Keynote Speech from Karima Palafox

Karima Palafox of Palafox Architecture group served as the keynote speaker during the 2nd FairBuilding Awards last April 19.

We would like to thank Ms. Karma for her support in the advocacy of FairBuilding Network!

Read the Keynote Address by Karima Palafox below:

Esteemed guests, friends & colleagues, ladies & gentlemen,  

Good evening! Thank you to BCI for the invitation to speak tonight & be with you all as we honor this evening’s awardees.

May i begin by expressing my heartfelt congratulations to Matthias & the rest of the leadership & the whole team of BCI Philippines. I attended your launch of the Fairbuilding Network four years ago and it is great to see that it has truly become a gamechanger in the building sector – in its success in connecting leading construction companies and partners in the industry, to nonprofit groups & social developers working to provide homes to many Filipinos.

The last few years have been fruitful for real estate in the Philippines. Many of you in the room have contributed greatly to the boom of the property & construction industry, which has become one of the biggest job generators for the country.

We have seen the surge in demand for residential, office, industrial & retail spaces, continuous increase in lease rates & land values. More & more destinations are being developed for tourism. Value is being created in different islands and regions, when previously it was very much concentrated only in Metro Manila, Cebu & Davao. 

We must remember, however, that these trends are not the only indicators of progress.

My work as an urban and environmental planner the last 15 years has allowed me to interact with many urban and rural communities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. A common challenge is that the less privileged – many of them host communities of big industries – are disenfranchised from basic needs like land, shelter, clean water, power, and access to education and livelihood.

With the increasing land values in cities, we have priced out our key workers and the urban poor from decent homes within accessible distances. Many workers who work here in Makati CBD for example have to go through  2-3 hours – or more – of harrowing commute a day to get to work from home. Those who cannot afford to live near the city center or such transport expenses live in slums. There are approximately 585,000 informal settler families in Metro Manila. Nationwide, the estimate is 1.5 million. By 2022, the estimated total housing need is 6.7 million. We have a housing crisis that is rarely talked about.

There are likewise thousands of people that have been displaced by natural disasters and by conflict. Until today, there are hundreds of dislocated families from 2013’s Zamboanga city crisis and Typhoon Haiyan  that have not been provided decent homes. 

I visited Marawi City in November and again on Christmas Day last year. It was heartbreaking to hear stories of what our Maranao brothers & sisters, soldiers and policemen, fellow Filipinos went through during the five months of the siege.

About 400,000 individuals or 77,000 families were displaced. Many people were hurt and perished, and the city has been heavily damaged. 

However, the crisis also presents opportunities to build back better.  We have with us tonight Tindig Marawi – led by actor Mr Robin Padilla.  It is inspiring that out of a crisis, good-hearted people choose to help in rebuilding lives and homes and in giving hope. Although not a property developer, he and his colleagues in the entertainment industry have pulled resources together and resolved to provide homes for hundreds of families, a school, and livelihood center. Tindig Marawi is looking forward to partner with many of you.

We have a lot of work to do in terms of achieving sustainability goals in our built & natural environment. Thank you to BCI, the awardees, nonprofit partners and social developers for teaching us that there are tools, experts willing to help, best practices and lessons available to us in transforming our towns & cities for the better. 

 In 2050, there will be about 50 million more Filipinos. 38 million of them will be living in cities. I hope that we’ll be able to provide better choices before then. This will be an opportunity to revitalize our existing cities, and create new places that are properly planned & managed.




It would be great to see how we can do things differently. We’re a nation of great minds that will be able to reimagine better futures for our people. There needs to be a collective decision & action to build more inclusive, well-connected, greener, healthier, safer, and more resilient cities and communities.

Again, congratulations to the awardees being honored tonight and to everyone who is part of the Fairbuilding Network.

Thank you & enjoy the rest of your evening!