Quo vadis, Malacanang?

Posted at 08/21/2014 6:00 PM

Over time, location and space lose relevance. In many instances, irrelevance was ab initio.

The egregious physical conditions that Malacanang now finds herself in, (graphically described many times, many instances earlier; pls see my earlier blog: But for an earthquake…..Malacanang! ) as well as in the instance of the Philippine Navy Headquarters, are testimonies to the maleficent encroachments that urban sprawl wreak upon respected and hallowed peoples’ vicinities. These are progenies of sheer neglect. We all suffer from it, have learned to live with it; a reflection of the national span of attention and priorities.

This was the subject I was to have followed up with and vowed a ‘fun solution’ to ”Quo Vadis, Malacanang?” had I not had that bout with severe renal deficiency and pancreatitis.

Anyway, let’s go.

While conquering and governing regimes erect monuments and edifices, as usual, the Philippines appear to be just one more odd ball. From the beginnings of this country’s U.S. territorial mandate through the Jones Law, the Commonwealth and the Republics, it is obvious that our country was willy-nilly ever content with not having to erect a specifically intended complex of offices/edifice for use of the over-all operations of its Chief Executive. Malacanang was there, either as a convenient colonial pick-me-up or a hand-me-down. It began as symbol, although it also was an existing convenience. It was never substance. It was a trophy of “victorious nationalism, Philippine-style,” never really cut off from its colonial umbilical and that just seems unwelcome karma!!! While modernity presents viable and practical solutions, symbolism and deleterious inertia prevail. Malacanang’s physical location will remain beyond repair and in perpetual reconditioning. Along with the rest of inner Manila, abject deterioration is its consignment, without any genuine relief in the horizon. The totality of her entire labored function where she presently sits needs to be transported where apt and logical, useful and pleasant,lock, stock and barrel! I do not believe, I am alone in this mode of mind.

Well, have I got a spot for you. For once, let us cease being sentimental politicians and think progressive, wealth-creating, job-generating economic developers.

Without intent to diminish the role that the Philippine Navy plays in our national scheme, it simply has no business having its GHQ luxuriating along Roxas Blvd. (Admirals themselves, think so!) Its present location has neither strategic nor tactical value to its mission. But happily, it exists and can serve a purpose, no other Navy in the world can provide its national government. That is, undisputed, unequalled space. And, of course, be rewarded for it, along with the country. Think economic development, friends, along the path of its relocation.

Relocate the Navy GHQ and use that Roxas Blvd. frontage and Manila sunset backdrop as the jump off point for the ultimate Manila Bay reclamation endeavor, to end all such a endeavors, EVER! Let us begin with a specific legislation stating that henceforth, there shall never ever be any more reclamations fronting the length and expanse of Metro Manila Bay.

Much of that Roxas Blvd. frontage--this is the still open bay space to the south of the US Embassy and to the north of the Cultural Center of the Philippines--will most probably serve as the grand gated entrance with a great rotunda of green expanse setting back what would be official residence and principal workplace of the President, the rear of which shall be the unobscured view of the National Sunset. But let me not get ahead of the thrust.

And why not? The following national offices are already in that stretch of real estate. The Departments of Foreign Affairs and Finance, the Central Bank, the Philippine Senate, Office/Residence of the Vice President. We already have the Rizal Park, Intramuros, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

But, of course, there has to be an architectural competition. Nothing else will suffice. But the development ought to be this nation’s cooperative endeavor denoting community and solidarity safely quarantined from petty and mean-spirited politics. Perhaps, even with symbolic student fund drives/donations along with international gifts of amity and bond flotations. Or imaginative ethical business permutations that will include sale and exchange of national real estate assets, that is not contrary to national interest. From its strongest point of view, relocating Malacanang can be fashioned into an investment banking opportunity, a cooly calculated pump-priming stimulus, spread over a decade or two, that will spawn employment and continuing business opportunities.

Without being a copycat, it would be wise and practical to seek counsel out of the creation and the progressively continuing maintenance and development of the US’s White House complex. In all, its footprint is just about 28 hectares, 8 of which is devoted to the Chief Executive’s operating nerve center, residential/social amenities, security and ceremonial activities.

It is time that the Philippine Navy sailed away from Manila Bay and be rewarded for it with a homeport where its strategic purpose and mission are best served. Somewhere in the northeast of Panay Island, on the shores of Iloilo where it opens up into the Visayas Sea lies the dead center of our national patrimony. It is my favorite. History and geography smile upon her. Intelligent labor awaits to be awakened, to serve and be harnessed, rewarded by payroll, of course. Iloilo waits to spread her beneficence if it were to become the country’s first and truly Filipino Navy town, our very own San Diego or Norfolk, around which can be built a new self-contained maritime-oriented economy.

READ RELATED ARTICLE: But for an earthquake...Malacanang!