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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Creating satellite cities is a step to decongest the capital region

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The Philippines may not yet have the model for an inclusive and sustainable community or city—but it is not far off from establishing one. At least two pioneering businessmen have the foresight to build a satellite city that hopefully will rectify the past mistakes of city planning.

Real estate developer Manuel Villar, chairman of Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. and former House speaker and Senate president, is perhaps the first to envision a satellite city that aims to decongest Metro Manila, stop the migration of workers to the capital region and correct the inequities of urban development.

His group is masterplanning Villar City as the next central business district in Metro Manila. The satellite city seeks to improve traffic south of Metro Manila as Villar City spans 15 cities.

Younger tycoon Dennis Anthony Uy, co-founder and chief executive of Converge ICT Solutions Inc., has his own version of a satellite community in the form of a tech city on a 200-hectare area that straddles Mexico, Pampanga and Angeles City to house the firm’s largest data center and corporate headquarters. The digital hub, in Dennis’ words, represents the realization of his dream to see “an entire ecosystem of innovation” in the Philippines.

Building a satellite city just outside Metro Manila or less than 100 kilometers from the metropolis makes better sense. The only way to improve the traffic situation and the quality of life in the capital region is through decongestion. Villar’s satellite city aims create jobs away from the gridlock. He says there were too many errors with the development of urban areas in the past, which the Villar City seeks to rectify.

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Satellite cities will generate new jobs and can, perhaps, reverse the migration of workers to Metro Manila. By decongesting Metro Manila, the capital region can plan and respond better to the demand for infrastructure and social services of a growing population.

The Villar City, spanning 3,500 hectares across 14 cities and towns in Metro Manila and portions of Cavite, hopes to create a new center of growth and development. Mr. Villar says the masterplanned Villar City will be composed of self-sustaining districts or urban centers, such as a modern central business district, a tech valley and a university town, among others.

Mr. Uy’s Converge, meanwhile, is capitalizing on the success of the company’s success in the IT field. Converge is building a $2-billion technology campus in Pampanga to cement its hold on the IT sector.

Dubbed the Technology City, the Silicon Valley-like enclave will initially require a development investment of $2 billion. Mr. Uy expects the Tech City to attract the biggest IT companies in the world and the best ICT talent in the country.

“The Tech City will host the largest data center in the region, corporate headquarters, housing facilities and an events area. We hope that leading tech companies can make the Tech City its home in the Philippines,” says Mr. Uy.

He is upbeat on the new city. He is tapping the expertise of big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Oracle to set up his dream ecosystem that can lure new IT graduates and generate more economic activities in his province.

Mr. Uy has advised Pampanga businesses to look at digitalization to boost their growth, especially as the company’s young and modern fiber network has long been established in Central Luzon.

“It is estimated that digital technologies have the potential to create an annual economic value of P5 trillion or $101.3 billion. But what’s important to note here is the fact that in order to achieve all these, we must have the correct infrastructure in place,” says Mr. Uy.

The visions of Mr. Villar and Mr. Uy dovetail with the United Nation’s perspective of a sustainable city. A growing population, the lack of mass transportation system and wide roads, and the continuous migration of workers from the provinces to Metro Manila have created the perfect storm that is causing traffic mayhem in the whole of the capital region.

The cost of poorly planned urbanization, according to the UN, can be seen in some of the huge slums, tangled traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and sprawling suburbs all over the world.

Development inequality and the levels of urban energy consumption and pollution, says the UN, are some of the challenges. Cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60 percent to 80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 percent of carbon emissions.

“Many cities are also more vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters due to their high concentration of people and location so building urban resilience is crucial to avoid human, social and economic losses,” adds the UN.

New cities will hopefully address the urban blight. Metro Manila needs a respite from the previous follies of urban planning.

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