Leaders at the forefront of promoting sustainable urban development gathered at the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) campus in Rockwell last 27 May 2015 to participate in the event entitled “The Quest for Quality Cities and Quality of Life”. The forum served as the closing event of the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the APS.
Incumbent Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Dr. Tatiana Gallego-Lizon of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and business magnate Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala were invited to deliver keynote speeches on their perspectives on urban development in the Philippines and the region as leaders of their respective sectors.
Quezon City is doing its part
Bautista discussed how Quezon City is doing its part in contributing to the sustainable urban development that is much needed in the Greater Manila Area. He shared that Quezon City has implemented ordinances that help reduce disaster risk and promote the use of renewable energy in the city. He pointed out that the city government is currently partnered with various academic institutions such as the Ateneo de Manila University to think of better solutions to help improve the quality of life in the city. He also made mention of the establishment of the Quezon City Development Authority (QCDA), a GOCC which aims to obtain additional investments for the city government and to develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated urban development plan for Quezon City.
Balance economic development with infrastructure and land development
As the Director for the Southeast Asia Regional Department of the Urban and Water Division of the ADB, Lizon stressed that the key challenge for urban cities in Asia today is how to balance economic development with infrastructure and land development. “Leaders must bridge the supply and demand gap on delivering infrastructure,” she added. She also discussed how the ADB has been promoting its “Green City action plans” in various cities in the ASEAN region and how the ADB believes that sustainable urban development plans must all have three aspects: environment, economy and equity.
Zobel de Ayala talked about the private sector’s increasing role in creating and implementing sustainable development plans for urban areas in the country. He explained that it is important for the public and private sector to continue to work together and establish a culture of “shared value” for the quality of cities and ultimately the quality of life. He said that the private sector has to focus on implementing projects which help improve the infrastructure and disaster risk management in urban areas, and pointed out the obligation of the private sector to make goods and services more accessible to the people. He discussed how the Ayala Group of Companies has been leading this mission through strategies such as creating more “price points” in the selling of real estate, and projects such as the establishment of clinics and schools in as many communities as possible. Zobel also discussed that population density itself is not the problem, and that problem is how the institutions concerned deal with it.
The organizers also invited experts to give their insights and reactions on the speeches delivered. Karima Palafox of the Architecture firm Palafox Associates stated that “to be a good city means to make good choices available.” She pointed out that a problem in relocation projects is that the people are told “where not to live” instead of “where to live.” She added that Singapore, a model city for urban planning and development, was not developed overnight, and that it will take a concerted effort from both the public and private sector to mimic Singapore in that regard. Dr. Segundo Romero of the Ateneo School of Government (ASG) applauded the efforts made by Mayor Bautista, and shared his experiences on the Transformative Urban Resettlement plan that the ASG is pursuing. Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) pointed out the core urban issues which the national government recognizes are poor infrastructure, national disaster risk reduction, poor housing conditions, and environmental degradation.
Dr. Maria Cuyegkeng of the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability ended the forum by saying that cities are centers of sustainable development, and stressed that economic development must happen with environmental development.
The Chairman and Moderator of the event was Atty. Alberto Agra, a professor at the Ateneo Law School. The opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, the Vice President of the APS. P