The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) has commenced realigning of its housing initiatives to conform with the international benchmark for creating smart cities in the Philippines.

Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar stressed the importance of smart city development in township projects to guarantee the sustainability of the government’s housing plans in the long run.

Billions of pesos of funds were wasted in the past due to lousy and poorly-planned mass housing projects as most of those constructed were later abandoned due to the far location of the housing sites to the workplaces of those relocated from the urban areas, aside from the usual problem of power, communication and water supplies. 

In his speech during a recent business forum in Cebu, Acuzar said the DHSUD has been mapping out measures to elevate the living conditions of the Filipino people through decent shelters in sustainable communities through mass housing projects. 

“In the parlance of a government agency such as ours, it can only mean enhancing the quality of life of our fellow Filipinos through innovations and technological solutions in the housing, human settlements, and urban development sectors,” said Acuzar.

This, he said, is the part when the adoption of the concept of smart cities plays a key role. 

Basic requirements of smart city development include a technology-based infrastructure that also focuses on environmental initiatives such as environment-friendly power sources; high-functioning public transport system; and good sense of urban planning to make the housing sites livable and responsive to the work needs of the settlers.

In his speech, Acuzar cited the Digital Cities Index (DCI) 2022 which stated that there are four key pillars in the development of smart cities: digital connectivity, services, culture, and sustainability to assess the extent and impact of digitization in 30 global cities.

Using that parameters, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beijing, London, and Seoul ranked as the top-performing cities.

Manila, on the other hand, dipped to the bottom of the list of the Digital Cities Index in 2022.

“That is somehow devastating. As a developing country, we are apparently lagging behind,” said Acuzar.

“Thankfully, we are now pursuing the promising track, especially with Pambansang Pabahay,” said Acuzar.

To align with the global development in housing projects, Acuzar said they have already started aligning their housing policies to meet the global standard.

They include maximizing land uses, efficiently using our valuable resources, delicately balancing and promoting our open spaces and connecting them through networks, investing in and adoption of appropriate technological breakthroughs that will translate into realizing the cities’ or housing communities’ purpose for its local inhabitants and the general public.

“It sounds pretty complicated as it is indeed complicated. Establishing smart cities would entail weaving various social, economic, geographical as well as political components into a net of strategies capturing urban development,” Acuzar said.

Right now, Acuzar said the government’s housing program focuses on a two-pronged strategy to construct houses while aiming for township development, complete with amenities and services a housing community will need, including sources of livelihood and digital connectivity.

The program also looks into megacities that will provide opportunities for economic growth, among other prospects. 

This includes the North-South Development Project, a transit-oriented development initiative which intends to create viable connections of Luzon Island’s major metropolis to multiply their potential for genuine urban renewal and growth while helping address excessive urban migration in Metro Manila.

“How are we going to make this happen? We need feasible investments and an enabling policy environment. From both the business and public points of view, it means collaboration between the government and the private sector,” said Acuzar. 

He also mentioned Davao City and Cebu City as the Philippines’ forefront at the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) initiative, and the New Clark City in Tarlac. He considered this as an indication that Filipino stakeholders are now putting premium on smart city development, a big turn-on for potential investors.

Early this year, the DHSUD formalized partnership with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for housing projects in New Clark City – to attract the populace from adjacent provinces and trigger economic activities there.

“We are literally drawing smart cities on a laid canvass with a holistic point of view. I am very confident that we can further expand our horizon on related innovations, new technologies, and best practices to transform our cities not only as resilient and sustainable, but smart as well,” the DHSUD Chief said.


Source: Manila Bulletin