ROUGH CUTS| A new Mega Urban Davao Plan?

LAST WEDNESDAY evening we were watching Jessica Soho’s “State of the Nation” news program at GMA News TV.

What caught our attention was her interview with world-famous architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox on the issue of the rebuilding of the war-devastated Marawi City and the Yolanda-hit Tacloban City.

Architect Palafox did not mince words in saying that the biggest enemy to the full attainment of rehabilitation projects is corruption. The famous urban planner also told anchor Jessica that he seems to have no problem with talking to the present group in presenting his idea on how to undertake the rehabilitation and what should the new city look like once completed.

Palafox did not hesitate to mention Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as largely responsible for making the Marawi rebuilding task force easily accessible to all those who want to put in their ideas on what is best for the project and for the people of Marawi and the government.

The present task force, according to Palafox, is far different from the one which oversaw the rehabilitation of areas badly affected by the super-typhoon Yolanda, specifically Tacloban City. That task force, according to Palafox, eventually turned into a maze of routes before anyone reaches decision makers. And yes, corruption was the name of the game, he intimated.

But the most important news we heard from that interview with Architect Palafox was his disclosure that the day before the interview he was in Davao City for the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with the local government for the commissioning of his services for the drafting of a Mega Davao Urban Plan.

While, as of the writing of this column, we have not heard or read a formal announcement from the city government on such project we take Palafox’s every word about it. The architect has so much world-renown reputation to protect. So it is easy for us to assume that there was no iota of untruth on what he told Jessica Soho in that interview.

Despite the absence of this information at the local level we must admit that the disclosure of the architect is one very welcome news. And kudos to the leadership of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for taking cognizance of the need to reconfigure the city’s physical attributes even as this late.

We must be aware that the pace of Davao’s development these days can be considered as astonishing. Possibly the elevation of its former mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the country’s presidency could be a major factor in the trend of the pace of the city’s development

Thus, the physical plan for the urban portion of the city crafted several years ago may not anymore be appropriate. Besides, the influx of jobseekers to the city has further helped in pushing its population growth rate to a new high as of the latest census. And this could be the reason why there is an agglomeration of informal settlers in almost all available spaces in the city not religiously kept eyes by its owners.

Moreover, even existing policies such as that of the city’s land use, are somehow, provided avenues to allow for flexibility so as to make its amendment legally tenable “for the sake of development.”

We are hoping that whatever will be the product of Palafox’s services in designing a new Mega Davao Urban plan after due consultation with various stakeholders, will be accepted and fully made operational by incorporating it into existing ordinance/s.

And it should be beyond the capability of our local lawmakers to bend because if such weakness in the law is made in the provisions – knowingly or unknowingly — then the plan, no matter how famous its maker is, and how well-intentioned it is, will just be nothing but another piece of paper.

Yes, time is rife for Davao City to start building a new physical face and Architect Palafox may be the right person to help the city do it.

Posted in Opinion