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What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

Do you want to be an Urban Planner? Do you think you have the skills and knowledge to become one? Do you want to provide solutions to housing issues, traffic congestion, pollution, flooding, poverty, and other systemic problems? Do you think you have the heart and grit to plan communities, municipalities, and cities? Do you want to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines?


Similar to other professions like doctors, engineers, architects, nurses, teachers, etc.; to become an Urban Planner requires a person to pass a licensure government examination. The Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) conducts the examination once a year. Passing the examination would mean a person can practice the profession for the duration of three years (renewable every three years). The person will be a registered professional and may now accept work related to urban planning.


What is Urban Planning? Is it different from an Environmental Planner? Is it different from Town Planning or City Planning in other countries?


There is a Philippine Law that governs the Practice of Urban Planning profession in the country. The law is Republic Act No. 10587 also known as “Environmental Planning Act of 2013”. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/05/27/republic-act-no-10587/

Urban Planning is synonymous with Environmental Planning. It means they are the same in the Philippines alongside regional planning, city planning, town and country planning, and/or human settlements planning. However, Environmental Planning is the term used in Republic Act No. 10587.


“Environmental planning, also known as urban and regional planning, city planning, town and country planning, and/or human settlements planning, refers to the multi-disciplinary art and science of analyzing, specifying, clarifying, harmonizing, managing and regulating the use and development of land and water resources, in relation to their environs, for the development of sustainable communities and ecosystems.” – RA 10587 SEC. 4. (a)


The definition is quite complex and intriguing. I will try to explain the parts of the definition as best as I can as follows:


Multi-disciplinary – This means that there are numerous fields of study, discipline, and professions that make up Urban Planning. Urban Planners come from various professions such as Architecture, Engineering, Public Administration and other Social Sciences, etc. This also means that Urban Planners work in teams. Though in the news, we may hear famous urban planners planning important sites/projects, it doesn’t mean that he/she planned it alone. A reliable team is behind a good masterplan. Issues like pollution, traffic congestion, flooding, etc. need a multi-disciplinary team composed of members from different discipline to analyze and provide viable solutions to these challenges.


Art and Science – Science is a system or collection of knowledge related to Urban Planning. The knowledge is comprised of multi-disciplinary fields of study and discipline. Art is application of this knowledge (Science) in real situations usually providing intervention to current issues, and challenges. Sometimes, a very good plan is shelved because stakeholders does not support or commit to the plan. A good project is sometimes rejected due to political implications. Art and Science in Urban Planning should go hand in hand.


Analyzing, specifying, clarifying, harmonizing, managing and regulating – This shows that Urban Planning is a process. This starts from identifying the issues (present and future) important to stakeholders. This also shows that the team does not provide ready solutions or projects to address an issue. Urban Planners need to analyze the local context or situation and work with stakeholders (support/commitment) in all of the steps of the process. The Planning process should be implemented with, by, and for the stakeholders.


Use and development of land and water resources – Land and water are finite resources. It means that these resources are limited. Land in the countryside is usually used for agriculture (food production) while land in the city is so scarce that buildings (vertical development) are made to accommodate users (residents, commercial, etc.). Land may be used as landfill of solid wastes, housing units, recreational centers, schools and government buildings, factories, etc. Different stakeholders have different ideas (conflicts) on how they will use their land. The Urban Planner make sure that these lands are used judiciously thru the formulation of a Land Use Plan enforced through a Local Zoning Ordinance (Law). Clean Drinking water is also an issue specially in cities wherein they have a remote water source. Over-consumption or wasting of clean water leading to problem in supply affects the health, sanitation, and activities of residents. The Urban Planner should plan carefully on how to secure a sustainable safe water source and ensure pragmatic use of these water resources.


Relation to their environs – Environs are the areas around the site (ex. city) that is being planned. This may be neighboring cities or municipalities, mountainous regions, water bodies, ports, heritage sites, dumpsite, watersheds, etc. The environs provide natural resources and services that affect the planning area. A city beside a denuded mountain will put the city at risk of landslide and flooding. A Barangay beside an ocean is at risk of storm surge during typhoon season. A subdivision project beside a penitentiary will require additional security. An over-extracted or contaminated watershed will affect the water supply of its neighboring towns and cities. Urban Planners plan not only their planning areas but also plans in relation to its environment.


