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An artist impression of the New Clark City development in the Philippines. [Photo/Agencies]

Planned city in Philippines will be equipped to handle "climate shocks"

CLARK, The Philippines - He may never set foot in New Clark City, but taxi driver Edgard Labitag hopes the Philippines" first green, disaster-resilient, high-tech metropolis will ease the pressure on Manila - meaning fewer hours stuck in traffic and more time with his children.

On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, the 42-year-old at the wheel bemoaned another shift spent inching along the congested streets of the capital city of 13 million people.

"Crowding, pollution and traffic - this is what people say about Manila," he said, gesturing at the gridlock.

"But luckily the government has a plan ... and (President Rodrigo) Duterte is the right man to see it through."

That plan is New Clark, a 9,450-hectare city that officials say will be bigger than New York"s Manhattan by the time it is completed in 25 to 30 years - with an expected population of more than 1.2 million.

The aim is to build a city equipped to deal with climate shocks in one of the world"s most cyclone-affected regions, and to promote healthy, eco-friendly and sustainable living by putting nature at the heart of development, urban experts say.

Reflecting a rising trend from Japan and India to the United States, New Clark seeks to challenge conventional urban planning by uniting government, developers, business and the public - and proving that green and resilient cities can be cost-effective.

"The objective is not simply to build a disaster-resilient city, but rather a successful, innovative and economically competitive city that is also disaster-resilient," said Benjamin Preston, a researcher at RAND Corporation, a global think tank.

New Clark is still in its infancy, but officials say Duterte is fast-tracking the project as the Philippines, one of Asia"s fastest-growing economies in 2017, seeks to boost spending on infrastructure to create jobs and attract more foreign firms.

Yet even as the government races to build New Clark and tackle Manila"s booming population, density and congestion, it must plan the new city with care and avoid past mistakes, said the state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority.