Social and Community Planning

Comments on Proposed SB 1146 or the “Sustainable Elevated Walkways Act of 2016”

Senator Grace Poe has recently proposed SB 1146 or the “Sustainable Elevated Walkways Act of 2016”. I came to learn about the bill from the Philippine Daily Inquirer: Poe seeks more elevated walkways to ease trafficMy interest piqued due to the original headline reading “Poe seeks to ban beggars, vendors from elevated walkways”. It was typical clickbait headline, too common with news outlets nowadays but it was also surprising because it came from Sen. Poe. During the 2016 presidential elections, she ran on a coalition called “Partido Galing at Puso” (Party of Excellence and Heart). Moreover her presidential campaign was premised on the slogan “Gobyernong May Puso” (Government with a Heart), strongly criticizing the Pnoy administration for not caring enough about the common citizen. It was an out of character proposal.

Screenshot of a twitter preview with the original headline about SB1146.

The original headline read “Poe bill seeks to ban beggars, vendors from elevated walkways”.


Reading the article and the bill a number of times though, it wasn’t as bad as the original headline portrayed. Yet, there are still problematic provisions, including a number of discriminatory prohibitions that will disproportionately affect the poor or people at the lower rungs of society. The original headline is true to that extent. Problematic as well is that the proposal is premised on framing “elevated walkways” as a fix that has “limitless” applications and uses. A framework/program that directs government agencies to prioritize pedestrians and pedestrian facilities would be more desirable as it provides flexibility on what form they could take.

Let’s start with the bill’s ultimate goal, which is to establish a “Sustainable Elevated Walkway Program” within the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The program directs DPWH to construct an elevated walkway system on EDSA and “major public thoroughfares in high density urban areas throughout the country”. It sets out that the walkways will have standards in 13 areas such as continuous flow, safety and social inclusivity. These are all fine in of themselves, and actually surprised me with the breadth that they covered. Reading the study they cited as the basis for the bill and the prohibited acts stated in Section 5 though, the bill needs to be extensively amended, if not entirely rewritten.

Section 5 states that the following will be prohibited on elevated walkways:

  • (a) Driving or parking motor and non-motor vehicles along all such walkways, including its vertical access points and drop-off areas;
  • (b) Vending, selling, or servicing of foods, magazines, newspapers, cigarettes, brooms, watches or jewelries, shoes and other footwear, shoe shine and shoe repair, and/or any other commodities, items, and services;
  • (c) Alms or donation-seeking activities;
  • (d) Doing house chores such as washing clothes, hanging clothes and bathing;
  • (e) Repair of vehicles of all types;
  • (f) Dumping garbage;
  • (g) Sports, games, and amusements;
  • (h) Use of walkway to install pens of animals or keep animals in chains or tether;
  • (i) Holding picnics/gatherings or storage of foodstuffs and beverages for such gatherings;
  • (j) Drinking liquor;
  • (k) Storing of junks and recyclable materials;
  • (l) Storage of construction materials for sale (pipes, tubings, lumber, cement and the like).

Looking at the list though, it seems that the standard of continuous flow is highly prioritized compared to the standard of social inclusivity. It is addressing the symptom instead of the causes for many of these prohibited acts. For example, letter (f) Dumping garbage is quite prevalent in the Metro Area because there is a lack of waste receptacles everywhere. The only reliable trash bins available are in commercial establishments. This does not even tackle the need for waste segregation to say the least. Letter (b) again points to the lack of affordable spaces for vendors to actually ply their goods. I’m always reminded of the reason why hawker centres became a staple in Singapore’s urban life. It needs to be remembered that these places were a strategy to move street vendors away from sidewalks and roads by providing them with cheap stalls to move into. The policy was based on the idea that vendors provide cheap food items to ordinary people. It kept daily living costs down. In order to keep those costs down, the rents highly are subsidized. The impending move of bus terminals along Cubao and Taft is a good opportunity to take up. Going back to the prohibition, letters (d), (h), (k) all relate to the lack of affordable housing. Letter (g), (i), (j) points to the lack of public open spaces such as parks.