Development of sustainable communities and ecosystems – Sustainable Development in the Brundtland Report is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are expected conflicts between the needs of the community at present and the needs of the ecosystem (environment). Natural resources serve as source of livelihood, provide protection and other environmental benefits. Some examples are mangroves, forests, watershed, mountains with mineral deposits or infrastructure raw materials, etc.

Extraction of these resources provide livelihood and development to communities. Over-extraction would usually result in increase risk of danger in communities (specially the indigent communities). The role of the Urban Planner is to make sure that communities extract these resources without endangering their lives and properties as well as ensuring that the future generations will also enjoy these resources.


According to Republic Act No. 10587 an “Environmental planner refers to a person who is registered and licensed to practice environmental planning and who holds a valid Certificate of Registration and a valid Professional Identification Card from the Board of Environmental Planning and the Professional Regulation Commission.” Thus, to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines, you must be eligible to take and pass the exam.


I will discuss about the Eligibility Requirements for a person to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam on my next blog. You need to plan your life first (to be eligible for the exam) before you actually plan your community. You may need two to five years (2-5 years) preparation to qualify for the exam depending on your experience and academic background.


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!


If you are interested to know more about the job / responsibilities of an Urban Planner Click this link – https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=269

If you want to Know more about the Eligibility Requirement to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam click this link: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=286

5 Tips on How to Manage Stress and Anxiety; How to Take Care of your Mental Health during Tough Times

September is “Suicide Prevention Month”. I remember one cousin who took her own life a decade ago. I see people on the verge of stress only a hairline away or already probably thinking of hurting themselves. Life is precious. You are precious.

I started and decided to embark on a personal journey. I was stressed and decided to write this topic to all of you who are also stressed right now.

Just like me, some of you might be in the stage of starting something new. You might be wondering if you still fit in your current work/careers, academic courses, relationships, etc. Probably you are also stressed about the annoying adjustment to this COVID 19 pandemic. All this thinking and frustration together with actual hardships are giving you mental stress. What should you do?

I am not a psychometrician,  a psychologist, nor a psychiatrist. What I’ll share in this blog are some of my observations and experiences I learned from my 45 years of existence. Some are really practical. I believe you already knew them but somehow forgot and took them for granted.

As a Filipino, we were trained to be timid, giving, hospitable, and to first look out for the needs of others before ourselves. It is outright selfishness to look out for yourself first. This creates a sense of guilt if you are trying to lead and not be satisfied as a team player or a good follower. It taught us to be just ordinary. Smart-shaming is the norm. You are afraid to excel and to lead because it is uncool.

It is also rude to speak out your mind to elders when not asked, much worse is to argue and discuss issues against their beliefs. We were told that there are good things and bad things and God punishes bad deeds. And it is important to always do good deeds even if it will cost a level of misery on your part. We were trained to follow. Sacrifice is good as long it is for the betterment of everybody.

This in a way, made us miserable. We became submissive, people pleasers, and afraid to reach our potential. Some rebelled, took risks, failed, got up and became stronger to the estrangement of their loved ones and communities. Some just submitted to the norm and live wondering what could have been if they only decided to try extraordinary things. People became unhappy in both situations. It is a lose-lose situation.

You might be agreeing with me or you might be negating all I’ve stated. But as I have said, all these came from my personal observation and experience.

The problem from all I’ve stated earlier is it seems that our happiness and contentment are based on the acts of others or our acts towards other people. We want affirmation and recognition from people who want us to just be ordinary. We want to please people to the exclusion of our own happiness.

Are you seeing the problem now?

Now let’s talk about change. Yeah, yeah, change is inevitable, it is the only thing in the world that remains constant, blah, blah, blah. And you are right! You know this already.

I’ll give you different scenarios. Just imagine yourself in the given scenarios.

1. You just graduated high school or college. Those are the best years of your life. Then, the following school year, you went back to your school/university because you terribly missed your school. You see two or three past classmates that are still there but they are rushing to their classes, the teachers saw you and said “hi” but then off they go to their classes, or you went to the cafeteria or the photocopier operator and they were also happy to see you, but then that’s it. How do you feel? Do you feel like everything and everyone moved on with their lives? Do you feel like a stranger in your once happy place?

Similar situation. You resigned from work for whatever reason. Your work is your happy place. You feel like your coworkers are your family. You’ve been together through ups and downs. You went back after a month to catch up. They are happy to see you. But then after a few minutes, they get back to work. Do you feel disappointed?

