Rizal and equitable development

Another building that continues to draw flak is Torre de Manila, a residential condominium project of DMCI Homes. As of August 20, construction is 22.83% underway. When it’s done, the high rise, per artist rendition, will appear as that in the image below, seen from Rizal Park.

via manilacitynews

That’s how the petition on change.org to stop construction started. Accordingly, the building “ruins the sanctity of the Rizal sightline” and “jeopardises the surrounding community with (it’s) zoning violations”. Torre de Manila and Makati City Hall 2 are both being questioned on grounds of quality. The latter, in terms of quality of the building itself (whether or not it’s world class (presented within allegation of plunder)). As for the first, quality in relation to the surrounding community. According to DMCI Homes, Torre de Manila

is an exclusive residential community right in the heart of the city (where) work and worship, wisdom and health – life’s essentials within minutes of your home.

Petitioners are contesting this community’s exclusivity which they perceive as alienating others i.e. communities outside of Torre de Manila’s gates. From this emerges issues on gentrification, and most especially the extent to which national goal of equitable development, in rural or urban, continues to be attained. There’s the 2009-2016 National Urban Development and Housing Framework (NUDHF) and related policies at the national, but it is Local Government Units who play a key and lead role (via e.g. urban planning and management) in operationalizing equitable development on the ground, considering such issues as who do we plan, design, and build for? who decides? who’s left out? what can we do to mitigate negative effects of development?

These for me hold greater weight than the first justification which is, the ruination of Rizal’s sightline. Rizal, I imagine, would instead be more concerned about the state of the Filipino Nation now. Has the Nation changed for the better, by leaps and bounds, since after he died for it? And yes, he’d be concerned about the building behind him and not because it’s blocking people’s view of his rear.

What to do now with Torre de Manila? For a start, resolution of the issue is not the primary responsibility of the Senate. It’s the Local Government Unit’s. The fact that the petition came only after the permits were issued to the developer and when construction is already nderway indicates that the planning process did not include members or residents of the community. Urban planners in local governments would counter that community participation prolong the planning process as they have to contend with several and differing interests. But that’s precisely their job and why they studied urban planning. It’s their job to study how to streamline the process without sacrificing quality, to keep themselves up to date with best practices and new knowledge and approaches, to experiment and make refinements, to strive to stay true to their profession.

I once overheard a graduate student saying that she took up environmental planning because there was money in signing on subdivision plans! A rational decision, economists say, but for the sake of the country and it’s future, I hope this is not all that drives Filipino urban planners in government.

But, back to the issue, Manila City Hall is obligated to respond to the petition and lead in it’s resolution. To the petitioners, their petition may have legal implications – which is often the case involving huge development projects that didn’t go through the process – which they haven’t explored yet. This means in order to seek a satisfactory resolution their petition may have to go beyond change.org into the real world boardroom or courtroom.

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