Friday 14 November 2014

Sustainable Urbanization Series in Singapore

Manila in's and out's... physical geography, 
human settlement impact, renewal & urbanisation

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Sylvia Tay - Interview with BusinessMirror, Philippines

MANY may think the life of a diplomat’s wife is all parties and cocktails. That is farthest from the truth if you ask Sylvia Tay, wife of Belgian Ambassador Roland van Remoortele. Tay, who is an active supporter of Activistar, a private-sector advocacy group in Singapore. If you ask her what keeps her busy nowadays, she would tell you that she has a full calendar meeting with local officials, governments agencies, schools and private companies in an effort to drum up participation and support for the City Beautiful Manila-Young Mayor Competition to be held in Singapore in April 2015.

The contest is an international township-planning competition that taps high-school and university students to develop plans to improve sustainability within a target city. Activistar has been running the competition for the past four years, and for its fifth year, it trains its attention on the city of Manila. Previous cities that have been the focus of this competition include Hanoi, Iskandar Malaysia and Yangon. Tay says Singapore has been actively campaigning itself as a city with good integrated urban planning.  Tay says the group has identified Manila as its focus for next year’s competition since it is the premier city in the Philippines. “We felt that people should look at Manila and make it a case study and see what can be done to encourage the local government to do something,” she explains. “Every time tourists come to the Philippines, they pass through the Naia [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] on their way to Boracay or Cebu or elsewhere. Everybody gives the city of Manila a miss. Yet, it’s a pity because it is where your origins started. You have Quiapo and Chinatown, which were both centers of commerce in the past. Even in Tondo, they have uncovered ancient relics. Something can still be done to attract tourists to stay in Manila, to improve business and to make it a city that is enjoyable for its residents.”

A number of companies have already signed up to support the effort. Sponsors of the township competition include ABB, AES Philippines, The Mind Museum, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority, as well as the Office of the City Mayor of Manila, the Department of Education and the  Department of Tourism. The CLC in Singapore has supported the effort for the past four years.

For inquiries about sponsorship, e-mail

Joseph Cortes
Image Credits: Alysa Salen

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Thursday 18 September 2014

Philippine Dept of Tourism Under-Secretary supports ASSEMBLY!

Dept of Tourism Under-Secretary Maria Victoria V. Jasmin meets CEO Sylvia Van Remoortele

Thursday 21 August 2014

Mayor of Manila and former President supports ASSEMBLY!

 CEO Sylvia meeting former President of the Philippines and present Mayor of Manila, Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Blueprint for Manila's Development

Reflection by Carolyn Koh Hui Xin of Nanyang Girls High School

This urban planning experience, though rigorous, has been very enriching for me. When we were in the process of preparing the write up and report, I often felt that I was missing up on relaxation or study time, but on hindsight, the competition was never a waste of time. It has taught me a lot about how building a city works, about how countries like Singapore were built, and it has made me appreciate the amount of planning and resources that go into running and developing a city.

Especially students in Singapore; I get the feeling that all we know is simply to study, then regurgitate memorized facts without any critical thinking, and that we are all just living in our small bubbles, unconcerned with anything else. Then, when we go out into the "real world", we get a shock, because we expect things to be nicely ordered and prepared for them. This was especially highlighted to me when we met one judge of our prototype. Event though she seemed scary, I appreciated her questions because she was making us think deeper instead if simply accepting the things around us. (I will touch on the things I learnt from meeting people through this competition later) But in the real world, nothing is ever that simple, because there are so many things to take into consideration. In the case of urban planning, one has to consider budget, efficiency, environment, culture, coordination and others.

Planning a city is huge undertaking and seems overwhelming when seen as a whole, even when broken down into parts, the process still has to be coordinated. When we were crafting our solutions to Myanmar's "problems", we did not know where to start, and I guess I was expecting some kind of guideline that was more substantial than commercial, heritage and transport, because there were so many systems implemented across the world and we didn't know how to choose one that was most suited to Yangon. Not being able to truly understand the situation there also made our task a lot harder. And this is where our lesson in decision making comes in.

