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UAA Kinming, a consortium of Filipino-Chinese developers, will begin this year an extensive reclamation project that will give rise to a utopian mixed-use development off the coast of Manila.

Master-planned to be the Philippine capital’s most progressive integrated central business district, the New Manila Bay – City of Pearl will take up 407 hectares of reclaimed land and connect directly to Roxas Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in the Philippines.

Reclamation works will take four years and begin in August, with an eye toward building the first residential tower in seven years, revealed Nicholas Ho, deputy managing director of Ho & Partners Architects, the Hong Kong-based lead designer of the project.

“None in Asia has this scale of development in such a prime location with such a visionary approach,” said Ho. “There are many townships in Asia but those townships are in the middle of nowhere. This township is extremely prime in terms of its location. This one is right smack in the middle of town, with 360-degree ocean views.”

The development has already gotten “wholehearted” approval from former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. A series of bilateral talks, started between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s state visit to Beijing in October, seems to have catalysed the project.

“This is the biggest One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project between China and the Philippines,” Ho said. “It’s not just another typical development. It’s a government-to-government-level project.”

Technologically perceptive features will set the development apart from similar placemaking projects in Southeast Asia. “The most inspiring fact for me as a masterplan designer is that the client wanted to create something that no one has done before,” Ho said. “The city is designed to become a self-sustaining smart community where the city itself is run by artificial intelligence. Everything we’ve done on this city is based on one central theme: the smart city concept. We want it to be green, we want it to be self-sustaining, not dependent on anything or anyone else. We want the city itself to have hardware and software so integrated in a way that it can feed back to artificial intelligence to ensure that city operation is always at its optimal level.”

The city will be laid out in two rings and feature a loop road network, with 10-20 percent of the area allotted to open spaces. The inner ring of the city will feature a central park and golf course, while a 10-kilometre waterfront promenade, plus an all-weather park, will gird the outer ring.

Situated 20 minutes from the airport, the community is expected to depend less on car usage, with an advanced driverless railway system promoting walkability. Commuters can take water taxis, among other public transit options, while sailing enthusiasts can berth at a marine yacht club.

The retail component will be a three-kilometre riverfront shopping strip, Ho revealed. “We don’t want the retail to just be a mall. We want the retail to engage with the central park and also the riverside, so that it becomes a thematic integrated entertainment complex.”

New Manila Bay – City of Pearl is the consummation of several years of negotiations between Beijing and Manila, led by UAA Kinming and Estrada, who wanted to create a “world city.”

“This was orchestrated by UAA Kinming about a few years ago,” Ho said. “This project got the blessing from President Xi Jinping and President Duterte last year in Beijing, and we got the go-ahead to proceed to planning.”

With South China Sea remaining a flashpoint between China, and the United States, a longstanding ally to the Philippines, Ho assuaged fears that the area will be militarised and assured that the Philippines will exercise complete autonomy over the project. “There’s no military application for this project. No one’s going to use it as a military port or airstrip or anything like that. This is purely a mixed-use, public–private-partnership development.”

Ho estimated the development would generate around 50,000 jobs from construction to development. “Phase by phase, this project will probably take 20 years. Down the line, it’s going to create a lot of jobs for Filipinos. It’s going to really help boost the middle class.”

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