'Stop acting like colonizer'. The headline this morning in the newspaper was bold. It was a message intended for China from some Filipino business groups. The business men even dug up a quote of Deng Xiaoping from 1974 warning his country not to act like an aggressive superpower or bully.

The soundbite is the culmination in an ongoing discussion about the claims of China and the Philippines on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea. It's a quarrel that exists since the nineties, and earlier. But the past months a new chapter was written.

It started with pictures taken by the Filipino army of some two hundred Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, part of the Filipino economic exclusive zone and its continental shelf. International maritime law says that the Philippines enjoys in that zone the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources, living and non-living.

The pictures were dated March 7, 2021, but were published March 20. China said the flotilla was looking for some refuge in the Union Banks from the bad weather. But some of the ships are, one month later, still in the vicinity of the reef.

The dispute is a minefield. The Chinese vessels are fishing in the reefs and harvesting huge clams. But, some say, the Chinese are emptying the sea, chasing small Filipino fishing crews away and occupying the reefs. Others, among them the Philippine government, don't want to go against China because of all kinds of other interests. They hope it will pass.

Air strips, buildings, wind turbines What is happening in the South China Sea appeals to the imagination. China is building all kind of installations on the islands and reefs, and are presenting the nations from South East Asia with a fait accompli.

The Filipino newscaster ABS-CBN, for instance, checked what is happening in the waters around the Union Banks. The videos and photos are intriguing. Airports, radars and buildings with different floors have been build. There are even wind turbines! And the huge 'fishing' ships are being escorted by military ships and the Chinese coast guard.

The Filipino may claim the territory, but it is clear from the videos that China owns the islands and reefs.

#china #philippines #southchinasea

Paulo Alcazaren is a Filipino architect and respected urbanist. He reposted today a Facebook-post from March 2015. A post about a column on Metro Manila, written in 2013 for the Philippine Star.

In his column he cites ten reasons why Metro Manila was losing its soul. Sadly, not that much has changed yet.

You could read the list as a lost cause. Ten reasons why Manila won't ever be a great city again. But I hope some read it as a call to action. Still today, eight years after it was published.

It is true that Metro Manila is wrestling with a great number of deficiencies. But in the short time that I am here, I met people and encountered communities that want to turn the tide. Some want to make Manila anew the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, or at least a city where people can live.

Here are the ten reasons Alcazaren listed, but this time summarized in such a way that if executed, it will give Manila a soul!

  • Stop the urban sprawl and build a strong community fabric between the different patches that form Metro Manila

  • Work out a master plan that goes beyond parochialism

  • Govern Metro Manila as a united metropolitan area

  • Respect the heritage and structure of the city

  • More green, shared public spaces, parks and plazas

  • Link the city with, and turn the city towards the water: Manila Bay, the rivers and esteros

  • Unclog and decommercialize the public landscape

  • Make Metro Manila a walkable and bike-able city

  • Nourish vibrant cultural initiatives, and give cultural expressions space and time to thrive

  • Reclaim the Metro, break the agenda of the private companies

An aerial view of Metro Manila (Pasig City, Mandaluyong and Makati) An aerial view of Metro Manila

#architecture #manila #philippines