By prohibiting such acts without the attendant solutions in place amounts to a social cleansing of the city. Prohibition merely displaces them to other locations where they will continue doing the same acts. These show that the bill has already failed its central tenets of social inclusivity and sustainability. It goes against what Sen. Poe has advocated over the past year, gobyernong may puso. It points to a much more dangerous and problematic idea: not everyone has a right to the city. Only those with financial resources do.

If this bill is to be amended, it has to be broader than elevated walkways. It or a number of related bills have to provide and direct state policy and funding into building pedestrian facilities and public spaces of all kinds, and tying land use plans with transportation plans.

Pedestrian facilities mean actually having wider sidewalks, in some cases having one, along EDSA and other urban areas. Any project such as an elevated walkway would need to occupy significant sidewalk space as seen on EDSA. That space must be reclaimed, even at the cost of taking road space away from vehicles. When the city is built to prioritized walking then people will actually walk to their destination. Makati shows an example where underground and elevated walkways working together in providing a seamless route between different areas of the central business district. It is complemented by wide, evenly paved sidewalks with adequate shading. They could use more street furniture for resting between walks, eliminating the need to always go into a store.

It is also quite surprising that either Sen. Poe or her staff only took the need for elevated walkways from the Rotmeyer study. It consistently advocated for the need to look at connecting public spaces as well as seeing walkways as public spaces. I thought it would resonate with them that Hong Kong’s elevated walkway system was filling the need for public spaces for Filipina domestic workers. This includes using the system was place where they could gather, have a picnic, eat together on Sundays. The bill would prohibit all these actions and actually deny that they are public spaces.


Photo from

Photo from

Lastly, I do recognize that this bill is only one part of I hope an overall plan to address the traffic problem in the Philippines’ urban areas. Yet, it does not tackle the mismatch between the land use plans and the transportation plans. People will walk along places that are interesting. People can walk inside malls for hours not only because it is “climatically controlled” but also because there are a myriad of things that can interest them. Compare that with say the walk between Ortigas Avenue and Santolan Avenue on the northbound side. It is merely a long stretch of walls, provided by the Corinthian Gardens subdivision and Camp Aguinaldo. It is a gruelling walk with only the People Power Monument breaking the monotony. The southbound side is slightly better but the space has been designed for vehicular use. Sidewalks are parking spaces and in some instances an additional lane for buses. Instead of being fronted by inviting shops and commercial facilities, people have to navigate irregularly parked cars. If we are to ever “fix” the traffic crisis, it requires more fundamental changes that go beyond elevated walkways.

Again, I urge Sen. Poe to rethink and amend certain sections of SB1146. At its core, I can see the potential in what it is trying to achieve. I fully support the need to actually have pedestrian facilities such as an elevated walkway. Our cities are in dire need of such. Yet, the program needs to be thought of much more broadly and much more inclusively before it should be passed.

Master's Thesis

Thesis Processing on Pressbooks

One of the things I miss the most about working in educational technology is the opportunity to experiment with new tools all the time. The flipside of that is, I was at a level that I didn’t interact directly with students or faculty members to see if a tool is appropriate to solve particular problems. As a student though, I have had the opposite problem. I do not have the time to noodle around and learn the intricacies of new tools to see how they can be leveraged. On the other hand, I have so many projects and problems in mind that I need to have something that just works.

Now that I’m in thesis research and writing period, this might be the opportunity where I can balance both interests. Earlier this week I had my initial meeting with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority regarding my thesis interest in their project, the Clark Green City (CGC). It felt great that now there is momentum in what I have been planning to do for the past few years. That meeting invariably produced notes that gave me a better idea of where the CGC is at and what questions I could be asking during my interviews. Putting my notes and thoughts down on Google Drive and/or my laptop would have been the easiest solution. Yet, I wanted to find someway to make it seems that as I go along, I am already building towards my thesis, even if only at a visual level. I also wanted to have a place where I can easily search my notes, extract specific pieces of information if needed.

