Urban sprawl is inefficient and not sustainable, says Felix

By Rose de la Cruz

Urban sprawl—the wasteful use of scarce premium lands—will soon be replaced by what are called ‘township developments.” These developments will have self-containing communities wherein people can live, spend time recreationally, go to school, work, and do everything in the same structured landscape.

The presence of urban sprawl highlights key characteristics of Metro Manila’s urban landscape. Large and unused land implies the centralisation and compression of business districts and university centres in specific areas. With all business centres and universities in the same areas, roads become clogged with people who have to get to the same areas at the same time. And when time is wasted in traffic, time is wasted being unproductive.

Urban sprawl, in fact, has forced infrastructure expansion from Metro Manila (comprised of 17 cities and 1 town) to Greater Manila (which includes Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna), and towards what is now known as Mega Manila (stretching to Pampanga, Batangas etc). Developers are building more massive highways, expressways and other infrastructures to address the growth, all of which could have been avoided had urban planners utilized the concept of township development or what is popularly referred to now as New Urbanism.

Raphael Felix, governor of the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association (SHDA) and chief operations officer of Phinma Properties, pointed out that Phinma has been trying to locate its newer developments, such as those in Davao and in other parts of Metro Manila, near self-contained developments or townships to ensure that their residents need not go far and wide for their daily living requirements.

“Actually, urban sprawl or the old way of development—of horizontal buildings and cities growing further and further outwards in the process putting a toll in building more expansive roads in the outskirts is the most inefficient way of developing scarce lands,” he said.

Our infrastructures ineffectively creep into the outskirts. From Metro Manila, we’ve expanded to Greater Manila and now Mega Manila. Greater Manila is heading towards Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna and Mega Manila is expanding to places as far as Batangas and Pampanga. This is a situation wherein people who work in the central business districts (CBDs) of Metro Manila have to drive daily to and from places as far as Batangas, and Pampanga – simultaneously.

On a weekday, he said, “it takes an hour to get to Salcedo Village from Legaspi Village, both in Makati but on weekends—when everyone is home—Makati is a ghost town. That’s the urban sprawl. Cities like Los Angeles in California were built that way.”

In order to address their problems with traffic and loss of time, sometimes people decide to squat in the city for convenience. It’s a solution, but it doesn’t solve much. Pushing for a direction towards township projects where people live, work, study and recreate in their direct vicinity is the better way to go.

Phinma heading to complement township developments.

Phinma is a strictly residential development company and their repertoire includes subdivisions, condominium towers, and townhomes— all of which are located in planned or near township developments. This way, people can travel to and from township developments to a Phinma project therefore maximizing convenience, space, and time.

A good example is a Phinma development in Davao. This project is 2 kilometers away from a popular township development. In the nearby township, high- end offices, condominiums, a hospital, churches, restaurants, malls and recreational facilities are being built.

Phinma acknowledges that not everyone who lives in their development works nearby and vice versa. This may be due to economic or temporal factors. In order to address this, Phinma prices their developments to suit the every man. They offer affordable homes suitable for the middle class families looking to purchase their first homes. With this development in Davao, conveniently placed near a township, Phinma aims to build similar projects that combat urban sprawl and lost productivity.

Other Phinma properties are located in Cavite, Pasig, Quezon City, Cebu, and Malabon. There are also two in Muntinlupa, one nearing completion. Although located on the fringes of central business districts, these developments remain competitively priced and offer the same convenience and time-saving affordances.

Best practices

“We make sure to always be compliant with regulations because we take care of our reputation – even if it means sometimes sacrificing profits. We try to be a market-driven company in the sense that we don’t just develop in the hope that we find some buyers through our properties. We identify target markets and we pinpoint their needs, wants and their lifestyles and how they entertain guests and factor them in our projects,” reiterates Mr Felix.

Most of Phinma’s past projects involve mid-rise or five story- buildings. But with land prices these days, the company is compelled to go a bit higher. Its project in Davao, which started two years ago, is a five- story project that is nearing half way.

“We developed the project way before the President even decided to run and it just so happens he ran and won. The development of the province has since gone rapidly upward – benefitting projects like ours,” he explained.

Another aspect of Davao that makes it prime for development is the relatively lower competitive landscape. “When we visited years back, not too many national developers were there. Filinvest, DMCI, Camella, and Phinma were there but apart from us, not many developers established presence there before. Davao is now a growing melting pot and has emerged as a respectable area of commerce. That was a good sign for us and we saw how traffic has changed over the past few years.”

Traffic indicates economic progress

“While traffic is disadvantageous to most, it indicates rapid economic progress. It implies improving incomes, economic activity, and as far as real estate development is concerned, traffic is a welcome sign as people are looking for more convenient ways to manage their time,” says Mr. Felix.

Phinma is ahead of the curve by pursuing a development very close to an upcoming premier township development in Davao. This particular development is 2.5 hectares large with 5 completed residential buildings, two clubhouses, parking building and several amenities. Its real beauty, however, lies in the convenience it offers being 2 kilometers from a township development.