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10 years from now: What Dumaguete City do we want?

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h.cecilia7@gmail.com


The start of a new administration is a good time to think about development directions for Dumaguete City and the quality of life to strive for. I thought of this while spending a week in Metro Manila, something I rarely do anymore as the traffic, structural, and human congestion, and the sheer visual chaos, get me down.

It’s staggering for me to remember that Highway 54, today’s EDSA, in the early ‘60s still cut through open grassy areas and passed relatively few buildings as I went everyday from San Juan to UP in Diliman, Quezon City.

EDSA today is a horror of cement MRT pylons plastered with posters, uninterrupted succession of buildings and structures shabby or new, smoke- belching buses crowding thousands of other vehicles, people everywhere, and the crowded competition of towering billboards.

I’m sure most of that happened in the name of commerce and economic activity, but why does “development” in this sense also produce such ugliness, pollution, and a compromised quality of life?

There is much to guard against as Dumaguete seeks to stimulate its economy. EDSA and other parts of Metro Manila provide many object-lessons in what not to do or to allow.

Already, billboards are going up in this City, large and distracting to drivers.

I would have thought the male population drinks quite enough, but no, a huge Gold Eagle beer billboard urges them: Araw-araw mag-relax.

The City Engineering office says they only regulate billboard size and structural stability, and that anyone with a roof or wall to rent out can do so — the City could, therefore, sprout billboards galore on many rooftops. They suggested that the City’s land use plan currently being revisited should address the matter of billboards.

I’ve been told that Hawaii made a policy of disallowing billboards altogether, now wouldn’t that be an option, too?

Has anyone noticed an ugly tall building, (apparently 10 stories are allowed), going up across the City Health building? Maybe that provision needs re-examining, too, to avoid the visual jumble of tall and low structures.

More and more buildings and structures are going up. Is there also a plan for creating more green lungs or additional small parks, which would mean acquiring land for this purpose?

What about roadside trees to encourage people to walk in the shade in the inner city? What about some car-free streets? Will the Dumaguete of the future still be the preserve of noisy, ugly, inefficient tricycles or will some rational public transport system, at least for the business sections of the City, be put in place?

A private/public partnership could conceivably set up and operate such a system. Incidentally, a low-carbon mass public transport system is high up on the list of measures for a “green” city.

But apart from firmly acting to avoid the worst conceivably set up and operate such a system. Incidentally, a low-carbon mass public transport system is high up on the list of measures for a “green” city.

But apart from firmly acting to avoid the worst aspects of unregulated urban growth, and becoming just like every other urban center in the country, the question also is about how Dumaguete City can preserve its distinctiveness and enhance its natural and historical advantages.

City Councilor Atty. Manuel Arbon recently mentioned his idea of working towards preserving a “heritage city.”

The city government would do well to think in this direction, rather than only to pursue conventional paths of economic development that too often have demonstrated unintended negative impacts.

Will the Dumaguete City of the future be just like any other run-of- the-mill small provincial town, or can the city government muster up a higher ambition for the City and its people?

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