I decided to go back and use Pressbooks. For one, it satisfied that visual desire to see something being built as I went along my project. It also touches upon experiments I did on a local server regarding building a manual for UBC’s course management system. It’s a tool that I’ve been wanting to find a personal use for, for a very long time. With this, I can keep the notes and works in progress status private for now since I’m still not sure what can be made public. Though, it gives me a very easy way to publish the thesis, once it’s done in a public, organized, and shareable way. With a couple of setting changes, this can be viewable on the web when it’s ready. Plus I just learned about the mPDF plugin that may or may not produce beautiful PDF exports of a book. Haven’t tried it yet but that would make life so much easier in the coming months. I’ve also downloaded the Pressbooks Textbook plugin specifically for its remix function. I already foresee a lot of remixing as I write and rewrite on the fly.

I almost gave up yesterday after trying in vain to make it work properly. Given that I haven’t installed a WordPress installation in a few years or even touched HTML, it was a difficult slog to get the memory jogging again. I initially used my web host’s installation script which was worked well enough. For some reason though, installing the Pressbook Plugin encountered problems through the dashboard. I had to resort to uploading it directly to the server folder. It looked like a simple enough process but with slow internet speeds, it was a more frustrating experience than it should be.

A snippet from the Oatmeal Comic on Net Neutrality. It specifically focuses on the difference in experience between having no internet and having slow internet.

Yesterday was very much like this… (comic from The Oatmeal)

Nonetheless, I was able to finally get to the Pressbooks plugin to work. I was excited to get started writing my notes but the new book creation process encountered more issues. I was getting a “Server Not Found” error when I created new books. At first, I didn’t know what it was but after trying to find potential solutions, I suspected it was something to do with the URL path. For some reason, the new WP MU installation created new sites with a the URLs “http://NEW_SITE.MY_SITE.COM”. Pressbooks does not like this as far as I know. Again, I’m not a proficient coder but I can noodle my around things. In any case, I deleted everything and manually created a new instance of WP MU, making sure that the URL paths for new sites were “http://MY_SITE.COM/NEW_SITE”. It works fine now.

I’ve written my first set of notes. One thing I found really helpful is the functionality to drag and drop posts into different parts. It definitely makes rearranging easy. Haven’t seen how this affects the permalinks but will check that out once I have more posts/chapters to written. I feel like this process holds a lot of promise and hope to keep track of it as I go along.

A screenshot of my notes on the test Pressbooks site.

We’re just getting started…

Master's Thesis

Wading in thesis waters

As a practicing Catholic, the only thing I can compare returning to this blog is like going to confession. You think its a good idea to do it, and it’s what proper people do but alas, you still can’t do it regularly. Over the past 11 months, I’ve wanted to revisit this space and write again. Yet, the anguish and the turmoil trying to gain momentum in writing and commitment to continue is sometimes just too much. 2015 was an eventful year in my personal life that one less thing to think about is a bonus that I cherished quite deeply.

Yet this year, I wanted to start something new. My wife got me a planner for Christmas and I set myself a goal of tracking what I did from week to week with a small collection of thoughts as as a new week starts. It is my way of writing on a regular basis so that when I actually need to write, it won’t be as difficult or as anguishing as it usually is.

Seoul to Manila Map-01-01With those thoughts in mind, this year is also my thesis year, which makes the need to write even more pressing. Over the past year and a half I’ve been researching the movement of policies from one place to another. It’s what is commonly called policy transfers. Transfers though are defined much more broadly where there is a continuing sense of change and adaptation as ideas move along. What I’m looking specifically is how urban sustainability policies move from one place to another. I will be using the case study of the Clark Green City, which used the Songdo International Business District as the model to emulate.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has approved my research plan and extended their assistance in getting this research project done. I just had my initial meeting with them yesterday and still trying to figure out what can be shared openly. Yet, I want to take this opportunity to use this space as a way to keep track of my thoughts and impressions as I move along with the project. I’ll keep mum and my thoughts offline but from my initial conversations, it seems the research will be quite fruitful.

