindanao, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved 103 projects worth P485 billion for implementation from 2019 to 2022. Among these are the Mindanao Railway Project, the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project, the Rio Grande de Mindanao Flood Control Project in Cotabato City, the establishment of a Regional Government Center for Northern Mindanao, and many others. These developments will surely optimize local and international connectivity and accessibility throughout the region and cause an influx in investments and local economic growth. While these projects unfold, we must make sure that the urban development mistakes in Metro Manila — which have led to intense traffic, catastrophic flooding, environmental degradation, and lack of decent housing — will not be repeated. Intensified development does not always mean success if it costs the health of the people and the environment. Sadly, some of the issues we are experiencing in Metro Manila are also prevalent in the Visayas and Mindanao, which is why we must insist on prudent urban planning and the sensible design, planning, and construction of infrastructure that must be supported and managed by reputable and proactive LGUs.
With visionary leadership, strong political will, appreciation for good planning and good design, and good governance, imagine what our country’s future holds. Let us work together so that the Philippines in 2050 is a country we can proudly pass on to future generations.