You went on a vacation with your group of friends or family. It was so much fun. You took many pictures and experienced new things with them. It brought you closer together. After a year, you went back to the same place with a different group. It is the same place. But doesn’t it feel different now?

2. You just started school. You are excited. You are already dreaming of your graduation day. You feel that finishing your course would really help you achieve something in your life. Then, here comes a terror teacher. All of your classmates are really terrified and afraid. You talked about it, whined, vented, and got really angry. However, at the end of the semester/year, they passed and you didn’t. What happened? They changed and adapted to the system. While you are venting, they are already studying double time. You didn’t know that. They changed along the way. You didn’t. Are you going to get angry at them?

3. You are a parent. In search of a higher salary or livelihood, you decided to work abroad. You left your family and your kids. In order to save, you only took a month’s vacation every two years. After ten years, you decide that you have enough savings and you’ll go back home to start a business. But by the time you decide to be with your family, your kids are all grown-up and they already have their own lives. You now ask yourself:  Is it worth it? Was there an alternative? You’re left just cherishing and reminiscing about the time they were small and still all over you.

This is “change.” Change is neither good or bad. Change comes even if you do nothing. You need to learn to deal with it.

Most of the time the acts, opinions, and standards of other people that we self-imposed on ourselves and our resistance to change or actual changes are the cause of our stress and anxiety that leads to our misery.

Ok, so how do we deal with misery and change? How do we become contented, happy, and have control of our life? Here are some few tips.

1. Learn to be selfish. Love yourself.
Yes, be selfish. Look after yourself. Invest in yourself. Do something you like. Travel. Paint. Learn a musical instrument. Blog (like me!). Vlog. Get coffee, milktea, or your favorite drink or food. Buy something (of course within your capability) that you’ve always wanted to buy. (For me, it’s a Voltes V die-cast toy – someday!) Don’t mind what other people will say. Just do something you really like to do. It is okay if it is just a material thing. Reward yourself.

Why? If your goal is to help or make people happy, you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot help others if you yourself are broken. Love yourself. You deserve it.

2. Accept Change; Start Change; Change from within.
From the 3 scenarios I raised earlier, it seemed that the world moved on except the person. The person is a passive victim of change. That person longs for the good old days which he/she also knows that will not come back.

Accept change! The world moved on, so be it. Be thankful for the past and the experience. Cherish it but do not live in the past.

Start Change! Think of it this way: People around you change – either they get better or get worse. Even if you do nothing, they will also think you’ve changed. Did you get better or worse? There is no pause, no status quo.

Change from within. You are frustrated because you felt that they all changed. But on the other hand, they thought you’ve changed too. So, the best thing to do now is take control of your change. Embrace it! Plan for it.

During high school or college reunions, there is always this one person who remembers every little detail of the past as if it just happened yesterday. Truly, it is his happy place. Enjoy their stories, reminisce, smile, and laugh with them. After that, move on, get back to reality until the next get-together.

3. Find your anchor, your safe place, find your people.
Find your anchor, your safe place, and your people. It is not important if they are family members or friends, if they number to 100 or just 2, nor if you see them everyday or just twice a year. These are the people who are genuinely happy for you, who love you unconditionally, who are willing to listen to all your rant or nonsense, and who are willing to tell you hurtful truths without feeling self-righteous. They may be your siblings, parents, spouse, classmates, colleagues, or old friends.

They are the people who have decided that you’ll be part of their life. They may be bored to be with, they may not be that awesome, but they are there for you. There are only a few of them. But they are there. You’ll know them in times when you are really down. However, don’t expect too much from them, don’t be too demanding, do not abuse them.  Be thankful for their time, for listening without judging, for being your emotional support group.

If they also feel down, give back, listen to time, give them time, reciprocate.

4. Empower yourself.
Two things I learned from Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book are tips on how to somehow get control of your life as follows:
i. Know your circle of influence and circle of concern
ii. Learn how to prioritize

You can control how you’ll spend your day/week/month (influence) but at the same time you cannot control the attitude of other people (concern).
If you focus on things you cannot control, you’ll be frustrated and unhappy. However, if you focus on things you have control, you’ll be productive, you’ll see results, you’ll feel good with your accomplishments, no matter how small. And who knows, in due time, because of your cumulative achievements/success, that person whom you didn’t like the attitude becomes your employee or your same-level colleague, you now have the power to influence that person. From an outside circle of concern, that person is now under your circle of influence. Expand your circle of influence. Work on things you have control with.

