The countryside is ready for government centers

"We need a national government center with enough room to breathe and expand."


One thing COVID taught us is that urban congestion is one reason for the rapid transmission of highly communicable diseases. I have brought the issue of decongesting Metro Manila during my days as Minority Floor Leader. It is unfortunate that we are seeing the adverse effects of overpopulation now.

With the recent pronouncement of the President, there is no province or city in the country today that is under Enhanced or Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. This is an improvement. As the country completely transitions to general community quarantine, we can expect the new normal to be more stabilized and established.

Looking back to the months we were on lockdown, people were allowed to go back to their home provinces. While resettlement to the provinces was implausible for some during the pre-COVID period, people have been fairly adapting to this new set-up. Many were fortunate to have found new employment opportunities in their hometown. Some set up their own businesses, while others put up new homes in the provinces.

In effect, Metro Manila was somehow decongested with this move. However, this only covered a very small percentage of the population. Since the start of the general community quarantine in June, reports of traffic congestion resumed. Apparently, we need a more extensive and permanent solution to permanently address the problem of an over populated Metro.

Let me reiterate my proposal to relocate the national government centers to the provinces, particularly in the Pacific side. Senators, some members of the Executive, and even urban planning experts have previously been open to the idea. The goal is to establish a new government center that will be more sustainable, strategic, and efficient. This is a clean slate to build new communities, taking into consideration efficient land use, better infrastructure development, and environment-friendly utilization of resources.

The transfer of the national government centers will also benefit the countryside. This has been emphasized numerous times. As the relocation entails movement of people, this causes a similar, domino effect to businesses, investments, and development in general. This then becomes an occasion for provinces to improve road networks and transportation, expand trade linkages, establish economic centers, and boost tourism.

The people, on the other hand, will be able to build new and more affordable homes with the lower market value of lands in the provinces. This started when the Department of Transportation set camp in Clark. Real estate boomed in Central Luzon. While Clark is identified as a potential location, this does not seem to be ideal since provinces north of Manila were also deemed to be sinking since 2003, therefore prone to flooding.

We need a national government center with enough room to breathe and expand. As I have said before, the vast Pacific side offers a great opportunity to establish new communities. This move will spur real inclusive growth by allowing provinces to level with Metro cities in terms of economic and social development. New neighborhoods will bring in new schools, new hospitals, and new business districts. The countryside will light up at night as these areas are gradually developed. Provinces no longer have to stay in the dark.

I call on the national government to heed this proposal. Let us exercise our political will to do this monumental change that has so much potential for contributing to national development. While this will understandably take a long time to complete, we will not achieve anything if we do not start now. With a strong political will and unrelenting concern for public welfare, we will be able to actualize this ambitious yet necessary endeavor.

Topics: Danilo Suarez , COVID-19 , urban congestion , Metro Manila
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