The Megacity of the Future (Part 2)
Today, Tondo, and in fact, Metropolitan Manila is an urban center that is bustling and struggling to address urbanization issues like urban poverty, transportation, and sustainability. It is a fact that the world seems to be on an irreversible process of urbanization.
According to a United Nations report two out of every three people are likely to be living in cities or other urban centers by the year 2050. If you were one of the people who complained how the “ber” months came too quickly, you know that 2050 is just 27 years and a wink of an eye away. The UN further noted that this demographic shift means “that around 2.5 billion people could be added to urban areas by the middle of the century.”
By 2050, the country’s population is projected to be at 148 million, part of the estimated 9.7 billion people on earth. Metro Manila is projected to have 23.5 million people from the current population estimate of 14.7 million. It is not difficult to imagine the kinds of problems such population explosion would bring because NCR residents experience it on a daily basis — inadequate mass transport system, poor urban planning, pollution, overcrowded public spaces, and in general, a less than desired quality of life.
According to the UN, a megacity is an urban area with a population of over 10 million people. In 1975 there were only four megacities — New York, Tokyo, Mexico City and São Paolo. Today, there are about 30. The projection by 2030 is that there will be 43 megacities all over the world.
The population division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) reported in 2018 that by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. The UN report also noted that this “gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90 percent of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa.”
The rise in the number of megacities is the most visible evidence of the accelerating global trend towards urbanization. But this also comes with an array or problems associated with rapid urbanization.
The first is environmental peril. Global climate change will likely exacerbate urban problems. Flooding, stronger super typhoons, even epidemics, will constantly threaten life in megacities. Recent flash floods along EDSA and the Covid-19 pandemic are prime examples of these. The population density of megacities make them vulnerable to unimaginable loss of lives and properties during calamities.
The second is the issue of mobility. The problem is that population is expanding faster than our ability to expand the capacity of our transport system. Urbanization is usually coupled with economic growth and prosperity, which in turn, requires a modern transport system that can efficiently transport people and goods.
The third is the issue of resource availability. Urbanization might create crises in water, food and energy. The question is — can megacities continue to provide these resources to an ever-growing urban population?
These are the underpinning issues why I have been advocating, for a long time now, to expand development outside Metro Manila. The NCR is a megacity that is bursting at the seams. This is also the reason why real estate developers like us at the Villar Group are looking at alternative megacities.
With your indulgence, allow me to discuss briefly our vision for Villar City — the new center of gravity outside Metro Manila. It is, in my mind, the megacity of the future. This new and bigger CBD will span 15 towns and cities and is designed to benefit the people, the planet and help create wealth and prosperity. As we build the city of my dreams, we hope to avoid the pitfalls in the design and planning of central business districts. We hope to do this through what we refer to as the triangle of infrastructures:
Number one is physical infrastructure. Road and utility infrastructures in a masterplan play a foundational role in shaping the economic vitality and sustainability of a community. These will support transportation, accessibility, public health and economic growth, making them essential components of this future city. Roads will be well-designed to facilitate the movement of people. Public transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure will also be integrated to the masterplan development.
Two pertains to green infrastructure like parks and waterways. Aside from the essential physical infrastructure, Villar City will also incorporate green infrastructure that will offer wide range of benefits both for the environment and for the well-being of people. Lush landscapes, well-connected green corridors and clean waterways will provide good air quality and reduce heat island effect.
Lastly, Villar City will be a smart city because of the digital infrastructure we plan to put up. These will provide access to high-speed internet to residents and play a positive role in good governance and economic growth. Our sustainability goals will focus on helping residents achieve a balanced lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a healthy diet, social engagement, and a sense of purpose. Villar City will also encourage a strong sense of community by creating spaces and opportunities for social interaction, such as community gardens, communal spaces, and walkable neighborhoods.
We also hope to align with environmentally sustainable practices, such as reducing reliance on cars, promoting healthy diets, and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. This can contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly masterplan.
I will probably not see this vision become a reality in my lifetime but I have seen it. As I told you earlier, this is the city of my dreams. When I was a kid, growing up in Tondo, my brothers and their friends would often play after school on the streets or in the basketball court nearby. My afternoons were usually spent daydreaming by the window of our house staring at the clouds. My mother would always tell me, “ano ba ang importanteng iniisip mo dyan?” I am not really sure what I thought about during those days.
But I knew that as I grew up, when I enrolled in UP, when I left the professional world to become an entrepreneur, when I entered public service in 1992, and, when I came back to the business world like a hungry, novice entrepreneur when my term in the Senate ended, that it has been my story to make dreams come true.
I would like to think that I have lived a full life smuggling daydreams into reality. I hope that remains true with respect to this latest, biggest, and probably culminating dream of mine.