Social and Community Planning

Defined by what you read

The core question during my first semester was “What exactly is planning?” It was a question that differed from class to class and as I delved more in the history of the subject, it seems to change depending on the practitioner. There’s economic planning, there’s environmental planning, there’s urban design, there’s community planning, etc. Since one of my professors and I love to exchange books, she asked me to perform a curious exercise or at least posed a question to me. What do the books someone reads say about their view on planning?

The question was brought about since I mentioned Brent Toderian’s The 100 “Best” Books on City-Making Ever Written? from a few years back. It’s been awhile since I saw and saved the list but she asked me what kind of books are on that list. At the time, I couldn’t possibly remember. Looking at the list right now, I can see that for Toderian, city-making is defined by the development of the built environment and its struggles with sustainability, economics and the consequences of modernism. I certainly have read some of these books such as Cities of Tomorrow and the Triumph of the City, and fairly recently Happy City. Yet, I feel like the books have not necessarily shaped what I think city-making is and maybe that’s the atypical planning education I’ve received so far. Some of the books I’ve come across or read a chapter here and there. Some them form the canon of planning knowledge such as the Life and Death of Great American Cities and the Image of the City.

Toderian’s list is a great list of books, there’s no doubt about that but I’d like to add my own. This is especially in light of what I’ve been consuming recently, namely:

Two books that have contributed to the way I see city-making are:

  • Leonie Sandercock’s edited volume: Making the Invisible Visible, which focuses on the diversity of stories not being discussed in the planning field at the time and arguably even today. It shows how people make the city in the absence of the relatively young field of planning and in spite of their exclusion in planning.
  • Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong’s Worlding Cities, which discusses the strategies of many Asian cities to become global. What strikes me the most, and how this book has captured my imagination, is through its discussion of ordinary practices and discourses that unintentionally leads to an assertion to be global. It ties into a former career as an educational developer when part of my responsibilities where to package best practices into something that is to be consumed and practice by others.

There are so many other books that I want to read and most of them in relation to my thesis proposal. City-making is such a broad area that limiting the list to only the built environment doesn’t cover the diversity of contributions that makes cities interesting and alive. It just so happens that Lisa Schiewtzer was also asking the same questions and has 50+ books to add to the list. And the quote below sums up what is an appropriate critique of the list:

“But this list and his addenda are standard white urbanist fare, with a lot of echoing of the same ideas from one white urbanist to another.”

Lastly, here’s a guest post by Dr. Justin Tse regarding migration and housing in relation to Vancouver’s property market. It sums up quite well some of the current debates in my 2nd home. There’s a list of books at the end which I feel emphasizes the contributions of ordinary people, Chinese migrants in this case, in city-making, for better or for worse. They’re not the visionaries or policymakers or elected officials concerned with urban planning but have impacted cities nonetheless with their everyday practices.

Geography of Developing Countries, Planning History, Political Geography, Uncategorized

It’s been expected for quite some time but Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) has passed away this morning. He was a towering figure of the post-colonial era, international development, and history. Many other writers have written more eloquently about his life and legacy. I’m actually quite glad with what I have read so far have escaped writing hagiographies. A tendency we have when somebody passes away. I may have Channel News Asia in my RSS feeds but The Online Citizen is where I go to read a more critical and measured writing/takes on Singaporean news. Case in point the following:

I’m writing this post not because I have deep admiration for the man. I’m conflicted about his legacy, especially against the popular imagination that developing nations needs somebody like or that countries need an LKY to save themselves. I write about him because I lived in Singapore in my early twenties and I am trying to figure out my continued fascination with this tiny red dot. This excerpt taken by Howard Lee from a Channel News Asia interview of LKY may have clarified something:

“You assume that politics is about elections and election contests. I do not see politics that way. The best definition of politics is… “the art and science of governance of a country and how it runs its internal and external relations”. That is a very abstract concept. Translated in real life, it means, “how is my life affected by the government?” Do I have a job? Do I have a home? Do I have medicine when I need it? Do I have enough recreational facilities? Is there a future for my children? Will they be educated, will there be a chance to advance yourself? If you do not have any of these things, you are going to find agitation.”