Learn how to prioritize. In the 7 habits book, it says that you start with the things that are important and not urgent so they don’t become urgent and important. If you have too many urgent and important things to do, demanding your time and attention – all at the same time, Isn’t that stressful?

For me I keep a daily to do list on my phone (calendar). I mixed my to-do list with small tasks that I know I can easily accomplish. It feels good if you accomplish all your to do list. It is empowering. However, there are times that you really cannot finish it all. By including the small tasks, in a way, you still feel accomplished at the end of the day. You have a personal sense of accomplishment. If you want to watch a movie on your phone, put it in your to-do list for that day and check it out if you are done watching. I usually make my to-do list the night before the following day.

5. Take control of your life
Stop blaming others for what happened to your life. By blaming others, you absolve yourself, as if you did not make a mistake. You convinced yourself that it’s not you and that it’s them who are responsible. You are the victim of their doings. What is wrong with this mindset? You didn’t learn anything from your past.

Do you believe that we learn from our mistakes? If you do not own your mistakes, do you think you’ll learn from them? If experience is the best teacher, what did we learn from our experience? Nothing if we blame others. Stop blaming others but also do not blame yourself. It will not solve anything. Learn from it. 

Always try your best to manage extreme emotions. Not emotions but only the”extreme” ones. Do not decide when you are experiencing extreme emotions such as anger, sadness, happiness, etc. – let the emotion pass first until your cooler head prevails. Wait until you can think and decide clearly. Some examples are you are too happy and decide to ask to marry someone even if it is not true love or buy things you cannot afford; you are too sad that you decided to hurt yourself, or you are too angry you end up doing bad to others. Let the emotion cool down first.

Enjoy the journey. Feel the hardships. Always challenge yourself. If it is not difficult, it means you already know it, if it’s difficult, it means you’re going to learn something new from it. Invest in yourself. This may be in the form of venturing a new project, hobby or business, deciding to go to a gym or train for a marathon, studying a new degree or skills, or starting a new relationship. Look for something you really like to do and do it. Find an advocacy and support it.

Enjoy the present. As I’ve said earlier, things change. You cannot bring back exactly your past. But that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the present and look forward to your future. If you have school, office, or family reunions, enjoy it, enjoy their present company. If you’re having a hard time studying, break it up into small topics and study everyday. Give yourself a reward every time you learn something new. Cherish the process. If you realized that you missed the time your kids grew up, don’t fret, enjoy their company today. Perhaps now, you can drink together and have barbecues, go on a vacation or road trip together, get to know their partners or spouses, and look forward to your possible grandchildren. There is no “too late”, Everything happens in its perfect time.

It’s ok to love yourself and be awesome. Celebrate life, celebrate the journey, celebrate family and friends, and celebrate change. You deserve to be happy.

Love Letter ❤❤❤ to my Baby Girl on her 18th Birthday

To my Baby Girl (Meg),

Happy 18th Birthday Anak!

You could have been born in August 22 or 23, 2003. But I decided that you get born on August 21 because it is a Holiday. I planned to always celebrate with you on your birthday.

Your mother waited more than 12 hours in the labor room when she gave birth to you. But when we first saw you, it was all worth the wait, we saw the most beautiful and cutest baby in the whole world.

You got your name from me (minus the letter M). We also think that Erin is a strong/fighter’s name (like Erin Brockovich). Gabrielle on the other hand means “God is my Strength”. It is also a name of a guardian angel. We want to make sure that a guardian angel is always watching/guiding you. You are a strong person, anak.

You are our first born. We became parents because of you. You are the world to us.

You are loved. You are the only girl among your siblings. You are the “ate” of Troy and Derek. They look up to you. Your siblings are always there to listen and care for you. They love you unconditionally even if you are sometimes grouchy and short-tempered to them. Always remember that they will always be there for you. Love them back, anak.

You are intelligent. No matter how you downplay your intelligence. Don’t convince yourself that you are just average. You know you are not. Don’t be too self-conscious and too afraid to shine.

You are talented. Everybody knows. Always challenge yourself to become better. Do not rush things. Greatness takes time. Always remember “if it’s giving you a hard time, it’s because you’re learning”. Don’t stop improving. Never be complacent. You have what it takes to succeed. You have the talent.

