Transforming Cebu into a megalopolis Investing in PH
Renowned urban planner’s take on how to make Metro Cebu great
If given the opportunity, world-renowned architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. would like to transform Cebu into a “megalopolis,” a cluster of metropolitan areas meant to spread development to the rest of the province.
Palafox said the megalopolis will be made up of three areas: the existing Metro Cebu and one urban center each in the northern and southern parts of the island to act as counter-magnets and to balance urban development.
“A metropolis is a cluster of cities while a megalopolis is several metropolitan areas. Establishing urban centers in the north and south complete with international airports, seaports and universities will help decongest Metro Cebu,” he said in a press conference for the launching of the Palafox office here in Cebu on Wednesday.
Founded in 1989, “Palafox Architecture and Palafox Associates” has set the benchmark in the Philippine planning, architecture and design scene.
In the last 28 years, the architecture firm has completed more than 1,200 local and international projects which include the master planning of more than 17 billion square meters of land area and the architectural design of more than 12 million square meters of building floor area across 39 countries.
After close to three decades, the group finally opened an office outside Metro Manila, its first one being in Cebu.
Palafox added that they also plan to open offices in Davao, Palawan and Pampanga in the future, adding that helping these places is also “helping Manila.”
Banking on the growth potential of Cebu and the rest of the islands in the country, Palafox said it is “now time to invest in the Philippines.”
The master urban planner pointed out that the land area of Cebu is four times the size of Hong Kong or six times the size of Singapore.
With an area as vast and plans similar to what were implemented in Hong Kong and Singapore, Palafox said the province could comfortably accommodate 30 million people while preserving heritage, ecological sites and the natural environment.
Metropolitan Cebu, or simply Metro Cebu, is the main urban center of the province of Cebu and is located along the central eastern portion of the island including the nearby island of Mactan.
It accounts for 20 percent of the land area and 61.5 percent or around 2.8 million of the population of the entire island of Cebu.
Metro Cebu is almost twice the size of Metro Manila, comprising the seven cities of Carcar, Cebu, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Naga and Talisay, as well as the six municipalities of Compostela, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla and San Fernando.
The firm believes that it has much to contribute to Metro Cebu in terms of providing world-class architecture and planning that champions social equality, ecological and environmental sustainability, economic vibrancy, culture and heritage, as well as a sense of spirituality.
Palafox said he has initially brought up his megalopolis proposal to the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) in Cebu, which he said the town mayors listened to.
However, he said that bureaucracy in Philippine government could still be a challenge in implementing this vision.
He said they had plans to solve urban development problems in Manila as far back as 1974, but the metropolitan did not do anything about the recommendations until today.
“They did not do anything. They didn’t follow the recommendations. Now, we have catastrophic traffic, lack of decent housing and are more prone to disasters,” said Palafox.
He added that if the same problem of “bad politics” persisted in Cebu and the rest of the country, then it would not take long before Manila’s problems would be replicated in these places as well.
But with a visionary leadership, strong political will, good architecture, design, planning, as well as transportation and mobility, Metropolitan Cebu can become one of the top cities in the world.
Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante, LMP president, told CEBUDAILYNEWS that turning Cebu into a megalopolis is an ideal scenario if not for the massive budget it will require.
Nonetheless, he said that the proposal would still be possible if carried out through a long-term development plan.
“Maybe we will prepare the plan and coordinate with the National Economic and Development Authority so that we can ask for a budget from the government on a phase-by-phase basis or yearly basis budget,” said Diamante.
The Mega Cebu platform has laid out similar proposals in the land use portion of its development road map, although stakeholders do not use the term “megalopolis,” businessman Gordon Alan Joseph said.
Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club (CBC) and the executive committee chairman of the Mega Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB), welcomed Palafox’s proposal.
“It is good to have another expert in urban plan- ning reconfirming the need for decongestion and proposing a practical solution,” he said in a text message.
MCDCB is the implementing arm of the Mega Cebu platform, a consortium of private sector and government stakeholders created in 2011 that envisions sustained urban growth in Metro Cebu up to 2050.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) concluded in 2015 the Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development in Metro Cebu, which will be used to attain the Mega Cebu Vision 2050.
In the study, Jica projects economic activities in Metro Cebu to increase by 15 times its 2010 level.
The city’s GDP per capita is expected to grow more than $20,000 in 2050, almost the same as Korea’s level in 2010. Metro Cebu’s GDP is also projected to rise by 8.3 percent annually between 2010 and 2020; 7.8 percent per year from 2020 to 2030; and then 5.8 percent per year from 2030 to 2050.
The study identified 10 flagship projects for implementation until 2020, and also outlined 14 anchor programs to be implemented by 2050.
Seven sub-roadmaps were also identified under the study, namely Metropolitan Competitiveness Enhancement; Urban Structure and Land Use; Highway Network and Public Transport; Water Supply, Storm Water and Wastewater Management; Solid Waste Management; Smart SRP (South Road Properties) Development; and Metropolitan Governance.
One of the photo displays at the exhibit of urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox at his newly opened office showing his proposal of how to transform the waterfront in Cebu City.
Architect Felino Palafox Jr. (left) together with his associates architect Michael de Castro and Miguel Ramos, discusses his views on how to make Cebu into a megalopolis during Wednesday’s press briefing at his newly opened office in Cebu City.