Super Mega Manila and urban renewal

Philip M. Lustre Jr.
Super Mega Manila and urban renewal
The emergence of Super Mega Manila, or GCR, requires inward-looking redevelopment, or urban renewal, programs to complement the outward migration of its people and development

The concept of Greater Manila surfaced in the 1960s to refer to old Manila and the adjacent cities of Kalookan, Pasay and Quezon. By a mere stroke of the pen, dictator Ferdinand Marcos expanded it to become Metro Manila in 1975 and include Greater Manila and 12 other cities and a town. 

The same 17 political constituencies composed the modern-day Metro Manila. In 1989, Congress enacted the law creating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) as an administrative superbody to provide them with basic services traffic management, garbage collection, and urban planning, among others.

In late 1990s, the Mega Manila concept had emerged to refer to expanded Metro Manila. It was largely used by corporate planners as a conceptual guide to cover areas within the 50-kilometer radius with old Manila as center. In broadcast industry, Mega Manila became a selling point as it referred to areas, which radio signals could reach.

The Mega Manila concept did not take off as a political concept but policymakers, urban visionaries, and corporate planners had nevertheless used it in their works to refer to expanded Metro Manila. 

In the late 2000s, the concept of Super Mega Manila emerged to refer to an expanded Mega Manila, which referred to areas that go beyond the 50-kilometer radius.

Since rapid urbanization continues its frenetic pace outside Mega Manila, the Super Mega Manila concept has been lately refined and redefined to become the Greater Capital Region (GCR). It covers areas in the 100-kilometer radius with old Manila as center. 

Lately, the creation of the GCR Special Administrative Region (GCR-SAR) by 2030 has been proposed to become a special political body to provide the region with full autonomy. 

Even the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the coordinating agency of Japan’s official development assistance to developing countries, has used this concept as reference in its planning works. 

As conceived in the 1990s, the Mega Manila concept originally included parts of Pampanga and Bulacan in Central Luzon, and Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Batangas in Southern Tagalog. 

Mega Manila extended to Tagaytay City in the south, Malolos City in the north and the towns of Tanay in Rizal and Angat, and Norzagaray in Bulacan in the east.

The Super Mega Manila concept, or the refined Greater Capital Region, seeks to include Mega Manila and the areas extending to entire Pampanga and Bulacan, parts of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, and Bataan in Central Luzon, and entire Cavite and Rizal, and parts of Batangas, Quezon, and Aurora in the Southern Tagalog region.

Coherent whole

Studies of urban planners, including JICA, said the GCR concept and the 2030 creation of the GCR-SAR address the rapid urbanization of Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

Its development into a coherent geographical whole is being sought to improve the delivery of the following services: garbage disposal, waste and sanitation, traffic management, flood control, urban renewal and environmental planning, and disaster management.

The proposed GCR-SAR creation has become necessary as development projects keep on sprouting in every nook and cranny of the GCR area. 

Several housing projects have mushroomed to shelter the growing population. Industrial enclaves and factories have been relocating there, too. 

Also, the government has been building several big-ticket infrastructure projects there. 

In fact, development centers have come out in the north, south and east of Mega Manila, or outside of the 50-kilometer radius. 

Every development center has specific characteristics to make it distinct and unique. 

Super metropolis

The imperative is to connect these development centers into a single, integrated, cohesive, and functional whole to maximize economic growth and development. 

Hence, Super Mega Manila, or GCR, is an emerging super metropolis. 

It is the perceived result of the integration of at least three development centers outside Mega Manila: the Olongapo-Angeles corridor, the Lipa-Batangas City corridor and the Calabarzon integrated industrial center, which is spread in San Pedro, Canlubang, Cabuyao, Biñan, Sta. Rosa City and Calamba City in Laguna, and Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Rosario, Dasmariñas City, and Silang in Cavite.

The JICA concept paper on GCR-SAR justified its creation because Regions 3 and 4 have to mitigate the increasing growth pressures on Metro Manila. 

It has identified interventions on key areas: integrated transport for urban and rural mobility; disaster preparedness and resilience; environment and high quality public space; affordable housing and delivery; and land use management and development control.

The JICA concept paper spoke of a plan to build urban roads and expressways, and urban railways for integration into a coherent public transport system, pursue housing programs to include informal settlers and construct gateway ports and airports, and install traffic management systems. 

The overall investment cost could reach P3 trillion, or $58 billion, until 2030.

These are not all. Urban planners have failed to consider that as outward urbanization continues, inward redevelopment emerges as an issue too. 

Stop Manila’s decay

Hence, the outward trend would have to be complemented by an inward move to stop decay at the aging cities, particularly the very center of growth – old Manila. 

Urban planners have to pursue with vigor and dynamism the redevelopment of old Manila to bring back its old glory and stop its decay at its core. 

The nation needs symbols. Manila, with all its splendor and glory reminiscent of its past, has to continue to embody its gentle soul and tranquil nature that goes back to the old colonial and postcolonial days. 

While growth and development are unstoppable, urban planners have to look at maintaining and strengthening the old symbols of nationhood. Their destruction is criminal.

But the redevelopment of old Manila should not be limited to Manila alone. It has to include Quezon City, the country’s largest city in population. 

While the move to make it the nation’s information and communications center is laudable, its planners have to move to make it a showcase of urban redevelopment, primarily to improve the quality of life of its almost two million inhabitants. 

In short, the emergence of Super Mega Manila, or GCR, requires inward-looking redevelopment, or urban renewal, programs to complement outward migration of its people and development.

Urban decay has to be stopped too. Hence, redevelopment is a must. –

Philip M. Lustre, Jr. is a freelance journalist who covered the economic and political beats. He is now involved in bookwriting projects. Email him at


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