NXCities is shortlisted for The Best Conference
in MICE Awards Asia Pacific 2016

BCDA-NXCITIES Best Conference

NXCities Conference: Building the City of the Future

Manila has the worst traffic in the world, says a report released by navigation app Waze last October 2015. For the millions stuck in its gridlock, this comes as no surprise—drivers spend an average of 45 minutes stuck in traffic just to traverse the crowded few kilometers that connect business and residential hubs. Meanwhile, commuters using public transportation face daily travel times of an hour or more.

The endless rush hour is more than just an embarrassment to the Philippine government, or an inconvenience to Filipino commuters. It also comes with an enormous economic toll. According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), traffic in the capital city costs the Philippine economy P2.4 billion a day.

Low income households are particularly affected, as they must allocate 20% of their budget just for transportation expenses. These costs will become higher as traffic becomes worse.

What can be done? Haphazard urban planning throughout the years has made decongesting Manila a difficult proposition. A vital part of the solution is to move vital business and economic centers away from the capital city.

Spearheading this initiative is Clark Green City, a 9,450-hectare development under construction in Tarlac by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). “[It’s a] ‘master-planned metropolis’ 80 kilometers from Manila,” writes BCDA chairperson Ma. Aurora Geotina-Garcia. “It is seen as a concrete response to current societal problems arising from urbanization.”

What the BCDA realized, however, was that the knowledge base for building the city of the future lies outside the Philippines. What ideas could the thinkers, builders, architects, and urban planners of the best cities in the world share to help us create the next generation of Philippine cities, instead of repeating the mistakes of the past?

This became the impetus for BCDA and M2.0 Communications to partner together and create NXCities, an international conference on sustainable urban development. Not only would it be the first of its kind in the Philippines, it would also be BCDA’s platform to form lasting relationships with foreign investors.

Talking About The Big Picture

The goals of the NXCities conference were clear: To assemble thought leaders from around the world to share best practices on the sustainable urban development, and, on the part of BCDA,
to formally launch Clark Green City as the first disaster-resilient green urban development in the country.

 Through NXCities, "we want to bring urban planning and sustainable development right to the forefront," said BCDA Chief Executive Arnel Casanova.  

The biggest challenge that we faced as an agency was the one-month lead time we were given to organize the event of this scale. Envisioned as a one-day forum, to be held at Shangri-La At The Fort in Bonifacio Global City, M2.0 Communications was in charge of inviting and managing both the speakers and participants, building the event’s online portal, executing the programme, and functioning as event secretariat.

“Large-scale, international conferences are always a logistical challenge,” comments M2.0 Events Director Enya Reyes. “But this is our agency’s specialty,” she adds, as she and her team also organized the Slingshot MNL tech startup conference—again, the first of its kind in the country—for the Department of Trade & Industry.

What We Did

As agency partner, we knew we had to bring the best and brightest minds into the conference. We secured the following international speakers, including:

Karuna Gopal

Karuna Gopal, President of the Foundation for Futuristic Cities, who talked about forging partnerships between the government and its citizens in urban planning

Hans Lundberg

Hans Lundberg, Senior Advisor of the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, who discussed green city development and sustainability

Dr. Limin Hee

Dr. Limin Hee, Director of Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities, who examined the key strategies employed by the city-state to pace growth

Other participants and thought leaders in the conference included Mary Anne Ocampo of Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning, Stephen Gray of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Alfredo Pascual, president of the University of the Philippines.

M2.0 Communications’ digital team constructed a functional and beautifully-designed website to be the event’s online portal. Targeted mailers and call-outs were used to secure the participation of all important stakeholders.

In addition, 20 Japanese corporations and 4 European organizations participated in the event and expressed their enthusiasm for Clark Green City. 

Informed by ideas about the city of the future, BCDA and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp. for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN) also signed an agreement at the sidelines of the event to create a joint venture entity for Clark Green City.

A large-scale international conference on city building had never been done in the Philippines before, and NXCITIES set the bar high with the number of attendees, the quality of its speakers, and the global makeup of the both. It will become the model for similar conferences to come.

“Long-term solutions are necessary,” says Geotina-Garcia. “Careful urban planning is key to addressing the inevitable effects of urbanization and sustainability is a goal that should not be compromised.” This is the true legacy of NXCITIES—one that will echo in the future.