MANILA, Philippines — The mayor of Seoul — a human rights activist and lawyer who earned the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 — met with Metro Manila officials on Tuesday to foster long-term partnerships in addressing urban development issues.
Mayor Park Won Soon received a warm welcome from several Metro Manila mayors and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino at the MMDA headquarters in Makati City, in arrival rites complete with a brass band and MMDA employees waving the South Korean flag.
In a two-hour meeting with the mayors, Park offered his government’s help to Metro Manila, inviting Philippine officials to come to Seoul for them to learn in detail how the Philippine capital could handle common problems facing megacities, such as traffic jams and flooding.
Among the best practices and projects he cited were Seoul’s modern transport solutions, including a 115-kilometer bus transit system, a 327-kilometer urban railway system, and government efforts to make mass transport not only efficient but also environment friendly.
Asked what he could recommend for Metro Manila’s perennial traffic mess, Park proposed an interconnected metro system and the construction of a subway.
“The subway is the most efficient (mode of) transportation from the outskirts of Seoul to downtown. I recommend that you have consultations with international traffic experts for the establishment of a metro system,” Park said. “The cost may be very high but it will be very efficient in the long run.”
Metro Manila is currently serviced by four train lines, three of them mostly using overhead railways, with some stations built below street level.
Park noted that commuters living outside Seoul rely heavily on this mass transport system and can reach their destination within the South Korean capital in less than an hour.
The city’s private sector helped the government shoulder the cost of these infrastructure projects. “In constructing the subway, we can’t cover all the expenses. That’s why we invited the private sector to do it.”
Among the mayors in attendance were Jejomar Erwin Binay of Makati City, Del de Guzman of Marikina, Guia Gomez of San Juan, Oscar Malapitan of Caloocan, Jaime Medina of Pateros, John Rey Tiangco of Navotas and Maribel Eusebio of Pasig.
Park, 58, is in town for the 55th anniversary celebration of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, which in 2006 recognized his role in the anticorruption movement in South Korea since his university days, when he was jailed for several months.
He was elected mayor of Seoul in 2011.