His quote reminded me of articles, books, interviews, and podcasts that I’ve consumed about urban governance. Running a city is not necessarily about ideological battles waged on the electoral stage. It’s about cleaning the streets and sweeping up garbage. As I recently argued in class discussion last Friday, Singapore is always described as a city-state. What I feel people tend to not realize is that the country is first and foremost a city, albeit a city with national/international policy-making abilities of a state. Cities need to be run pragmatically since they deal with the everyday life of people. National politics and policy-making may seem distant but at the municipal level governance feels more immediate. LKY has been described as a political street fighter, which translates well to being a mayor and his continued concern for the low politics even though as prime minister he has high political concerns.

I have come to believe that the “Singapore Model” of national development may not be as transferable to other countries as argued before. What I do see though is that Singapore can be a model for urban development. It is a well-run city with excellent infrastructure, mass transportation system, and governance. I do concede though that it is quite difficult to divorce the country’s urban policies with its national policies. Its success has been underwritten by complete political dominance by the PAP, suppression of critical voices, marginalization of low-paid migrants and authoritarian control in residents lives. When looking at other benchmarks and models of development, it always critical to ask “What are we trying to see and what structures made it into a success?”

I write about Lee Kuan Yew because Singapore’s urban success is also LKY’s success. He dominated, and will probably still dominate for awhile, the city-state. It is a time of mourning for Singapore but it also an exciting time of change and soul-searching for a country that will probably survive even without the authoritarian governance that LKY built over the decades.

Lee Kuan Yew, 16 September 1923 – 23 March 2015

Political Geography

Growth Coalitions and Regimes


  • Molotch, H. (1976). The city as a growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American Journal of Sociology, 82(2), 309-332.
  • Mossberger, K. & Stoker, G. (2001). The evolution of urban regime theory: The challenge of conceptualization. Urban Affairs Review, 36(6), 810-835.


Molotch’s paper on the growth machine seems to be more applicable to the topic I want to tackle. It made me ask the question, what are the interests of a municipal government and the development authority in the project they want to pursue on a particular piece of land? The growth imperative is alive and well in the Philippines, especially now when the country’s GDP is increasing at an incredibly fast clip and shedding its image as the “sick man of Asia”. There has been a desire at all levels of government to attract business investment to provide the “right kinds of jobs and development”. Elected officials at all levels want particular investments to be located in their locality of interest as they become the ambassadors for growth.

At the core of the paper I want to write is that both parties have the same interest but how those interests manifest and who gets to say who gets what and how. Whoever gets to decide on the redistribution of resources sets a precedent for future developments in other areas. Success of a development/infrastructure project does not solely rely on the project alone, it is supported by its surrounding development as well as future projects that might feed into its growth (e.g. water services, transport services).

This framework sounds promising since other elements fit in (e.g. courts seen as the final institutional arbiter) quite well into the growth regime story. I do feel though that a comparative analysis is needed in order to contrast similar situations but with two different outcomes that involved similar parties. I am just daunted by the need to service both cases equally.


“I don’t know if you were able to read the subtitles, but you can tell from the body language that participatory design is not a hippie, romantic, let’s-all-dream-together-about- the-future-of-the-city kind of thing. It is actually — (Applause) It is actually not even with the families trying to find the right answer. It is mainly trying to identify with precision what is the right question. There is nothing worse than answering well the wrong question.” – Alejandro Aravena, Architect, Elemental

A few weeks ago a fellow graduate student in Korea posted a facebook status around the futility of public participation in policy development and should really just focus on public participation in policy execution. It irked me for an unexplainable reason at the time since I firmly believe that many of our policy and planning problems could have been avoided with extensive public participation (e.g. the age of Modernist planning).

