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Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary 3

II. Introduction 3

III. Background of the Study 5

IV. Statement of the Problem 10

V. Analysis 14

VI. Alternative Course of Action 14

VII. Conclusion 14

VIII. References 15

I. Executive Summary

This paper discusses the problems observed by the group such as traffic, parking issues,
pollution, etc. and aims to provide feasible solutions. The first part contains the history of
the city with almost 400 years of Filipino-Chinese culture and tradition, followed by the
background of the study which provides the basis and justification for the solutions to be
presented. The ideal solutions are based on American architect and urban planner Daniel
Burnham and Ar. Felino Palafox, Jr.

II. Introduction

Binondo, Manila (also known as Chinatown) is

located just across the Pasig River opposite the
Spanish walled city, Intramuros. The area was
originally for Catholic Chinese, but non-Christian
Chinese were allowed to move into Chinatown
much later in 1790. As of 2010, Binondo has a
total of 12,985 residents, and a population
density of 20000/km2.

The structure that signals a tourists’ arrival in

Chinatown is the Chinese Goodwill Arch. Past
the Arch, there are icons, institutions and

features typical of Chinatowns.

As in Chinatown elsewhere around the world, Chinatown has no shortage of Chinese food.
There are a lot of dishes that are mixed with Filipino cooking.
There are a lot of bargain items in Chinatown. Be prepared to bargain for most of the
goods. However, be wary of pick pockets at most of the crowded places in this area.
It is recommended to visit this place if you are a fan of Chinese food. If you have a strong
stomach, try the balut, a developing duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell. It is
commonly sold as streetfood in the Philippines.

Ongpin Street dates back in the 1890s and is named after Don Roman Ongpin, a Chinese
businessman who gained fame for his financial support of the Katipunero rebels during the
successful uprising of 1896 against Spain.

Perhaps he used his position of influence as the colonial government’s “Teniente de Mestizos
de Binondo” (literally, Lieutenant in charge of the Half-Breeds of Binondo.)

What is clear is that he funded artistic endeavors that somehow kept getting postponed
even as the money secretly went to buy rifles, ammunition and supplies for the Filipino
independence movement. When his store burned down, he donated the insurance proceeds
to General Emilio Aguinaldo to aid the revolution against the Spaniards.

Even during the American occupation, Ongpin continued to patriotically support the revolt.
This led to his imprisonment from December 6, 1900 to March 23, 1901. In his honor, a
statue was erected beside Binondo Church at one end of the street named after him.

Binondo remains the authentic Chinese enclave of Manila and Ongpin Street, running
centrally through it, is the showcase for all things Chinese and traditional.

Winding along for ten jam-packed city blocks, Ongpin is glitz and glitter; traditional and
exotic; and an assault on the eardrums.

The Chinese are very big on volunteer fire companies because arson-for-insurance fraud is a
constant menace in the cramped alleys that surround Ongpin Street.

The local Chinese have come a long way from the ghetto of underprivileged outcasts that
Binondo used to be in Spanish times. In fact, most of them no longer live there. Today,
many of the wealthiest live in high-walled mansions out in the suburbs. Nonetheless, not a
few still take pride in trading and dealing from their fire-prone warehouses around Ongpin

Certainly, the “mutual benefit associations” and oldest Chinese temples are to be found
mainly in Ongpin. The place is quite simply a living reminder of a minority, well and truly
assimilated, that can come around any day and savor the authentic threads of heritage left
behind on the mainland long ago. (Ongpin Street cramped, noisy but an experience.)

III. Background of the Study

With around 50 million inhabitants in the Philippines in 1980, it became around 90 million.
The Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations in Asia. Living space is slowly
becoming saturated, resulting in overcrowding in some areas. In short, the Philippines have
too many people, and too little space. (Nissen, 2006)

Another problem is the parking issue in the streets. (Macairan, 2013) Double parking is
rampant in Binondo, prompting the Manila authorities to take action.

