FORMER president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants the planned Pampanga Megalopolis to be more “walkable” and “bikeable” to protect the environment and improve the quality of life among residents, workers and tourists.

Arroyo, who also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the Pampanga Megalopolis should embrace green urbanism to reduce carbon footprints in communities and destinations by making them more walkable and bikeable.

“It ensures that the community achieves a balanced lifestyle where there is work, play, living and worship,” she said in a statement.

Pampanga Megalopolis refers to the former president’s vision to develop the 19 municipalities and three cities in Pampanga into the next center of growth in Luzon as a way of decongesting Metro Manila and providing the people with a cleaner and more progressive environment.

Arroyo said once completed, Pampanga Megalopolis will become a jewel in Southeast Asia.

The project initially starts with the Pampanga Golden Triangle, which consists of Angeles City, San Fernando City, Mabalacat City, Porac, Lubao, Floridablanca and Guagua. These cities and municipalities represent fast-growing and high-density settlements in the province. The triangle also covers Clark Freeport Zone and Clark International Airport.

Arroyo, incumbent presidential adviser for Clark flagship projects, hired the services of renowned urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. to draft the development for the Pampanga Golden Triangle, which involves building new roads, mass transit systems and regional transport networks.

Arroyo, who made economic development the centerpiece of her nine-year administration from 2001 to 2010, said the plan for megalopolis reflects green urbanism and green architecture with a lot of open spaces to encourage people to walk and ride bicycles, which is a growing trend in many European cities. She said this is also to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and promote exercise.

“Roads should be designed, with pedestrians as the top priority,” she said. “A walkable city is a hallmark of modern societies.”

The transportation plan will prioritize the following in order: pedestrians, bicycles, public utility vehicles and private cars. It also involves designing the roads in the megalopolis so that a third of its space will be devoted to people, a third to vehicles and a third to landscapes.

Meanwhile, the construction of the buildings will be in accordance with the present condition of the site and in consideration of the natural environment. The plan aims to create buildings that have minimal impact on human health and the natural environment.

To support mobility and transportation, new roads will be established, such as the Pampanga Circumferential Road that interconnect all the cities and municipalities of the province. Priority and supplementary road projects will complete the circumferential road.

Arroyo said a well-connected province will attract more investments and economic activities.

The plan also pushes for an intermodal mass transport system with 24-hour daily operations to bring employees to agro-industrial development zones and tourism sites. The framework strategy follows the clustering of the megalopolis into tourism circuits.

Among the priority projects are Candaba Wetland and Nature Park, Floridablanca Astroscience Center and Mount Arayat Eco-Adventure Park.

An economist who studied at Georgetown University and obtained PhD in Economics from the University of the Philippines, Arroyo introduced various economic reforms that led to 38 quarters of economic growth from 2001 to 2010.

She seeks to return to Congress representing the Second District of Pampanga province to make sure that the development of the Pampanga Megalopolis will help the Philippines become a more vibrant economy.