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9 strategies for enhancing the Philippines’ urban landscapes


July 5, 2023

urban landscape

Internationally, the Philippines is best known for its beautiful beaches and lush forests. However, with half its population living in cities, it is also fast becoming a highly urbanized country. Indeed, the Philippines is home to some of the densest cities globally. Cities like Manila, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Caloocan have population densities that exceed 20,000 people per square kilometer, putting them among the most congested cities in the world. 

This high density, while theoretically advantageous in terms of distributing goods and services, creates several very real challenges for urban living. The lack of privacy, continuous traffic snarls, pollution, and overcrowding create a difficult set of circumstances for many of these city’s inhabitants. In this article, we’ll explore several strategies that may alleviate these challenges and improve the lives of urban Filipinos.

1) Upgrade infrastructure and utilities  

A lot of major urban infrastructure in the Philippines has existed virtually unchanged from decades ago, and the fast population growth has resulted in the rapid deterioration of many of these vital assets. The massive, round-the-clock wear and tear on roads, bridges, and public utilities have resulted in increasingly unsafe conditions for the country’s growing urban population.

Updating and supplementing aging infrastructure can do much to help improve the quality of life in Philippine cities. Throughout the country, Aboitiz InfraCapital’s investments in water infrastructure projects, for example, have shown that modernizing utilities can not only contribute to better livability but also more economic vitality. Improvements in other important infrastructure should also contribute to better living conditions for urban Filipinos.

2) Increase green spaces

Creating more green spaces in urban areas can mitigate the negative effects of high population density, including such issues as air pollution and heat islands. Additionally, affording the urban public more access to greenery and natural features can improve the mental health and general well-being of surrounding communities, increasing livability and reducing long-term healthcare burdens.

Given all these benefits, cities should strongly consider expanding publicly available green spaces and adding more parks, and community gardens. Cities can also consider adding green roofs to public infrastructure. Legislation to compel private land developers to allocate non-trivial amounts of green space for each project can also help accelerate the greening of Philippine cities.

3) Encourage further development of public transportation

car and a train

In many Philippine cities, public transportation is unfortunately seen as a less desirable option than taking a private vehicle. To improve our cities, buses, jeepneys, and trains have to be modernized to incentivize the growing middle class to take public transit and leave their cars at home. This will do much to not only reduce traffic congestion but also reduce air and noise pollution. Depending on the city’s needs, policies such as dedicated bus lanes, the expansion of commuter train lines, pedestrianized streets, and bike-sharing programs can all be viable solutions for improving urban livability.

4) Promote walkability

Walkable cities make it easier for people to move around without relying on cars. This can have several benefits, including reduced pollution, better incomes for smaller businesses along walking paths, closer-knit communities, and fitter individuals. Better walkability can be achieved by creating more sidewalks, reducing speed limits, and creating pedestrian and bike-only thoroughfares. Together, these measures should not only result in more livable cities but also healthier and more prosperous ones as well. 

5) Implement urban planning 

While it may be very difficult for built-up urban centers like Metro Manila to implement new urban plans, the country’s rapidly growing regional cities can stand to benefit from these, thus avoiding past urbanization mistakes. Implementing effective urban planning doesn’t only result in less hostile cities but also results in more sustainable living. Such strategies as the prioritization of mixed-use development, implementing bike lanes with barriers, and constructing quality mass transit systems before they are direly needed are just some of the things stakeholders can do to improve our cities.

6) Improve waste management

Modernizing waste management systems in the Philippines can reduce ground and water pollution in cities, resulting in a healthier population as well as cleaner, more livable conditions. Combining modern technologies with well-implemented recycling and waste reduction programs can be key to maintaining the health of our country’s urban environments.

7) Foster community engagement

Building a sense of community among urbanites can help create a sense of ownership and pride in their surroundings. Such initiatives as community gardens, art projects, and neighborhood watch programs can bring people within urban barangays closer to each other, encouraging the kinds of prosocial behaviors that help keep cities livable.

8) Invest in technology

Futuristic smart city

Investments in urban digital infrastructure can enable more effective smart traffic management systems as well as early warnings in case of damage to utilities and infrastructure. This can empower authorities and maintenance crews to quickly address any emergency, resulting in better-kept infrastructure and more livable cities.

9) Prioritize disaster resilience

In the recent past, many Philippine cities have proven vulnerable to natural calamities like typhoons and droughts. Prioritizing disaster resilience through technology and policymaking can help reduce the impact of these events, keeping our cities habitable even in the event of serious natural disasters.

Enabling better, more sustainable urbanization

Creating friendlier, more habitable Philippine cities is a challenge that requires innovative and sustainable solutions. Through its investments in infrastructure, Aboitiz InfraCapital is doing its part to ensure that the next generations of Filipino urbanites enjoy truly livable and sustainably built cities.

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