April 23, 2018, 7:44 am
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Can we overbuild?

SATURDAY morning I left BGC early to drive to Loyola Marikina for the funeral of the late Teofila Banzuela-Patalinjug, a distant relative and mother of my high school batchmate Dr. Marilou Patalinjug-Tyner.

She had passed away on January 10 two days after turning 88 surrounded by her children, and timing it in a way that she could be buried the day before Marilou (who was on her annual Christmas holidays visit from the US) was heading back to the United States.

Driving early on a Saturday allowed me to traverse C-5 sans its famous vehicular traffic and, since very few heavy trucks were around, I had a chance to look around as I drove.

I was happy to notice the amount of greenery within private subdivisions along C-5 just as from my window in BGC I get to appreciate the greenery in Forbes Park and Dasmariñas Village.

But I also couldn’t escape noticing the amount of construction going on, with high rises rising apparently on every available empty space as landowners maximize their investment and race to build towers that reach for the sky.

Yesterday I drove up to Tagaytay for a golf game and while the morning rush was no rush at all (it being a Sunday) I couldn’t say the same thing about the drive home. It seemed as if every other vehicle from Metro Manila was up in Tagaytay as people strove to enjoy the last few weeks of “Arctic” cold before the sweltering heat of summer sets in.

It didn’t help that the Tagaytay ridge - from the Batulao area right to the Tagaytay Rotonda - is slowly being peppered with high rises whose units serve like pigeon holes for city slickers who seek a weekend retreat closest to the clouds.

Looking at four of them built so close to each other - three owned by the real estate arm of SM and one by the Robinsons group - I even said to myself that here is the reason it’s warmer in the city - the four buildings block the wind flow!

More seriously though I couldn’t help but think - do we come to a point that we overbuild? Other than slowing real estate sales, how will we know we’ve gotten to that point?

Makati is an interesting example.

My first conscious memories of Makati are the Makati of the 1970s when Imelda had her Love Buses and for the first time one could commute from Cubao to Escolta to Makati and back to Cubao in a loop and counter loop in the comfort of an air conditioned bus. And one that didn’t accept standing passengers, mind you.

At that time Makati was the QUAD, and Rustans and the Plaza restaurant. It was the Rizal Theater and Angela Arcade and SM Shoemart.

The tallest buildings in the country (with the exception of the Manila Hilton) could be found along Ayala Avenue where there was a height limit of ten to twenty stories (I think) while Buendia had one limiting buildings to five. Legazpi Village and Salcedo Village were also subject to height limitations and so the office buildings and apartment buildings there were of uniform height.

Traffic was manageable.

Fast forward twenty years and buildings were breaching the old height limitations. Thirty, forty, fifty stories were becoming the norm. The San Miguel building at Ayala and Paseo soon gave way to the Enterprise Tower, as others followed suit. But there was one important thing that didn’t change - the width of the roads all over Makati.

So now you had buildings with five to ten times more occupants than before - and these occupants came with vehicles mind you - clogging the very same streets that had been designed by Makati Development Corporation in the 1960s.

That explains the Makati we have today especially at rush hour. Which is no longer just one hour by the way. And it should explain any other metropolitan area in the Philippines where “Build build build” is not matched with “Re-Plan, Re-Plan, Re-Plan.”

Across EDSA you have BGC or the Bonifacio Global City. I moved to BGC from Makati on 2008 and enjoyed the space. But that was ten years ago. Today with BGC seemingly 60% built up traffic in the area can be impossible. And still more buildings are rising, which will mean more people and more cars. Soon BGC will become just one huge parking lot.

As will Tagaytay. And maybe Cebu. Davao too. Heck even Puerto Princesa.

Can we overbuild? Would we know when we have? Or are we oblivious to this as we reach for the sky - and sky-high real estate profits?
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