A peek into the future of Metro Davao

“MAKE big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever growing consistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that will stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty”.

PHILIPPINE Eagle in flight inspired bridge

PHILIPPINE Eagle in flight inspired bridge

Those were the very words of American architect and urban planner Daniel Hudson Burham, who designed Manila and Baguio in the early 1900s, that inspired globally renowned Filipino principal architect-urban planner and founder of Palafox Associates, Felino A. Palafox, Jr. in all his endeavors.

 “When Americans were here, we followed Burnham’s principles of building beautiful and efficient cities. When we became a so-called ‘strong republic’, we threw them away and uglified our cities with visually obtrusive overhead wires, sidewalk use for parking and vendors, etcetera,” Palafox said.

A MT. Apo inspired bridge design

A MT. Apo inspired bridge design

 Manila-based Palafox gave the media a glimpse of the future of Metro Davao earlier this week at the Wednesdays at Habi at Kape media forum in Abreeza Mall.

 The comprehensive development plan of Metro Davao, which includes the bustling cities of Davao, Panabo, Tagum, Digos and Samal as well as the towns of Maco and Carmen in Davao del Norte and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur, is a collaboration between his architectural and urban planning firm and the Mindanao Development Authority.

 “Unfortunately, Mindanao is copying the mistakes of Metro Manila. Our roads are supposedly the connectors, now they are the destinations. Here in Davao, moving parts of the road are slowly becoming part of the parking maneuvers,” he said.

 Manila, which was then likened to Paris and Venice with its beautiful rivers, canals and bay, was brought down by “corruption, criminality, poverty not being addressed, not being prepared for disasters”, Palafox shared in his presentation.

 However, he remains optimistic with Davao and Mindanao, especially with the direction of President Duterte’s administration. “I believe the current leadership is our first and probably our last chance to really have genuine reforms and change,” he said.

 Citing Davao’s advantages, including being more centrally located globally than Metro Manila and having a big, natural harbor, the metropolis can become the hub of the Philippines with their proposed 8 circumferential transport and development gradial corridors (with the intersection as major activity centers) in the Metro Davao Urban Master Plan Project.

 Palafox presented the inspirations where they derived their design for the said project based on global trends and best practices by various global cities.

 This includes Dubai, where Palafox was part of its urban planning back in 1977.

EMUILATING other cities with green, open spaces for Metro Davao

EMUILATING other cities with green, open spaces for Metro Davao

 “I was hired to plan Dubai, to create a garden city out of the desert and make Dubai a 21st century city emirate in 15 years. And we were able to do it with a good master plan and urban planning,” he recalled. He also stressed that Dubai does not have that much oil as its neighbors. It also only imports gold from countries, like the Philippines, yet it exports more than we do.

The METRO Davao urban master plan includes 8 coastal cities and towns along Davao Gulf

The METRO Davao urban master plan includes 8 coastal cities and towns along Davao Gulf

 Other urban models for the project include the highlands of New York, where abandoned railways are converted into landscaped parks and pedestrian and bike ways that interconnect buildings; Vancouver, with its best green building policy by having 200 parks and open spaces; Bali and Hawaii, with sustainable tourism plans; Stockholm, with its waterfront as frontdoor of development; Sydney Harbor, which Davao coastal cities can emulate; Central Park New York, with its large open spaces; Incheon, Korea, with its state-of-the-art aerotropolis; and Singapore and Hong Kong, with a large percentage of its land dedicated to green and open spaces.

“Hong Kong has an exemplary population density. If the rest of the world has its population density, we can fit all the 7 billion population in the world in the state of Texas. Our problem in our country is not population control but population distribution,” Palafox revealed.

AWARD-winning architect and urban planner Felino A. Palafox, Jr

AWARD-winning architect and urban planner Felino A. Palafox, Jr

 He stated the need to have integrated neighborhoods and new townshops. “From your doorstep everything must be just within a 400 meter walk (or 5 minutes away) from shopping, dining, worshipping, work, learning and wellness centers,” he said, citing the the need for good urban planning to influence population distribution.

 Palafox also suggested in making the metro as an agropolis, where one hectare lots can be turned into kitchen gardens, bringing farm living into the urban landscape.

 “If we could have three succeeding good presidents and leaders in business and industries, we can make Davao and Mindanao as progressive as South Korea today. We can make Metro Davao as good if not better than Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Dubai today. Remember what Burnham said: make big plans, aim high in hope and work,” he said.

 With his experiences in working with various countries and major urban centers, Palafox has seen their formula of success.

 “For one, strong political will, which I think we have now. We must also have visionary leadership, good appreciation of good urban planning, appreciation of good design, architecture and engineering, good governance and good management. Leaders of cities and countries in more progressive ones are also not intellectually and intergrity challenged. They are know what they are doing in their position,” he added

 According to Palafox, he always design healthy cities and healthy communities and heathy buildings for healthy people in the same way he wanted to make Metro Davao as “international, interfaith, inclusive, smarter, safer, more walkable, bikable and livable with mixed income cross generational neighborhoods” in their master plan.

 “We used to call Mindanao as the backdoor. We will recreate Mindanao as the gateway of the Philippines. I maybe gone tomorrow but at least, our dreams are already put on record.

Maybe some of our leaders today, or in the future, will be ableto be inspired and pick them up. I am just happy that Davao and Mindanao is now listening to us,” he quipped.

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