You have full of opportunities ahead of you. Yes, there were setbacks. But you learned early from those experiences. It made you a better and a stronger person. You now know how to avoid, deal, and learn from failures. You now cherish and make the most of opportunities coming your way. Your mother and I will always try our best to provide life’s opportunities to you, anak. But we could only do as much, the rest is up to you.

Welcome acquiantances but carefully choose your friends. I understand that in this stage of your life – you crave for acceptance and belonginess from friends. Be careful in choosing your friends. Never beg for friendship. There are so many people in the world you can be friends with. One thing I am sure of – Troy and Derek are not only your siblings but your friends forever.

Avoid exploiters around you. You may find them in school, in your workplace or among your circle of friends or acquiantances. They are everywhere, learn to spot them. They take advantage of other people for their own gain. They only look after their own interest (selfish). They are the credit-grabbers. They bring drama. Cut them out of your life or if you cannot avoid them, learn to manage your relationships with them. Don’t let them use and abuse you. On the other hand, be also conscious that you do not become like them. Be good. Be fair.
Choose your battles. You cannot fight everything that comes your way. You cannot change or control attitudes of other people. You can only change yourself and how you think and react to situations. It is better to be silent on small things (let it go) and be bold and outspoken on the most important things.

Always, always challenge yourself but do not make it a habit to compare yourself with others. Every person has his own journey. Life is not a race. Some succeed early while others later in life. Compete with yourself, be better everyday, keep moving forward.

Be a good person. Always choose to do good to others. Even if others are not doing it.

Give back. Give forward. Share. Be thankful to (appreciate) people who have helped you and will help you in the future. Always share your time and talents to your family. Always be there for your siblings. Be generous with your resources – treasures, time, and talent.

Choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice. If bad things happen, and bad things really do happen in life, always look at the bright side. There is always a bright side. Always learn from experience. Practice choosing happiness over despair. Your happiness is our happiness.

Again anak, you are a good person. You are strong, intelligent, talented, and dearly loved. Smile more. Choose to be happy always. We are forever here for you.

We love you very much. I love you so much my Baby Girl.

Happy 18th Birthday!

Love,
Dad

Stakeholders Participation in time of Pandemic, Arnstein’s Level of Participation, and Realities on the Ground

Stakeholders participation is one of my favorite topics for several reasons. First is because I served as an elected Barangay Kagawad (Community/grassroot level government) when I was 18 years of age and served for almost 13 years. I relate and I was part of the lowest level of government representing my community. Second is Masters Degree is Public Management major in Local Government and Regional Administration wherein we were taught incessantly the importance of partnerships with stakeholders. Third is I learned about Arnstein’s Level of Participation when I took my Post-Graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning. I understood why it is an integral part of the planning process. Fourth and last is I am somewhat guilty of setting aside stakeholders’ consultations now that I am a City Planner. This was also pointed out by one of my fellow planners in my one of my blog entries.

In my blog entry – Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant, I narrated how our team formulated our CDP without the help of a planning consultant. My objective in that article was to inspire other LGUs who have limited staff and resources that they too can start and finish their CDP without hiring costly consultants. I’m not against consultants – we hire consultants to help us in formulating very technical plans. But in this situation, we need to finish the plan fast for compliance. We tried to follow the guidelines steps using outputs from other plans as inputs. However, in our zeal to finish the plan on time, aside from doing away with outside consultants, we also limited the participation of stakeholders. I plan that this will not happen again in the future.

As planners we tend to sometimes take for granted the importance of public consultation – Soliciting inputs from our constituents. We focused on the technical and theoretical aspects we learned from schools. We want to apply all of them. We feel we know more than our clients. We are licensed urban planners. But to whom are we making all these plans? Who will be greatly affected by our plans? I think, it is fair and also practical to listen and take note of what they want and need and incorporate them in the plan or project.

Who are these stakeholders? This is a very tricky and controversial question. And we are all entitled to our opinions (so let us not argue). It all depends in your context. I’ll just enumerate some of the possible list of stakeholders based on my experience as follows: national and local elected officials, other government agencies, non-government organizations, professional and private organizations and institutions, religious and community groups, influential people in your neighborhood, indigents (poor communities), disadvantaged groups like persons with disabilities, senior citizens, women, youth, children, and the future generation (our future grandchildren) – they are also stakeholders, among others. The mix of your stakeholders depends on the plan or project. I cannot give you a guide on how to choose them because it is context based. Usually, I look for organized groups and ask their President or secretary to participate in a meeting / consultation. How about the children and future generation – who will represent them? As planner, I suggest you yourself should think of them and become their advocate when formulating plans and implementing projects.

