Breaktime: Can’t fight city haul | Inquirer Business

Breaktime: Can’t fight city haul

/ 06:47 AM March 09, 2015

Ask people in Metro Manila, the ordinary people in the streets, and most likely they will tell you that they think we can cope with any kind of natural calamities, even supertyphoons and strong earthquakes.

That can be bad!


World-renowned experts noted that our brand of optimism could be admirable and, at the same time, it could also lead us to oversight, to put it mildly, or even outright neglect on our part.

In other words, we might become too comfortable that we would do nothing to adapt to the changing world climate or the certainty of overpopulation in Metro Manila.


One of those experts was Glynn Ellis, a veteran geologist who also acts as an adviser of Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands.

He was in the Philippines recently to give an eye-opening talk in the Asia leg of the international forum conducted by Shell every year called the PPT.

PPT is the nickname of “Powering Progress Together,” a series of forum done by Shell all over the world. The Asia leg has been held in Manila in the past two years. From what I gathered, it would still be held here next year.

About two weeks ago, Pilipinas Shell hosted the PPT at the Manila Hotel, gathering together experts such as those in urban planning, energy technology or even media.

One of the speakers was Edgar Chua, chair of Pilipinas Shell. He talked about the worldwide trend of migration toward cities, resulting in crowded urban areas that, inevitably, put a strain on infrastructure and supplies.

Those supplies would of course include food, water and energy.

Chua noted that only 30 percent of the world population lived in cities in 1950, a figure that has already gone up—believe it or not—to more than 50 percent some 64 years later in 2014.


Looking into the future, Chua also ventured that by 2050, or only about 35 years from today, city dwelling people in the world would account for 70 percent of the total population.

Mind you, the world population would not just stop growing all of a sudden.

Yes, sir, by 2050 the world population would balloon to about 9 billion, which would mean that the number of people living in cities would reach more than 6 billion.

A good part of the city-dwelling 6 billion would of course be in Asia, and it was clear to Chua that the migration of Filipinos from rural areas to urban areas would continue.

And Metro Manila would continue to haul people from all over the country, because we generally had this idea that we could find jobs in the city.

It was estimated that in 1980, the population in Metro Manila was less than 5 million, which ballooned to more than 12 million last year, and yet the metropolis hardly saw any additional “serious” infrastructure in the past two decades.

Still, Chua noted that “urban planning has been a buzzword in the local scene ever since Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (remember the floods in 2009, Breaktime).

“Rightfully so, since the historical natural disaster brought to the surface a lot of the ills of our urban planning, or lack thereof.”

I thought Chua nailed the issue.

Really, we hardly had any semblance of an intention even just to dream of pretending to do some sort of shallow urban planning in this metropolis.

Like it or not, in this country, “urban planning” for the longest time remained just a “term.”

And what did we here in Metro Manila actually think about it?

Shell even conducted a survey, done by the prestigious international outfit called Ipsos,  a billion-dollar-a-year research firm similar to Nielsen Company that was more familiar to us here, specializing in advertising and marketing research, media and technology research, opinion polls and social research.

Here in the Philippine Ipsos conducted a survey covering a thousand individuals in Metro Manila on what they thought of their future as city dwellers.

It turned out that we were generally satisfied with quality of life in the metropolis, as we cited the natural beauty of our country.

Even with the constant street flooding! Horrendous traffic! Crowded public transportation! Obstructed and blocked sidewalks! One of highest pollution indices in the world! Overpopulation! High cost of living! Second high power rates in the whole of Asia! High water rates! Mountains of garbage on the streets! Pathetic infrastructure!

Oh, and before I forget, we also now must face the prospects of brownouts this summer.

Basta, we were still happy.

Shell adviser Ellis ventured his own theory on why the people of Metro Manila still felt “happy” despite all the hardship brought about by all those defects in this metropolis that, in other countries, would have been enough to cause a revolution.

He said that Filipinos always had an “innate optimistic attitude.”

What do you think? Perhaps it was about time that we should get angry over the lack of government initiative in raising the quality of life in Metro Manila?

According to the Ipsos survey, some 86 percent of us believed that we could still cope with extreme weather events like another Tropical Storm Ondoy, despite the warning from all kinds of weather experts all over the world, even including our scientists, that the weather in this country could turn even nastier.

You know, we could perhaps think of El Niño, for instance!

To me, what was even surprising in the Ipsos survey was that we still look up to our government to come up with solutions to all our urban miseries here in Metro Manila.

The survey showed that more half of the respondents believed that the government should take care of the “long-term” infrastructure needed in the metropolis, while the LGUs should beef up their programs for disaster preparedness.

Believe me, none of the cities in Metro Manila ever had comprehensive disaster preparedness programs that would come close to the most backward city in Japan.

Nevertheless, it was noteworthy that, at least based on the Ipsos survey, we still believed that we, as individuals, should do our part in helping conserve energy, water and food—the main concerns in all crowded cities all over the world.

Moreover, we still felt that we had the duty to encourage others in our families and circles of friends also to do their part.

There—we the people always wanted to do our part.

And so Ed Chua, Pilipinas Shell chair, noted that the consumers might have the right attitude, but he wondered about the supply side of it all. You know—the business side! Really, what could we expect from the business sector?

He said: “It’s about time we take the task of urban planning very seriously.”

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TAGS: city living, Forum, Metro Manila, PPT, Shell, Urban Planning
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