According to American architect Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans. They have no magic
to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” Burnham was behind
Manila’s original masterplan commissioned by the Commonwealth government in 1906,
whose objective was to transform the city from an old colonial outpost to a modern urban
area adapted to changed times and modern needs.

These words capture the very essence of Burnham’s spirit one that represents his vision on
how highly livable cities should be designed. In his masterplan, Burnham envisioned Manila
as a city of efficient road systems, of quaint waterways used for transportation, and of
waterfronts, promenades, parkways, and neoclassical buildings. Manila, in Burnham’s mind,
was to become like many of the world’s well-planned cities where every resident is a short
walking distance from a park, places of work, and leisure and recreational centers.

If Metro Manila’s urban planning were the computer game SimCity, the player which will be
our political leaders, no less has done (and is doing) an abysmal job. Mass transit stations
were built close to exclusive gated communities and huge military camps, the residents of
which don’t even take public transport. Roads and parking spaces unable to keep up with
the ever-increasing number of vehicles. Infrastructure incapable of handling let alone
mitigating the effects natural calamities. And an army of low-income residents pushed into
the corners of the metropolis, toiling and forever priced out of the housing market.

This roughly describes the type of job our political leaders have accomplished in terms of
urban planning, which hasn’t actually progressed since the Spanish times, Palafox said.

The Philippines has for decades been following the wrong model for urbanism, said Palafox.
Our leaders envision Metro Manila as a driven city an urban area of seemingly endless roads
where elevated highways are built atop another, of concrete megaliths that are crowded
during the day and empty at night, and of people who toil inside these concrete blocks but
live in another part of the city, preferably in one of those identical suburban houses with a
two-car garage.

This is just the sort of urban planning we should move away from, said Palafox. Indeed,
why follow a model that’s been proven time and again to be flawed? “We’re trying too hard
to become like Los Angeles or Detroit, and we don’t even manufacture cars.”

“There are a number of North American, European, and Australian cities that are doing well.
These include Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Zurich, Melbourne, and Sydney, which all
boast mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable developments,” said Palafox. “Mobility is not a
problem in these cities as their residents can either walk, bike, or take public transport.”

Luxurious developments and gated communities sit side by side slums, while countless office
workers spend hours commuting from their workplaces to home. Yes, mixed-use
developments and townships are on the rise, but the great majority of homes peddled by
these developments cater only to haves, while the have-nots get pushed into the dark
corners of the city.

Safety from risks, both natural and man-made, is also a major concern. Who will forget the
flooding caused by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. “I’ve given more than 100 recommendations to
the current president and his predecessor in the aftermath of the disaster,” said Palafox.
“One of those recommendations is addressing the hazards—through architecture,
engineering, and urban planning—before they become disasters.”

Although the Philippines has got a long way to go before we achieve the sort of sustainable
urbanism the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong have achieved, but according to Ar. Felino
Palafox, there are ways we can get there.

1. It’s All about Urban Renewal

Two great examples we could use as a model is New York’s Meatpacking District and
Singapore’s Clarke Quay. The former successfully transformed itself from a seedy
neighborhood in the 1980s to a gentrified real estate hotspot. Clarke Quay, on the other
hand, was revived from being a polluted riverside quay well until the mid-20th century, to a
flourishing commercial, residential, and entertainment area.

2. Our Government Should Be Serious About Urban Planning

Between the 1970s and today, urban planning was not so seriously implemented in the
Philippines, said Palafox. One thing also peculiar to the Philippines is that infrastructure
development takes so long from concept to completion. For example, six circumferential and
radial roads to serve the then growing City of Greater Manila were proposed in the mid-
1940s by the American Corps of Engineers. This day, only C4—the perpetually congested
EDSA—has been completed. “This is appalling given our local governments have budget for
beauty contests and yet they have none for proper urban planning,” said Palafox.

Another example is the metropolis’ mass transit system. After Manila’s Light Rail Transit
(LRT) was completed in 1985, not a single kilometer of train track was constructed for 14
years, when EDSA MRT commenced operation 1999. It took another 11 years for additional
train tracks were added to LRT, when the track was extended from Monumento in Caloocan
to North Avenue in Quezon City.