Arnstein’s Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Participation 

What it is public participation? There are many templates but I’ll just discuss the basic level of participation of Arnstein. According to Arnstein, participation of the governed in their government is, in theory, the cornerstone of democracy. It is a revered idea that is vigorously applauded by virtually everyone. Citizen participation for her is citizen power. Citizen power is the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded from the socio-political process, to be deliberately included in the future. It is the strategy by which the powerless join in determining how information is shared, goals and policies are set, budgets are allocated, programs are operated, and benefits like contracts and patronage are parceled out. In summary, it is the means by which the powerless can induce significant social reform which enables them to share in the benefits of the affluent society.

Arnstein identified, enumerated and described the Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Participation from her observation from 1,000 Community Action programs involved in the 150 Model Cities programs in late 1960s.

The bottom rungs of the ladder are (1) Manipulation and (2) Therapy and aptly described as non-participation. The objective of Manipulation and Therapy is not to enable people to participate in planning or conducting programs, but to enable powerholders to “educate” or “cure” the participants.

(1) Manipulation are when in the guised of participation, people are placed on rubberstamp advisory committees or advisory boards for the sole purpose of “educating” them or engineering their support. It shows the distortion of participation into a public relations vehicle by powerholders. It is used to “prove” that “grassroots” people are involved in the program.

(2) Therapy is when the government administrators which are mental health experts (from social workers to psychiatrists) assume that powerless is synonymous with mental illness. Under a masquerade of involving citizens in planning, the experts subject the citizens to clinical group therapy. It is both dishonest and arrogant. The participants are brought together to help them “adjust their values and attitudes to those of the larger society.”

Rungs (3) Informing, (4) Consultation, and (5) Placation are in the level of “Tokenism”. In this level, the have-nots are allowed to be heard and have a voice. However, they still lack the power to insure their views will be heeded by the powerful. There is no followthrough, no “muscle”, hence no assurance of changing the status quo. It allowed have-nots to advise, but retain for the powerholders the continued right to decide.

(3) Informing emphasizes on a one-way flow of information (from officials to citizen) with no channel provided for feedback and no power for negotiation. The most frequent tools use for such one-way communication are the news media, pamphlets, posters, and responses to inquiries.

(4) Consultation is when the government invite citizens to air their opinions. However, if consulting them is not combined with other modes of participation, it is still a sham because it offers no assurance that citizen concerns and ideas will be considered. The most common methods are attitude surveys, neighborhood meetings, and public hearings.

(5) Placation allows citizens to advise but the powerholders retain the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice. An example of a placation strategy is to place a few hand-picked “worthy” poor on committees or public bodies. The degree to which citizens are actually placated depends on two factors: (a) the quality of technical assistance they have in articulating their priorities; and (b) the extent to which the community has been organized to press for those priorities. In placation, people are being planned for and the major planning decision s are being made by the powerholders.

In the higher rung of the ladder is the Degrees of Citizen Power. (6) Partnership enables the have-nots to negotiate and engage in trade-offs with traditional powerholders. (7) Delegated Power and (8) Citizen Control are situations wherein have-nots obtain the majority of decision-making seats, or full managerial power.

(6) Partnership happens when the power is redistributed through negotiations between the citizens and powerholders. They agree to share planning and decision-making responsibilities through such structures as joint policy boards, planning committees and mechanisms for resolving impasses. Partnership can work most effectively when there is an organized power-base in the community to which the citizen leaders are accountable; when the citizens group has the financial resources to pay its leaders reasonable honoraria for the time-consuming efforts; and when the group has the resources to hire (and fire) its own technicians, lawyers, and community organizers.

(7) Delegated power is characterized when the citizens achieve the dominant decision-making authority over a particular plan or program. The citizens assure accountability of the program. To resolve differences, powerholders need to start the bargaining process rather than respond to pressure from the other end. Citizen may hire its own planning staff and consultants. Some uses citizen veto if difference of opinion cannot be resolved through negotiation. Examples of powers delegated are policy-making, hiring and firing, and issuing subcontracts for building, buying or leasing.

