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The floods of the past week and the ensuing rehabilitation efforts in and around Metro Manila will force to the surface questions about what it will take to fix, protect, and enhance the National Capital Region for good.
It got us thinking: Was former president Ferdinand Marcos correct in creating a governorship for the entire Metro Manila?
The first governor of the metropolis was his wife, Imelda Marcos. We think we know where she stands on the matter.
The last person to act as OIC governor of Metro Manila was Joey Lina. We put the question to him just as flood waters were receding all over the metropolis, and he said:
“Yes, we need a Metro Manila governor; and he/she should be elected.
“The 1987 Constitution allowed the creation of a Metropolitan Political Subdivision precisely to accommodate and justify the existence of the Metro Manila Commission (which the nascent post-EDSA regime inherited from the Marcos era). From the MMC, the Constitution provided for an interim Metro Manila Authority with a chairman appointed by the Office of the President.”
Lina had evidently been giving the question a lot of thought all these years. He continued:
“The MPS envisioned by the 1987 Charter provides for a sui generis (class unto its own) local government, precisely to make metropolitan governance more effective. The cities and towns of Metro Manilla are so connected with each other, it’s impractical and useless to have individual LGUs performing functions that are better suited to higher bodies.
“The law creating MMDA identified six basic services that could be best centralized under such a higher body, like flood control, solid waste management, public safety and overall urban planning. But since the Supreme Court interpreted the law (creating MMDA) to mean it’s just a coordinating body - not an implementing body, even though the law is peppered with the word ‘shall implement’ - we have this awkward situation where the MMDA chief tries to assert his powers and some LGUs don’t want to follow him, as with the single-ticketing or color coding. That he is not elected makes it even harder to him to obtain compliance.”
Having a Metro Manila governor is not as simple as it would sound, in other words, even to someone espousing it.
We asked other officials, policymakers, and stakeholders. We looped in some academics and urban development experts as well. Here are their takes on the question.
Was Marcos correct? Do we need a governor for Metro Manila?
Felino Palafox Jr., Palafox Associates. Architect, Urban Planner:
What Manila needs is not a governor but technically competent managers. I've worked in 37 countries, their cities are all managed by appropriately trained managers. The most successful governors are well-educated - Lee Kuan Yew was a Cambridge graduate. In China, cities are managed by engineers and scientists. Comparatively, the Philippines is managed by political appointees.
Tony La Viña, Dean, Ateneo School of Government:
For purposes of effective land use planning and better delivery of basic services, a Metro Manila Governor is needed. The person must have real executive powers and not just coordinative ones. Delineation of functions and authority between him/her and LGU officials can be easily done by applying the principle of subsidiarity, that is who has the better competence to address an issue with the benefit of doubt going to the LGU.
Rep. Miro Quimbo, Marikina:
No. The dynamics of Metro Manila will not allow it because we have strong mayors. What we need is an urban planner and a flood czar.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, former mayor of Makati City:
The Supreme Court has ruled that the MMDA is only a coordinating body for local government units in Metro Manila. It does not have the power to legislate and cannot exercise police powers. If we want a stronger MMDA, Congress should consider giving it broader powers. This would, however, also require revisiting provisions of the Local Government Code on local autonomy.
Rep. Amado Bagatsing, Manila:
We already have the MMDA. The recent disaster should make all mayors and the citizenry cooperate to address the problem, even Congress will help.
Karmi Palafox, Palafox Associates. Environmental and Urban Planner:
I think we need a leader for Metro Manila but it cannot be an elected official. We can review the powers and functions of the MMDA and its chairman. No need to create a new office.
Mayor Herbert Bautista, Quezon City:
The current set up is okay. Metropolitanization requires administrators that are not elected but are still accountable officers. Another political layer will not do any good.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna, CIBAC partylist:
I believe that having a Governor for Metro Manila is a laudable proposal because it will create a central authority to decide issues affecting the metropolis (urban planning, floods and traffic). However, this may have some legal issues with respect to the autonomy and independence of the local government units that are in Metro Manila. The most feasible and immediate way to address issues concerning Metro Manila is for the respective mayors to sit down and have a good faith agreement on the most basic issues like urban planning, floods and traffic situation. This may develop into a yearly consensus building as to how to address the most pressing needs of the people living in the metropolis.
Peter Angelo Perfecto, Makati Business Club Executive Director:
It would be good for the various local governments and agencies to come together and find ways to have coordinated development plans since disasters do not recognize political boundaries. The problems are often interconnected.
Jojo Uligan, Contact Center Association of the Philippines Executive Director:
My personal take: It will be nice to have a single entity or agency that you can interact with to do the coordination. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to our preparedness when it comes to whatever calamities, natural or man-made, that hit our areas - how fast we respond to situations whether we have one channel or several channels.
Rep. Teddy Casiño, Bayan Muna partylist:
We need a Metro Manila Super Basurero.
Rep. Danilo Suarez, Minority Leader:
That’s an interesting question. It can be discussed. Ideally, the city governments should adhere to the MMDA, but we know the dynamics right now.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Cavite:
What we need is a master plan for Metro Manila taking into consideration all basic problems of flooding, traffic, garbage. There is no easy solution.
Rep. Walden Bello, Akbayan partylist:
I think this might be a level of unnecessary bureaucracy. But I am open to idea provided it is an administrative center, not political center.
Benjamin de la Peña, Associate Director for Urban Development, Rockefeller Foundation:
We need an effective and empowered regional governance structure to manage metropolitan areas. That doesn't necessarily mean a "Governor."
Rep. Raymond Palatino, Kabataan partylist:
Not another layer in the bureaucracy. Mayors can do the job, the MMDA can oversee, coordinate metro wide implementation of programs. Even Cabinet line agencies have NCR budget allocations.
Rep. Loreto Ocampos, Misamis Occidental:
I think the present set up is already sufficient. No need for a governor. It’s all the same except the title.
Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, Pangasinan:
No need for a Metro Manila governor. We can't afford an official whose decisions will be swayed into inaction because of a voting public. In other words, no political will. We already have a good DPWH secretary. He built most of the Fort area in Taguig. He understands the importance of functioning drainage, spillways, zoning (including the will to move squatters to safer areas even if it's against their will). I think PNoy can put this into action ASAP. What Sec. Singson did in Burgos Circle he can do in flood prone areas in Manila. Additionally, the cooperation of all NCR local government units can solve these never ending problems.
Rep. Angelo Palmones, Agham partylist:
No need. The MMDA Chair has the rank of Cabinet Secretary.
Sec. Joel Villanueva, TESDA Director General:
It should be seriously considered especially if the mayors are not coordinating with each other, but if the relationship is harmonious and they're closely coordinating with each other I think there's no need.
Rep. Sonny Angara, Aurora:
There’s definitely a need for Metro Manila local government units to coordinate policies especially with regards to dealing with calamities and disasters, as well as traffic, transport, garbage, among others. Whether such coordination would be best achieved through a governor is something that has to be studied as it would necessitate an amendment of the Local Government Code.