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Time for Cebu to “walk”

Note: This is a guest post by Chrisley Ann Hinayas of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.

Why do many people love Paris?


            Paris has always been one of the world’s most visited places. The destination is rich in historic and scenic places, beautiful gardens, and spacious avenues where one could stroll around. In Paris, there are several wide parks and open spaces without cars blocking pedestrians. It has enough safe opportunities for locals and tourists to explore the place.

Cebu can be like Paris, US-based architect Senen M. A. Antonio of the Duany-Plater Zyberk (DPZ) said, with less traffic congestion, less pollution, and more open spaces for gardens and relaxation.


 “We can create a Paris-like community in the Philippines without losing our identity and culture and heritage. We can start by appreciating the connection between sustainable development and the quality of life of the people,” he said.

He observed that the present generation is becoming more dependent on cars, taking longer commutes, and becoming victims of heavy traffic congestion and pollution.

“We use cars, ride in elevators, and jump into our cars again. We don’t have the leisure to walk anymore. It is time for us to get out of the comfort of our cars,” he said.

Antonio also noted that cities are zoned into obscurity and the public is lost in a labyrinth of roads, resulting into an “urban sprawl” that is characterized by single-use zoning, low-density zoning, car-dependent communities, and job sprawl and spatial mismatch, among others.

In a recent visit to Cebu, he encouraged provinces like Cebu to adopt the “smart growth” concept, which aims to design a strategic and integrated plan to create a more livable and sustainable city.

Smart growth is a theory on new urbanism that promotes economically, environmentally, and socially responsible growth by looking at connections between development and the quality of life. It advocates “walkable” urban communities to avoid urban sprawl.

“Smart growth is a response to development crises that people experience, such as energy crisis, climate issues, ups and downs of economic movements, and the loss of public spaces,” Antonio said.

Through smart growth, cities build suburbs using traditional neighborhood planning, create a network of pedestrian-friendly streets, and design communities that are less reliant on petroleum for sustainable development.

It also includes planning practices that create more efficient land use and transport patterns. Periodic blockages during traffic congestion are also addressed through proper designing of roads.

The creation of the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB), composed of leaders from the government, the private sector, and civil society takes the lead in planning the creation of a  more livable and “walkable” Cebu.

“MCDCB connects municipalities and cities to address the growing problem of urban development. Economic growth should reflect our own culture, pattern of growth, and urbanism. The scope of the Board’s role includes management and operation, research and development, and technical support,” Evelyn Nacario, executive director of the Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), said. RAFI serves as research, program, and organizational development unit of the Board.

“To make Cebu a livable and walkable province, let’s go back to the basics. We need to build neighborhoods that have shops, offices, schools, churches, parks, and other amenities near homes, communities that give residents the option of walking, bicycling, and public transit,” Antonio said, pointing out that smart growth emphasizes development of public realms, such as parks, public spaces, and pedestrian areas.

Dr. Cecilio Baga, an academe representative, suggested that there should be pedestrian avenues where people could walk along safely.

“People need meaningful public spaces where they can relax and breathe in. As much as we want to be developed, we need to take into consideration how these developments can contribute to the quality of life. We should reclaim our history where spaces are meant for humans, not for vehicles,” Baga stressed.

Antonio said that there should be political will and coordination to achieve the good quality of life desired for and by the Cebuanos.

“Smart growth does not only involve the mayors or the city planners; it needs the support of individuals and various stakeholders. If we want our place to be ‘livable’ and ‘walkable’, no time for Cebu to waste time,” he added.

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