Palafox to lead creation of Metro Davao Urban Master Plan

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Nov) – Prominent Filipino urban planner Architect Felino Palafox Jr. will sit at the helm of the Metro Davao Urban Master Plan, a project that he said will be drafted based on the best practices in the world and lessons from the worst practices in Metro Manila.

Architect Felino Palafox Jr. Photo courtesy of PIA

Palafox, during the project’s first consultation meeting at the SMX Convention Center Monday, said he envisions the project to be “polycentric”, with several spreads across the Metro Davao to prevent congestion similar to the situation that cripples the major thoroughfares in Manila.

The urban master plan that is eyed for completion in six to eight months will cover the linear cluster of urban areas along the physical backbone of the Pan-Philippine Highway from Digos City to Maco in Compostela Valley passing through Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur, Davao City, Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos), Panabo City, Carmen and Tagum City.

In a briefer issued by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), it said the plan is expected to take into account the land use and the “socio-economic activities of the rural and sub-urban components of the municipalities and cities that compose Metro Davao, as well as the other areas around the Davao Gulf from Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental to San Isidro in Davao Oriental, especially as to how these impact and/or feed into the urban dynamics.”

Palafox, president and founder of top architectural firm Palafox Associates, said they are consolidating ideas from the different local governments within the planned urban area regarding the immediate actions with respect to the problems that may arise from development and the corresponding solutions.

“So we are asking everybody, ‘If you were the planner, what’s the number one problem or challenge and what’s the solution?’ This is democracy in practice, democracy in action,” he said.

Palafox, who was part of the team that created Dubai’s urban plan in the 1970s, added that he will draw inspiration from his experience abroad in drafting the Metro Davao Urban Master Plan that will become “a model not just for the Philippines but for the rest of the world.”

“We will not copy, but we will get inspiration from it. We have to do better because Dubai is 40 years ago. And 45 years ago, Singapore was more corrupt than the Philippines, 40 years ago Hong Kong was more corrupt than the Philippines,” he said.

During the consultation, he said all local governments were given the “opportunity to dream of Davao – 1,000 years from now, 500 years from now, 100 years from now, 50 years from now, 25 years from now, and five years from now.”

The Metro Davao Urban Plan project is aligned with the vision of Mindanao 20/20 Peace and Development Framework Plan and the strategies of the Mindanao Development Corridors Program.

The 67-year-old urban planner said the outcome of this Metro Davao master plan would be the result of his extensive experience of doing urban plan in cities in 39 countries in the world.

Palafox added he believes in the potential of Davao Region, most especially Davao Gulf that is closer in proximity to Celebes Sea, a known major shipping route that connects South China Sea and Pacific Ocean.

“Especially if there are issues about South China Sea, many navigators now – big shipping lines – are thinking of Celebes Sea. The location of Davao and Davao Gulf is like a welcome arms. It’s like a gateway, it’s really a Puerto,” he said

Palafox said the growth of the region must be managed well because 80 percent of the population will reside in the urban centers in the future.

“By 2050, there will be 50 million more Filipinos, 80 percent of them will want to go to cities,” he said. He pointed out that Mindanao will absorb many of those wanting to go to the cities.

He vowed that Davao could have a master plan that would be a model for the rest of the world.

The objectives of the plan include identifying the comparative strengths and functional roles of the different areas within Metro Davao with the end-goal of complementation and alignment of policies, programs and projects; identifying solutions to shared challenges, including transport efficiency, provision of urban services, among others; aiding national agencies, local government units, and the private sector in planning and implementing development endeavors within Metro Davao and its influence areas.

It also wants to serve as a guide for local governments in updating their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs), taking into account the land use and socio-economic dynamics not only within their political boundaries but the impact and influence of adjacent areas as well; promote and facilitate more investments and economic activities within Metro Davao and the adjacent areas; and support the creation of more formal alliances between the local governments, especially on matters pertaining to policies and regulations.

Palafox said they would take into consideration the mistakes in the development plan of congested Manila that needs “heart transplant” due to lack of open spaces.

“The major activity centers like central business districts or downtowns are the heart of the city, and the arteries are the waterways and the roads and the parks and open spaces are the lungs of the city. So Metro Manila is dying. It needs a heart transplant, a heart bypass, and a lung transfer. Its arteries are full of cholesterol that causes traffic congestion,” he said.

Palafox added there is still much room left for improvement for Davao that is “10 times the size of Manila and 9 times the size of Singapore.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)