Before anyone gets upset we will make it clear that we do not blame Filipinos it is not their fault that Manila is a mistake.
The reason why Manila is a mistake lays mainly with the Spanish and maybe with the Americans. By the time Filipinos got independents it was too late to do anything about it.
The Spanish founded Manila in 1571 a move that turned out to be the biggest mistakes in the history of the Philippines.
When they founded Manila they probably had little or no thought for the future, for them it was an ideal location for the capital city of the Philippines.
Manila Bay a Natural Harbour
Geographically it was perfect for the Spanish, Manila Bay gave natural protection for their ships, it was a natural harbour and a perfect gateway to trade with the world.
The Pasig river allowed good to travel into the heart of the city making Manila seem an ideal place for the capital of the Philippines, also the fact it was on Luzon the largest Island of the Philippines and close to mainland Asia.
Defence of Manila
With only 2 channels one to the north and one to the south and several islands that could be used to defend the entrance to Manila Bay it probably seemed like an easy harbour to defend. Later this was found not to be so when the British took Manila in 1762, it fell again to the Americans in 1898 and in 1941 the Americans did not even try to defend Manila, after the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city rather than try to defend it.
Why is Manila is a Mistake?
Manila is a mistake because it could not be in a worse place for a capital city, you only have to look at a map of the Philippines to understand why. To the west is Manila Bay, to the south east there is Laguna Lake and mountains to north east. As the population grew there was nowhere for the city to expand.
The only way for Manila to grow was north and south and in doing so it has eaten up 17 cities and municipalities, while they might still be regarded as separate cities if you drive from one to the other it just seems like one huge city of Manila.
It is now spreading past Metro Manila with areas in parts of Cavite to the South and Bulacan to the North becoming like suburbs of Manila, with hundreds of thousands of commuters struggling to commute into Manila everyday, most of the commuters I have spoken to agree Manila is a mistake.
Most densely populated city in the world
Because Manila has very little space to grow it has become the most densely populated city in the world. There are cities in the world that have larger populations than Manila but because they had room to expand they are not so densely populated.
Traffic in Manila
Traffic in Manila has become a nightmare, EDSA is a Circumferential Road (Orbital Road) which is something many people do not realise, many thinks it runs in an almost direct route North to South and the reason for this is it just does not seem like an orbital road in the way the North Circular does in London. The reason being the North-South Circumferential Road as it was first known when construction began in the 1930s has been eaten up by Manila, Manila has grown and driving along EDSA now feels like you are driving through the heart of the city not driving round it.
This year the MMDA expects over 400,000 vehicles to travel on EDSA daily.
It is estimated that congestion in Manila is costing the Philippines 3.5 billion peso per day.
Manila cuts Luzon in two
Traffic congestion in Manila is not just a major problem for people and companies in Manila it is a major problem for people and companies in the rest of Luzon.
There is no route from North to South Luzon apart from going through Manila and it is so difficult to get from one side of Manila to the other that it practically cuts Luzon in two.
Any one travelling from South Luzon to North has to pass through Manila a journey that will take between 1 hour 20 minutes to 3 hours 20 minutes according to Google Maps, it has taken me 4 hours 30 minutes at times.
The cost to industry must be huge, there are industrial areas in Bulacan and Cavite that are only 49km (30 Miles) apart as the crow flies, but moving goods from one to the other is likely to take 4 hours during the day, simply because of the time it takes to get across Manila.
Many companies in North Luzon are unwilling to deliver to South Luzon and vise versa because of how long it takes.
Manila Earthquake Risk
The biggest reason why Manila is a mistake is Metro Manila sits on 2 major fault lines and with the population being 22.7 million a large earthquake could result in the biggest earthquake disaster the world has seen.
Experts predict a big Earthquake along the West Valley fault line could happen in our lifetime.
The West Valley fault line runs from the heights of Sierra Madre to Laguna. It crosses the western side of Marikina and the eastern side of Quezon City, it also passes through Pasig, Makati, Taguig and Muntinlupa.
Soft ground can be affected by liquefaction when there is an earthquake, this is when sandy sediments behave like liquid, so soft watery areas from Marikina Valley to Manila bay would feel shaking, and poorly constructed building would collapse, roads would crack and bridge could collapse.
This would probably split Manila in two with no way of getting from one part of Manila to the other. It would also completely cut North Luzon off from the rest of the Philippines.
Preparations for an Earthquake
While Manila does prepare for a big earthquake, the preparations are really only touching the edges, lack of funds being a major reason. The other reason being with routes only to the north and south getting people out of the area would be a logistical nightmare.
There is no doubt that if a big earthquake hit Manila they would need International help. As we know from Typhoon Yolanda (International name Typhoon Haiyan) that takes time, The British were the first to arrive after 5 days but could do little more than survey the damage to see where help was needed, next was the Americans with an aircraft carrier that took 6 days to arrive, now just imagine 22.7 million people waiting 6 days for help to arrive with food running out, no electric and no clean water.
Now the Philippines has better relations with China hopefully they would send help and could get to Manila quicker, China is also used to dealing with large earthquakes and have the equipment needed and it is not to far away.
Why did we say America was also at fault for Manila?
When the Americans took over the Philippines under the Treaty of Paris in 1899 we are unable to find correct figures for the population of Manila in 1899, but we can guess as the population of the Philippines was only about 9 million, that the population of Manila would not have been that big so it would have been possible to have moved the capital to a better location.
In the 10 years leading up to America taking control of the Philippines the population of New York more than doubled, so America was well aware of how fast populations in cities could grow.
If Manila is a Mistake where should the Capital be?
Not knowing the Philippines very well it is difficult to say, I have heard some Filipinos say Cebu should be the capital, but my opinion is that would have even more problems than Manila as it is on a small island.
From looking at a map and not knowing the area that well I would choose Dagupan as it is still on Luzon so on the largest island, it has a natural harbour, it is on a much wider part of Luzon so would not cause a North South bottleneck, it has room to grow and could be bypassed.
The problem is it is now to late you can’t just build a new Capital and expect 22.7 million people to leave their homes and move.
Maybe it could be done overtime. If government was moved and industry encouraged to move to a new city you would probably over time see people start moving out of Manila to the new capital, however it would not make Manila go away, the population might reduce which might ease things a bit but the majority would stay, and it would still face huge problems.