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Didn’t we already have 15-minute cities and towns in the Philippines?

April 2021
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I was reading about articles and posts in social media about the ’15-minute’ city. The concept basically states that your home should be within 15 minutes of necessary destinations such as the market, the grocery store, the drug store, hospital, police station, and maybe perhaps the government office.

To quote:

“The core principles behind the 15-minute city aren’t new to urban planning. They derive from an old history of designing cities around people rather than cars, and many European cities that were planned before the invention of the automobile are better suited to this notion. But the idea that has been popularized during the pandemic is that all cities — including European ones — must center future planning on the goal of ensuring car-free access to basic necessities, such as health care, schools, employment and food. It’s a lofty goal, but one that is unlikely to reach all neighborhoods in many cities without drastic interventions and investments. Pitter warns that simply injecting design changes such as bike lanes and parklets into a neighborhood will not reverse segregation that has been embedded into city planning.”  O’Sullivan in “Where the ’15-Minute City’ Falls Short” 

Many of our cities and municipalities date to the Spanish times or older (e.g., Manila, Cebu). Those that developed during the Spanish period were planned according to European cities. You know, with the church, government (i.e., municipal hall), market and school located at the center. Residential and commercial establishments surround the center, which often had a plaza. And, as the saying goes, the further you were from the center (i.e., the fainter the sound of the church bells), the lesser you are as far as society goes. This set-up still applies now and arguably sari-sari stores, which were the convenience stores of old, are now being replaced by convenience store chains like 7/11 and Family Mart. Commerce-wise, it helps that big companies like SM, Robinsons and Puregold have smaller stores spread around. And hospitals like Medical City have smaller clinics and laboratories. Wet markets? Surely there are talipapas if you just check around you.

Even now, if you look around closely, the only likely exceptions to the 15-minute city concept would be concerning the workplaces and schools. Many people live more than 15 minutes from their workplaces, enduring ‘painful’ or ‘wasteful’ commutes on a daily basis. The same goes with students who are enrolled in their or their parents’ preferred schools. Note that the public school system in the Philippines, despite its being maligned, has pre-school, elementary and high school campuses or buildings located strategically in each barangay. That would mean short commutes for students enrolled in these schools which prioritize residents of the barangays. However, many prefer private schools (e.g., Ateneo, LaSalle, St. Scholastica, St. Paul, Assumption, etc.) or elite public schools (i.e., science high schools) and so even children have to endure long commutes.

So do you still think we don’t have 15-minute cities in the Philippines?


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