For many years, not a single kilometer of train track was constructed in Metro Manila after
the LRT commenced operations in 1985, signifying our leaders’ lack of sense when it comes
to urban planning.

3. We Should Shun the Car-Centric Model

Philippine politicians and planners don’t recognize walking as the most basic form of
transportation; hence, they don’t consider it when they design urban areas. Take Bonifacio

Global City, for instance, Metro Manila’s poster child for urban planning. Has anyone seen a
covered walkway to get from one building to another? This is somewhat odd given that the
Philippines is a tropical country and sudden downpours are not uncommon.

Our political leaders and property developers, according to Palafox, build townships and
cities to accommodate cars and not people. And that’s one bullet we’ve been unable to
dodge. Even in the United States, trends seem to be shifting. He cites a study conducted by
the Urban Land Institute, which found that the American dream is somewhat changing.
“Whereas before Americans aspire for a big house and big cars in the suburbs, this time,
people from all income levels and generation prefer smaller dwellings close to places where
they work, served by good public transport, close to schools, shopping and lifestyle areas,
where they can walk.”

“I was talking to a Boston city planner and he told me that the number of applications for
driver’s license for people aged 21–35 years has dropped almost 20 percent. The city might
now reduce its parking requirements as more Bostonians now prefer to walk or to take
public transport.”

4. Addressing Risks Before They Become Disasters

It is an inexcusable fact that the Philippine government has an affinity for consulting
planners only after disasters, when true and mindful urban planning could have avoided
these disasters in the first place, said Palafox.

Being one of the members of the World Bank–funded Metro Manila Transport and Land Use
Development Planning Project, Palafox said they have already foreseen that a flooding like
that caused by Ondoy can happen in Metro Manila unless the necessary infrastructure was
put in place. “I think one of the main reasons is that there was no political will to address
hazards before they become disasters,” he said.

He also cited the devastation cause by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the sustained wind of
which is far higher than what our building code stipulates. “I think as architects, urban
planners, and engineers, we should ask ourselves, ‘What’s the best way to protect people
from natural calamities.’”

5. We Should Advocate Smart or Gateway Cities

For a city of more than 11 million permanent residents, it is deplorable that Metro Manila
lacks the integration between transport and land use. Our public transport systems, being
managed by different entities, are not seamlessly connected, making mobility a major a
headache to the city’s dwellers, the great majority of whom live in the outskirts and
suburban areas.

To demonstrate, our MRT and LRT stations are surrounded by low-density communities and
gated military camps, said Palafox. “Elsewhere in the world, they have mixed-use high-
density residential developments within walking distance from mass transit stations.” This
eliminates reliance for private cars.

As a result, the average Metro Manila employee spends approximately 1,000 hours a year in
traffic, studies show. Compare this to mere 300 hours per year in more progressive nations.
This creates so much wasted man-hours and so much air pollution.

If given the choice, people like to live in environment-friendly cities and communities; those
that are accessible, walkable, safe, convenient, clean, mixed-income, cross-generational,
and mixed-use. The sort of places people live, work, shop, learn, worship, and seek health
care with 24-hour cycle activity centers.

The average Metro Manila employee spends about 1,000 hours a year in traffic, wasting too
much hours.

IV. Statement of the Problem

The following are the problems we saw/encountered in Binondo.

1. Narrow roads
Most roads are narrow and can only fit one car at a time, thereby increasing the
travel time to get from one point to another. They are originally based on the kalesa,
and not on the jeepneys and other modern transportations. The streets are also
crowded with vendors.

2. Building character
The buildings have an inconsistent character for the purpose they are serving. A
commonly observable scenario is that the building character for residential and
commercial establishments is virtually the same for each other. Most buildings look
like an apartment but actually it is a restaurant or a store.