You can't expect life to keep giving you guidelines and hints on how to tackle things. Sometimes, when you are not sure how to continue because of the sheer amount of things you have to consider, you just have to make an intelligent decision and hope things turn out for the best. At least that's better than simply thinking and not acting. You have to make good decisions quickly if you want to make any progress at all, because everything is interlinked. Another issue was considering the people. As Myanmar is a very cultural and religiously oriented country, simply coming in and implementing our ideas without consulting any local about it seemed naive and rude. We actually considered it when we were doing the report but we had no idea what to do about it, so in the end we largely ignored that problem, only for it to be brought up again by the judge I was talking about earlier. I felt that we could have done more in depth research into that.

Apart from the planning process, meeting the professionals at the finals and the World City Summit also taught me a lot. Here are the people who do urban planning as their job, and they gave us many insights, many of which forced us to question things rather than accept them. We were rather proud of our bicycle road system, but one of the delegates from Australia suggested having concrete walls between the bicycle and normal roads for added safety. Many of them taught us to constantly seek improvement, rather than simply be content with what we have.

For me, this urban planning journey has taught me more about the soft skills than the knowledge of planning a city, because this information is easily available on the internet. I feel this was a great value-add to our curriculum, and despite its time consuming nature, it is a great eye opener, and, since learning should merely be restricted to a dictated curriculum, I would strongly recommend this to the juniors. I feel that this is especially important in Nanyang as I feel that sometimes we are so consumed with our grades that we forget that learning is largely outside the textbook.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Competition "City Beautiful Manila" 2015

Competition Question:
The development of Greater Manila has, since the 1960s, moved away from the City of Manila, which was once the premier residential, recreational, cultural, business and tourism district. (Formerly successful districts like Remedios Circle are gone. This has resulted in lost revenues for the city)

How would you propose to restore this part of Historic Manila and the Bay area into a great livable and safe city for work, leisure, culture, sports, recreation and entertainment for residents, as well as domestic and foreign tourists alike. With a waterfront, heritage districts, historic quarters, plazas/parks, this area presents an ideal canvas for an advanced analysis of urban transformation. Your team has been tasked to handle the challenges facing the City of Manila today.

The questions you want to examine will be how to:
  1. Revive its economic vitality and sustainability. Your team must illustrate some broad policy for this city which may aid in the economic agenda of generating growth for its citizens so as to raise the quality of life through employment, while undertaking the pressing needs for housing, transport, waste management, health, environment quality, commercial activities and other infrastructural requirements.
  2. Attract  residents, businesses and tourists back. Take into consideration any or all of the sustainability principles in terms of social, economic and environmental aspects. For instance the problem of vagrants and informal settlers, poorly managed traffic, transport and parking systems, floods, unusable sidewalks.
  3. Formulate strategies and plans for implementation for this area. Propose a viable plan with unique ideas, timeline and resources needed. Taking into account legislative, cultural and financial status of the city. Given that the players and the pieces are in motion and ideas are plentiful and problems are surmounting, your proposal should also examine the probabilities of why it can or cannot be implemented, while illustrating a distinct visionary leadership as a young mayor.
  4. Undertake a scenario planning exercise in "visioning" what future conditions and events are probable, what their consequences or effects would be like and how to respond or benefit from them. Example: Taking into account political changes, coups and renewal.
  5. Suggest any ground-up initiatives and nation-building campaigns that can overcome issues of displacement, over-development and pollution. Suggest soft policies (i.e. ways to incentivise your approach )

Wednesday 4 June 2014

World Cities Summit, 1-4 June 2014 at Marina Bay Sands Singapore

Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan

Assembly team Geraldine Sim shares with Minister Khaw the achievements of the youth in visioning and planning the "Heritage City Yangon"

Dr Liu Thai Ker meets Assembly 2014 competition winners

Students from Saint Joseph's Institution, Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Girls' High School

Dr Hon Chiew Weng, Mayor Marie Laarni L Cayetano and Atty Alan Peter S Cayetano meet the students

Bryan Low of Hwa Chong explains to his 
Principal, Dr Hon Chiew Weng his proposal 
for a Clean and Green Heritage City, Yangon
Maria Laarni L Cayetano, City Mayor of Tuktukan Taguig City, Philippines
and Atty. Alan Peter S. Cayetano of the Office of the Senate Majority