Muntinlupa Matters: Addressing Informality in Metro Manila

Vulnerabilities to natural disasters have long been a part of Filipino history, shaping society, culture, and the physical environment.

However, in 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest tropical storm recorded at landfall in the Philippines, cost thousands of lives, displaced millions, and caused large-scale destruction, amplifying the urgent need for environmental and social resilience planning in the region. The environmental changes and increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters in the region are being further compounded by a combination of population growth and rapid rural- to-urban migration. In collaboration with the World Bank and the University of the Philippines, this MIT studio and practicum built upon the World Bank’s Citywide Development Approach to develop replicable resettlement and upgrade strategies for residents living along the lakeshore of Laguna de Bay in Muntinlupa City, located at the southern edge of the Metro Manila region.

Working within the context of one of the world’s most densely populated and largest megacities and taking on the realities of an increasingly vulnerable low-income urban population, the studio explored the following questions: How can Metro Manila be better prepared for future storm events? Where should future development and redevelopment occur and where should it not? This was followed by a semester of research, analysis, and the development of planning and design proposals that explored approaches to reducing human vulnerability to flooding and climate change while addressing the socio-economic challenges of ISFs living in Muntinlupa City.

Through this process, four major themes emerged: Intelligent Infrastructure: Sharing Resources and Living Local, Environmental Zoning: Directing Settlement and Building Capatcity, Connect and Protect: Cleaning Water and Balancing Benefits, and Distinctly Filipino: Local Landmaking and Development. How can integrated resettlement strategies for ISFs balance considerations for natural systems, city form, and socio-cultural dynamics? What are the benefits to public, private, and non-profit sector collaborations? The studio kicked off with a two-week site visit that included extensive field observations, stakeholder interviews, community meetings, and design charrettes.

Studio recommendations and projects for Muntinlupa’s Citywide Development Approach were documented in a studio report for city officials, local NGOs, and the World Bank with the intent of providing new strategies for ISFs, flood mitigation, and urban development. The studio work was also presented at the Community Architects Network Regional Conference and Workshop in Intramuros and Muntinlupa City. The studio and practicum was a first step in an ongoing effort for engagement with various stakeholders in the larger metropolitan community.