The quote above from Aravena crystallized what I thought was wrong with my friend’s statement. We pride ourselves in doing research, to be critical thinkers in crafting appropriate polices to address particular problems. Yet, we tend to be uncritical of ourselves and forget to ask are we addressing the right problem. We tend to put our preferences into the quantifiable data which tends to obscure details that we need to pay attention to. For example, what the participatory design process in Aravena’s case showed that their project was too focused on the 20-year mega-events and ignored the perennial problem of flooding and the lack of public space in that city. It is clearly in the realm of possibility to develop a design that addressed all these problems but they would not have been identified if not for the process they undertook.

City building and infrastructure planning are terrible unsexy and long term processes that may seem unsexier and longer with participatory planning. Their very long term nature though is what makes participatory planning even necessary. We only have one shot at it every few decades and once they’re built, they are difficult to undo. Participatory planning doesn’t necessarily promise best solutions all the time but at the very least we can say we damn well tried.

Political Geography

Assumptions About Power

It’s been a long time since my last post. Alas, blogging is still a side-note for me that finding time to do more writing always proves to be more challenging. This semester though, my professor in Political Geography is asking us to write one page on how our weekly readings relate to our ideas for the final paper. I feel it’s a very smart move on her part as it forces us to think about the paper early on in the semester. At the same time, it also pushes us to understand the readings based on what we are interested in besides their one-off weekly nature. There’s a sense or process of building and creating that is part of any writing project as the goal at the end is to have a “publishable paper”.

For the next few months, I’ll be posting my one pagers as blog posts in order to keep track of my progress.


For my final paper, I want to investigate the control of urban development between elected municipal governments and government-created development authorities.

Over the past year, I have been investigating the nature of built from scratch eco-cities such as Songdo, Masdar, and Tianjin. They are massive projects that take years to be built and intended/designed to have very low environmental impact yet high return on investment. At the same time, they are conflated with the latest form of urban modernization which is the smart city where technology is used to gather and analyze data for better urban management. The Philippines is building its first eco-city project called the Clark Green City (CGC) based on the Songdo International Business District in South Korea. For my thesis, I want to investigate the benchmarking process that led to Songdo being chosen as the model for the CGC.

As I started my research, I learned more about the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, the government-owned corporation tasked with converting former military bases for civilian uses. Many of these places are located within the boundaries of many municipalities that places them within the jurisdiction of municipal governments. Yet they are places of exception where ownership squarely in the hands of the state yet they controlled by a state-created private entity. If they are placed under civilian use, does this also mean under civilian control? If municipal governments are used as a proxy for an electorate’s wishes, then how much control does a mayor and its council have over these places. There has been evidence of a process of pushing back lately but I want to explore the question a bit deeper.


  • Dowding, K. (2006). “Three-dimensional power: A discussion of Steven Lukes’ Power: A Radical View”. Political Studies Review, 4, 136-145.
  • Bachrach, P. & Baratz,M. S. (1963). “Decisions and ondecisions: An Analytical Framework”. The American Political Science Review, 57(3), 632-642.


These two readings focus on what are the definitions of power, its sources, and its limits. For Bacharach and Baratz, power is a relational concept where power changes over time. They take great pains in making distinctions between power, authority, influence, manipulation, and force. For my paper though, it made me think about what authorities are given to a municipal government and government-controlled corporation that enables them to exercise particular powers within a specific jurisdictions. In the Philippines, responsibilities of municipal governments are laid out in the Local Government Code. The Bases Conversion and Development Authority on the other hand was created by the Bases Conversion and Development Act. Both are pieces of legislation, meaning both have congressional and presidential authority. An area to explore more deeply is what are the limits of these acts and where do they overlap.

