Lungs and bubbles

posted September 23, 2020 at 12:00 am
by  Lito Banayo
"These are the way to go."

 

 

While I have not seen the Manila Bay sandbox, it was clear from the two-day “soft opening” that the common folk loved it; in fact, many were enthralled by seeing white sand on an otherwise murky waterfront.

I recall that there was quite a brouhaha in Cebu when some Mactan resorts “imported” white sand from Bohol beaches, from the town of Anda, transported the same in barges, and “nourished” their otherwise thin sand and stone-littered beachfronts. When Boholanos protested, the importation of white sand stopped, and as Mactan became a hot tourist destination and resort hotels multiplied, a substitute was discovered in dolomite, of which the western side of Cebu had plenty of.

Truth is, unless someone swallows dolomite, or any kind of sand, black, grey or white for that matter, the mineral is quite harmless. And DENR assures us that the density of the crushed dolomite used in Manila Bay is unlikely to be inhaled or carried by the wind.

I look forward to strolling by the Manila Bay white sands when I get back home. Meanwhile, what Mayor Isko should ensure is that the area is not littered with trash and picnics and all kinds of eating and drinking in the area should be strictly forbidden.

**

Open spaces are what the metropolis needs. This is one of the attractions that tourists, particularly Filipinos, observe about Taiwan. Even in the densely populated capital, Taipei, there are so many parks and recreational facilities, such as sports centers and swimming pools, open to the public.

Taipei is so green, and in whatever district you are, a grass-covered and tree-lined park is just a few meters away. Meanwhile, in our national capital, one can go for miles and miles and see nothing but concrete. Even the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, which used to be a military reservation, could have been planned better, with parks and greenery acting as “lungs” for the city. Alas, when we privatized the military reservation, developers built a few open spaces, but mostly concrete walks instead of greenery. There are no huge malls in Taipei similar to our SMs and Robinsons, only stand-alone department stores and many small shops carrying artisanal products and crafts made by locals.

**

This is why Gov. Johnvic Remulla’s proposal to transfer the international airport to Sangley Point in Cavite for the southern part of Luzon, and Ramon Ang’s Bulacan aerotropolis, should both push through.

It gives us a chance to develop a huge Central Park as in Manhattan or a Bois de Boulogne in Paris, out of the 600-plus hectare area that is currently the NAIA complex. New York’s fabled Central Park is 843 acres, or 341 hectares, complete with gardens, lagoons, skating rinks, and jogging paths meandering along thousands of trees.

Bois de Boulogne is larger, at 845 hectares, in the outskirts of central Paris, a veritable forest within the European capital. But the NAIA complex, with its three main terminals and a smaller fourth for budget airlines, is around 600 hectares, almost twice the size of Central Park.

As forward-looking Johnvic proposes, once the two international airports are built in Cavite and Bulacan, aside from the Clark international gateway whose new air terminal will be completed by early next year, the NAIA complex should not be privatized (as usual) and instead converted into a huge, green park.

Or maybe a hybrid proposal: Line the periphery with some commercial spaces for lease, and huge parking buildings, and then compel carport-less vehicle owners to stop parking their cars in our clogged and narrow streets.

But imagine a well-designed, neatly-landscaped park with plenty of trees and grass-covered patches, with artificial lakes and other attractions where harried urbanites could congregate, breathe fresh air, a veritable “lung” to an otherwise choking metropolis. Ah! To dream!

**

The hesitation to convert the 18-hole Intramuros Golf Course which envelops the Walled City or Muralla into a people’s park, now that the Luneta has become more and more “concretized” comes from the fear that potential vandalism might destroy the historic walls.

Otherwise, there is really little sense in having a golf course right smack in front of City Hall. Golf, after all, is not a sport for the common folk.

Recreating a portion of what used to be called the Sunken Gardens into a moat beside the walls, as the entire area used to be during the Spanish colonial period, might protect the walls, and if we could only instill discipline among our people, conversion of the course into a public park would add another lung to the city. Again, so nice to dream.

**

Mayor Benjie Magalong’s travel “bubble” initially between Baguio City and the Ilocos Region is a good experiment towards jumpstarting domestic travel, which the Department of Tourism is promoting in these difficult times.

Indeed, with COVID-19 fears still prevalent, people will tend to travel initially by motor vehicles, rather than take air or sea transport to destinations. So nearby travel is more likely to succeed. Note how people went in droves to Tagaytay City right after it was announced the destination was already welcoming visitors.

A Cebu-Bohol-Siquijor-Negros Oriental “bubble” is also doable, as soon as the Covid numbers decline, and I hear the pandemic situation in Central Visayas, particularly Cebu, is normalizing.

It will be a slow-by-slow recuperation for our tourism sector, just as the airline crisis, international and domestic, will take some three or more years at the least to get back to 2019 levels. We cannot reasonably expect air travel even within the Indo-Pacific region to normalize for at least two years. So we have to revitalize the moribund tourism sector among ourselves, and domestic travel bubbles are the way to go.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Manila Bay sandbox , Taipei , Taiwan , Gov. Johnvic Remulla , international airport , Sangley Point , Mayor Benjie Magalong , Baguio City , Department of Tourism
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