Xuanyi Nie, DDes 2020

Summer 2018

Organization: Food Water Energy Consortium

Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies International Travel grant


“Manila is a megacity of consumption, a crucial case study in our East Indies infrastructural corridor network. Metropolitan Manila has complex structural issues such as the archipelagic geography which creates divisions in connectivity both within and to external markets. The region also has a stagnating manufacturing sector that has failed to produce enough high-quality jobs and has negatively affected urban-led growth. Additionally, the country’s high exposure to natural hazards— particularly flooding and earthquakes— exacerbate urban management challenges.

Beyond key structural issues are two binding constraints:

  1. Fragmented institutional arrangements for urban development and metropolitan governance
  2. Major shortcomings in land administration and management

The resulting impacts of these issues, coupled with rapid urbanization, have greatly hampered city competitiveness, job creation, poverty reduction and livability. Our strategy of human development includes cheap production and cheap transportation of nutritious food. While cheap production is achieved in other case study sites such as Leyte or Mindanao, Manila as a consumption city that requires cheap transportation has its own land-related issues that impede the delivery system.

Although Manila has many existing waterways and railways that could be used as transportation channels, many of them are clogged by informal settlements (IFS). Pasig River is the predominant mode of water transportation and has been improved so that ferries can move along, but there are many narrower waterways that infiltrate through the urban fabric of Manila that remain clogged. Cheap transportation could not be achieved solely by Pasig River or Marikina River. Land-finance and resettlement models have to be designed so that the waterways and railways could be cleared.

After conversations with the dean and professors from the University of Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), we’ve come to understand that informality presents huge issues. The first issue is that the n.7279 urban development and housing act favors informal settlers on private properties. The second is that the government has been unable to prevent off-site resettled dwellers from moving back to the city of Manila through effective law reinforcement. A fundamental issue is that the resettled dwellers are deprived of ‘livelihood’ (means of production) that they used to possess in Manila. Therefore, both the government and the project fund lenders prefer on-site or near-site resettlement instead of off-site resettlement. As a result, a gradualist approach should be employed, and the question is: how to clear out clogged waterways and railways (resettlement) while retaining / offering livelihood (production). I designed a model through rezoning FAR and a LUR-backed-mortgage which allows on-site agricultural production. Although this mode is conceptual and technical issues do exist, this is a good point to start with.”