3. Electrical wirings
Electrical wirings are low-hanging and bunched together which could be seen as a
fire/electrical hazard.
4. Drainage

There are few drainages in sidewalks which could lead to flooding if not addressed
properly, and also narrow canals that lead to a river under a bridge.

5. Pollution
We are already immune to everyday scenarios seeing garbage just anywhere.
Chinatown is no exception as they also suffer from issues in garbage disposal. While
it is a well-known fact that that the food that you will encounter here in Chinatown
are all delicious, it is worth noting that the food can be affected by the environment.
The river has a really bad smell due to the amount of pollution in it. Tourism in this
area is at stake due to this issue.
6. Lack of green spaces or parks
In addition to being crowded, Binondo also lacks open/green spaces. We could find
no resting area in the congested district except for the shops inside or at the Lucky
Chinatown Mall.

7. Traffic flow and parking
Narrow roads, a considerable volume of cars and a high population density resulted
in a considerably slow traffic flow. If not remedied, it could get worse and affect
(particularly) the residents and tourists economically and physically. Also, most cars
just parks on the side of the road.

V. Analysis

According to Kevin Lynch's Image of a City, A city must have a path, edge, district, nodes,
and landmarks. Binondo has 7 paths or transportation routes with Ongpin St., Masangkay
St., and Escolta St. being the most prominent. The noticeable edges are the Arches
commonly found on the entrances of the streets. There are several visible districts: the
market, jewelry and crafts store, and the food district. For nodes, the Carriedo fountain
which serves as a roundabout. Lastly, the Binondo Church and the Lucky Chinatown Mall
serves as the most recognizable landmarks of Binondo and are easily accessible from the
major road.

VI. Alternative Course of Action

There are several ways to address the aforementioned problems, such as:

1. The roads are narrow but we cannot opt for road-widening projects since there isn’t
any space to expand to begin with. Narrow roads cause traffic jams, and traffic jams
cause loss of revenue. One solution is to reroute traffic: limit public vehicles such as
jeepneys to roads that are located in the periphery of the Binondo, while pedicabs
and tricycles can be used for the internal roads. Private vehicles can also be limited
to certain internal roads.

2. We’ve also noticed the absence of plants and trees in the area. In response to the
pollution, particularly the smoke and the river, a solution is to plant more trees to
filter smoke; and place water-purifying plants on the banks of the river and to
introduce saprophytic bacteria in the water, respectively. Using large-scale public art
made with pollutant-absorbent paint that can “transform toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx)
in the atmosphere into harmless residue” is also an option.

3. In response to flooding, new flooding pumping stations could be used in order to

flush the water back to the Manila Bay. If this is the only viable solution for flooding,
then proper maintenance and rehabilitation of the flood pumping stations should be
a priority.

4. Using social media to aggressively promote tourism in Binondo in order to offset the
loss of revenue brought by traffic jams.

VII. Conclusion

Most world leaders would first consult the best planners, architects, and engineers before
constructing a built environment. This is something that we should adapt. In order to really
“fix” Binondo it should start from scratch. However, that is impossible, and the only thing
that we can do is to apply quick and temporary fixes.

While most problems in the area can be solved architecturally, it all boils down to the
willingness of the residents to cooperate and discipline themselves.

VIII. References

1. Frialde, M. (2015, July 15). MMDA opens 2 newly rehabilitated flood pumping stations .
Retrieved October 15, 2015, from The Philippine Star:

2. Macairan, E. (2013, January 5). Manila installs parking meters . Retrieved October 15,
2015, from The Philippine Star:

3. Nissen, M. (2006). Overpopulation in Manila. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from


4. Ongpin Street cramped, noisy but an experience. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2015,
from Philippines Travel Guide:

5. Terol-Zialcita, N. (2012, March 1). 5 things travelers hate about Manila -- and how the
city's tackling them . Retrieved October 15, 2015, from CNN Travel:

6. What Is Wrong with Urban Planning in Metro Manila? (2014, February 6). Retrieved
October 15, 2015, from ZipMatchBlog: