Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Decongesting Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 7 April 2010

Manila is full! With the Metro Manila population exceeding 10 million, it seems that Manila is indeed full. Perhaps it is time to do something about it. It may result in a better quality of life if we take off a million or more people away from the city.
How could we do it?

Well, let us look at some reasons why Metro Manila is full of people. In the first place, as the capital city, it has a lot of national government offices, etc.  This also means that companies’ national headquarters are based there. The second reason will be the huge population of students that Manila has. A lot of these students come from the provinces. And lastly, Manila has lots of people because it has lots of people. The mere presence of a lot of people induces businesses to base there, in order to serve the big market – resulting in a “vicious cycle” of people servicing people.

Center of Government
There are a number of ways of lessening the impact of Metro Manila as the center of government.  For one, services from government offices could be distributed more towards the various regions. Things like GSIS or SSS benefits sometimes need to be done in Manila. Or, the processing of passports etc (this is important for people going abroad), needs to be done in Manila. Or various training programs for OFWs, especially seamen are done in Manila; often with the result that seamen’s families simply transfer to Manila.

The most radical solution to responding to Metro Manila as capital, is to simply transfer the capital somewhere else. If we transfer the capital to someplace like Panay island or something, national offices need to be set up there, and embassies will need to transfer there also, with the possibility of visa and passport processing transferring there also.

Or, the in-between-solution would be to have a federal system of government, with the functions of the national government distributed among the various federal “states” or regions. Most national government functions will then be distributed, making people go to regional capitals to process papers, instead of Manila. (Although, with this system, I think visa processing will remain in Manila.)

Concentration of Schools
Manila will have a much smaller population if schools are required to move out of the crowded University Belt and Intramuros-Taft areas. The large population of students here are what make these areas crowded. But what will we do with the families who live in the area, and whose children would have nowhere to go for college? Okay, let us just require that all schools in Central Metro Manila (defined as the area enclosed by EDSA), are required to have students mostly come from Metro Manila – in particular, that 80% of their students had gone to high school in Metro Manila.
Hopefully, this requirement will mean that schools will transfer outside the area, or transfer to the provinces. Also, that most students from the provinces would be required to study in their province.

More People Attracting People
To prevent the vicious cycle that providing services has on attracting even more people to congest Manila, I suggest that there be a ban on the setting up of malls in Central Metro Manila. Also, that all new (non-residential) buildings would be required to provide parking spaces and green areas proportional to the new building’s floor area (something like 1 parking space per 50 square meters floor space, or so). This would have two effects: first, that new buildings would be built with open spaces around them; and that open spaces would more often be utilized as parking spaces, instead of being used to build new buildings.
I think it is a good idea for provincial bus terminals to be located at the edges of Manila, instead of right in the center. These terminals attract a lot of people, and they also tie up traffic that objectively do not need to be inside Metro Manila.
If at least some of the ideas I put forward here are implemented, I think Metro Manila will be a lot less decongested, and a better place to live in.

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