Manila is the highest density major municipality in the world with a population density of nearly 115,000 per square mile (45,000 per square kilometer). The core has a population of approximately 1.7 million in a land area of 15 square miles (39 square kilometers).
Manila’s Ominous Future? Manila faces an especially difficult future. The Philippines is projected to have one of the strongest urban growth rates in the world over the period to 2050. Since 1950, the Manila urban area has captured nearly 50 percent of the urban population growth of the nation. If this rate were to continue, the Manila urban area would reach a population of between 45 and 50 million by 2050. This is approximately 10,000,000 more than live in Tokyo, the world’s largest urban area today.
But Manila faces even greater problems, related to the intense poverty of much of the population migrating to the urban area from the countryside. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) estimated that 4 million of the 11.5 million residents in the National Capital Region lived in slums (shantytowns or informal settlements) in 2010 (Photo). PIDS indicates that this population is increasing at a rate of eight percent annually and is expected to reach 9 million by 2050. This would be nearly 60 percent of the projected population at that time, and does not include slum populations in the extensive suburbs beyond the limits of the National Capital Region.
As if the poverty were not enough, Manila has been plagued by disastrous slum fires, the most recent within the past week. According to the Manila Times up to 10,000 people were left homeless by a most recent fire, which was in Makati, home of the metropolitan area’s largest and most prestigious business district.
Manila also experiences some of the world’s worst traffic congestion, as people increasingly travel by car on its largely substandard road system. Perhaps even more surprisingly, a substantial number of detached housing communities have been developed, especially on the urban fringe.
Manila’s challenge will be to accommodate the millions more who will seek a better life in the urban area and to do so while materially improving the standard of living as urgently as possible.