Areas of overlap are potential sources of conflict that may reveal the power relationship between a municipal government and the BCDA. As far as I know, neither entities can enforce any sanctions against the other except in the form of third-party arbitrators such as the Philippine Dispute Resolution Centre or judicial interventions. There have been a handful of cases already where the BCDA or the municipal government gained a favourable ruling. These cases do change the power dynamics and show the limits of what each party can do. As Bacharach and Baratz has mentioned, the threat and use of sanctions can alter the power relationships by either expanding or limiting particular options or exposing who has the actual power. It may be an interesting perspective to compare two cases where the BCDA lost and won.

Dowding’s article was a bit challenging to read since I have not read Lukes’ theory on three-dimensional power before. Doing a bit of research shows that Lukes’ theory defines power as being able to dominate someone so that they choose to behave in ways that are contrary to their interests. Dowding wants to clarify a bit more what does dominating mean by infusing the idea of intentionality and consciousness. He believes that the third dimension of power only exists if people intentionally create belief structures that dominate other people. He also adds that if one is unconscious about their actions but should know then they are also dominating.

Intentionality is an interesting element to add to power although difficult to empirically quantify. I do believe that both the BCDA and any municipal government know or should know their jurisdictional boundaries and responsibilities. Yet, both push those limits and are subsequently tested in court or via arbitration. This either firms up the boundary or extends it a bit further out. In some sense, both entities are trying to create structures where they are the dominant power in a jurisdiction. It’s something that I need to think about a bit further.


Just found out today that the province of Davao del Sur is developing a new eco-city project near the town of Malita. I’m trying to do a bit more research but the project is described as such:

“Davao South Marina and Industrial Park is an eco-city by the sea in Malita that will rise in a 1,000 hectare property, which will be comprised of a 600-megawatt power plant, shipyard building facilities, leisure facilities, hotels, marina, and yacht club.”

Although the video doesn’t necessarily say what kind of power plant they’ll be building, most likely it will be a coal-fired power plant. It strikes me as a bit ironic as it may just erase whatever gains the project may have in its strategies to become an eco-city, especially in a province that projects itself as a place where “investments [are] powered by nature”. I also wonder if the planners took into account the environmental impact of building all those facilities in what is currently I assume is mostly forest areas. Looking at current plans, density levels look very low and that transportation will be heavily dependent on motorized transport.

I’m curious to learn a bit more what they actually mean when they choose to brand the project as an eco-city.


“Thus the eco-urbanism marketed to bright-eyed executives and constituted by slick and supposedly public spaces is the result of the fluid and unequal spatialities of a green urbanism which both serves to absorb low-paid migrant labour and to serve the transitional needs of countries and urban areas which are attempting to respond to diffuse notions of crisis and risk by enabling technological “solutions” and the exploitation of newly created markets in environmental technologies and services.”

Caprotti, F. (2014). Eco-urbanism and the eco-city, or, denying the right to the city?. Antipode, 46(5), 1285-1303.

I’ve been trying to write a research proposal on how cities are benchmarked to become models for other cities in the context of eco-cities. I recently finished Frederico Caprotti’s article and the quote stood out for me as it summarized many of the questions I have. When one country imports an eco-city model, what are they actually getting? Are they getting a master plan to copy and adapt to their local context? Are they getting the technologies that makes an eco-city better for the environment? Are they getting expertise to help them be more ecologically sustainable?

Or are they getting the process that leads to the process of creating “pearls in the sea of degrading urban environments”? Who are the eco-cities for? From what I’ve read, they extremely expensive for ordinary people who are the most affected by climate change. Who gets to move to these places once they’re built? Is it just another form of gated communities where rules differ within its premises compared to the rest of the region?

Eco-cities are very specific visions of what the city of the future should be. I can’t help but wonder who gets to decided what those visions are and where they are getting their ideas from.

Critical Urbanism on Eco-cities