Our rising cities and the challenges we face


John Tria John Tria

Travelling between major cities in Mindanao, I cannot help but be awed by their rising skylines. New private property development projects are transforming the urban landscape, as townships combining residential and commercial establishments create work and living spaces that facilitate the entry of new investments and income for the local economy. These cities have more impressive skylines, but as with all development projects, there are challenges that need to be faced.

The first is the increase in the daytime population which causes a higher demand for residential space and vehicle traffic congestion. Better roads from the outlying towns increase the likelihood of residents from nearby localities to seek work in the city. This creates a competition for available living spaces and cause an increase in vehicular traffic during the day.

An example is Cagayan de Oro, which has seen an urbanization in the towns between the city center and Laguindingan Airport which is 30 kilometers away. Thus, there is a need for transport systems that can allow a large number of people to travel in and out of the city and to major points such as bus terminals and ports in a manner that is low in cost, and efficient in manner. We cannot depend solely on taxi cabs to provide point-to-point transport.

This is particularly important for passengers travelling to cities by air, land or sea. We need to ensure seamless passenger connectivity from airport to bus terminals and ports as well as commercial centers.

We cannot simply depend on taxis to provide this service.

The next is the challenge on water resources. There is an increased demand for water from residential areas and businesses. Local water districts need to ensure that their water sources can deliver, or find new ways of generating water for the increased population. In this time of increased climate variability, there may be a need to build a new reservoir with the capacity to store more water for the weeks and months when water is scarce. Rainwater collection systems in buildings would be a big help, and can also collectively lessen localized flash flooding when strong rains come.

Related to this is the management of wastewater. Many of our cities are located in coastal areas where seawater needs to be conserved. This is because nearby coasts are food sources for fish and salt production. Manila Bay is our prime example. Once a rich fishing ground for the entire southern Tagalog Region, it is ironic that despite its coastal location, seafood in Metro Manila is expensive.

Studies already show that three-fourths of all wastewater entering our water bodies come from commercial and residential establishments. These would be best served by common treatment facilities that people can collectively pay for, which therefore would be cheaper than individual treatment plants.
In some cases, such as in Camiguin and Siargao, the nearby coastline is not only a food source, but a direct source of income from tourism activities. We therefore cannot allow these areas to be damaged or abused, as the natural capital for the source of tourism income will be compromised. Moreover, tourism is a source of formal employment in the rural areas. Giving locals jobs will also strengthen our social security and healthcare system.

Because of this, efforts to increase sewage treatment in Metro Manila are welcome and need to be sustained. Proposals to install the same in cities outside the national capital region should be supported.