Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo win award for sustainable city planning

Pia Ranada

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo win award for sustainable city planning
All 15 city entries featured wide sidewalks, renewable energy, disaster-resilient designs and green architecture
ORO CENTRAL. Cagayan de Oro's plan for a school that doubles as an evacuation center also features green design. Image courtesy of Monette Sagaral

MANILA, Philippines – The cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo were proclaimed winners of the first Liveable Cities Design Challenge during a ceremony on Wednesday, October 15, in Pasay City.

Cagayan de Oro bested 9 others in the Government Center or Evacuation Center category, in which participating cities must design a disaster-resistant government complex or zone. 

Iloilo topped the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting Venue category which focuses on the design of an area that may be used for APEC in 2015. It bested 4 other participating cities.

The entries of each city were the work of teams composed of the cities’ mayors, planning staff, architects, urban planners, experts from the cities’ universities and architect mentors tapped by the competition organizers.

Since March, the teams have been working on their designs, culminating in a 45-minute presentation in which they had to communicate their ideas using 4 standard-sized boards and a 5-minute video. 

‘Oro Central’

The highlight of Cagayan de Oro’s proposal is its well thought out school-turned-evacuation center, said contest judge Guillermo Luz, private sector co-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), one of the organizers. 

The 4-structure building, dubbed “Oro Central,” will feature 200 classrooms, office spaces, laboratories, a multimedia library, parks and playgrounds and a roof-top garden.

But what makes Oro Central special is that it can be an evacuation center and school at the same time.

“Normally, if you make the school the evacuation center you have to stop school. And the other thing is when the evacuees leave, invariably the school is damaged,” said Luz.

He also noted the careful planning of the structure’s entrances and exits, enabling a lot of movement and preventing bottlenecks which could lead to stampedes. 

It will be located in the highest part of the city, away from flooding, and within two kilometers of hospitals and pharmacies. 

In case of an earthquake, evacuees or students can quickly reach the track field and football field just outside the center. 

Oro Central also stood out for its green architectural elements: natural lighting, natural ventilation, solar panels and a 900,000-liter cistern for catching and storing rainwater. 

On top of it all, it’s friendly to people with disabilities and is surrounded by wide sidewalks and bicycle lanes for the benefit of pedestrians. 

Present meets future 

Iloilo, meanwhile, met the APEC category criteria of designing a city zone in such a way that will make the APEC enjoyable for both delegates and locals.

Luz said that, best of all, Iloilo was able to express its unique personality through its design. 

“Iloilo is able to connect the dots together in a few points and create a message about Iloilo. Iloilo is really heritage meets the present meets the future. They are very clear. There is an old Iloilo, there’s a new iloilo,” he said.

The city has also been able to clean up its rivers and bring back economic activity.

“One good thing about Iloilo is they’re able to talk to developers and investors how to co-invest and package the projects,” explained Luz.

Iloilo’s proposal focused on the revitalization of its cultural and urban areas. 

Hubs like Fort San Pedro and the Sunburst Park will be redeveloped to feature public parks, assembly areas, outdoor recreation spaces and amenities for food and other services.

The city also plans to turn its old Slaughter House into an eco-friendly Rivercraft Pavilion for tourism activities.

Read about the plans of all participating cities here:

Mini Kits

Not just ‘flights of fancy’

Will the amazing city plans prepared for the competition remain on the drawing board? 

Organizers designed the competition to ensure the plans will be implemented, said Luz. In fact, some of the plans submitted have already been started by some mayors and will be ready in the next few months or years.

One way the contest tries to ensure continuity of plans despite the changing local government administrations is to involve as many stakeholders as possible. 

“It was jointly designed by private sector and public sector. We made it very participatory so each team that built the plan is big. It included private sector, universities, not only our architects but their own architects. The second one is, it was very public. We posted the plans on the Internet.” 

He said that organizers even set up Facebook groups for each city so that netizens who wanted to contribute their ideas could do so from wherever they are.

Aside from ensuring that more eyes are watching, it was also a way to crowdsource ideas.

“Just think, if we can start capturing those ideas, because Filipinos live all over the world. They should have ideas on what to do to improve their own city. One day, they may retire in that city or maybe their kids are growing up in the city,” said Luz.

Viability, funding 

One of the criteria for the contest was doability and funding.

Points were given to city plans that included a commercial enterprise to pay for costs, whether it be paid parking or commercial stalls. 

There were also some contestants that thought of joint ventures with private investors to augment funding that would come from local government or national government coffers.

For Cagayan de Oro’s winning design for example, public funds won’t be enough.

“We are looking at a private-public partnership because the amount needed is quite big – P950 to 980 million ($21.2 to $21.9 million*) initial cost,” said Cagayan de Oro team member Dionel Albina, a professor at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology. 

Though there were only two winners, Luz said all the contestants delivered. The commitment of each team to their plans astounded judges. In fact, of the 7 presentations for the 7 finalist cities, 6 were presented by the city mayors themselves. 

But good planning is only the first step to a great city.

Luz said, “A livable city is a city that’s going to be fun, safe, vibrant to live in, to visit, to invest in, to relocate to. And you can’t build [it] overnight.” – 

*$1 = P44.77

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.