(8) Citizen Control is when the citizen governs a program or an institution, be in full charge of policy and managerial aspects, and be able to negotiate the conditions. One example is a neighborhood corporation with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds. There is no one in the nation who has absolute control.

Application of the Eight Rungs of Participation in Local Government Units

Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 mandates Local Government Units to include civil society organizations (CSOs) in local special bodies (LSB) or committees. The Code states that the presence of CHOs should not be lower than 25% of the total membership of an LSB. This ensures that CSOs are represented in LSBs.

The Local Development Council is the planning council of an LGU. 25% of its members should come from the CSOs. But how do we choose which CSOs would become a member of the council?

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) released Memorandum Circular No. 2019-72 on May 22, 2019 entitled Guidelines on Accreditation of Civils Society Organizations and Selection of Representatives to the Local Special Bodies. In the guidelines, all CSOs will be called to a meeting and would elect among themselves their representatives in various LSBs including the Local Development Council.

DILG MC No. 2019-72

In our city, our office assisted the DILG in inviting the CSOs and the conduct of the program. The CSO themselves voted and identified their representatives. The process is very transparent.

Based on the Eight Rungs of Participation, the membership of the CSOs on the LSBs fall in the Placation level. They have the power to advise but the majority and later the local sanggunian(council) retain the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.

There is an attempt and a past program of the national government that resembles the Delegated Power rung in the Eight Rungs of Participation. I believe the years were 2013-2016 when the national government implemented the Bottom-up Budgeting (BUB) program. In the program, the LGU organized the CSOs and the CSO elected their officers. A specific fund from the national government was downloaded to the LGU for the program. The CSOs chooses from a set of project menu the projects they want implemented given that the fund is already promised and available. A series of capacity building activities were conducted to the CSOs. The CSO chose their preferred projects.

The CSOs thought that the budget for the projects would be directly sent to their bank accounts, in effect most of them opened a bank account. They also thought that they themselves would conduct their own bidding process and chose the supplier or company that will supply/construct their projects. In the initial stages, I felt that the national government is also trying to figure out how it will be implemented. I also feel uncomfortable because of the accountability issue. Are CSOs accountable for the money that will be downloaded directly to them? What is the accountability of the LGU?  

A series of memoranda (DBM-DILG-DSWD-NAPC JMCs) from the national government finally cleared things out. The LGU is still accountable. The projects shall undergo government policies and accounting procedures. The BUB projects shall be implemented by the concerned department of the LGU. The role of the CSOs were reduced to choosing the projects, beneficiaries, and monitoring. However, the BUB program resembled Delegated Power rung wherein the citizens achieve the dominant decision-making authority over a particular plan or program.

People’s Participation during the Pandemic

Government programs and projects did not stop during this pandemic. Priorities changed but the implementation of the projects continued. Planning activities continued. The question is “how do we ensure people’s participation during the pandemic when most people are not allowed to go out due to lockdowns or quarantines?”

What we did is made use of technology. We conducted online meetings via Zoom or Google meet platforms. We conducted the annual investment planning (AIP) workshops via the same platform. However, it is my personal opinion that such online meetings are limited. It cannot replace the small talks related to work, and the ease of discussing related or other matters observed during physical meetings.

Following the thinking of Arnstein wherein the have-nots are at a disadvantage in citizen’s participation, it is obvious that the pandemic and the use of technology further alienated them from participating.

Not all people have mobile phones and laptops nor resources to pay for internet services. Some are not adept in the zoom or google meet app. Others do not even have email addresses.

Government should conduct activities capacitating CSOs in the use of this technology. But how can government capacitate them when the mode of training is done via the platform that we want them to learn. This is quite tricky. I also do not have the answer on this issue. I just hope that the pandemic would end soon and we’ll all go back to normal or new normal wherein we can conduct meetings in person.

When I present in meetings, I always end my slides with the quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“government of the people, by the people, for the people”

I then partnered it with this quote:

“planning of the people, by the people, for the people”

If you have any comments, inputs, reactions or suggestions, feel free to comment in the comment section. I wish you and your family good health during this pandemic.

Reference: Arnstein, Sherry R.(1969) ‘A Ladder Of Citizen Participation’, Journal of the American Planning Association, 35: 4, 216 — 224

Urban Planning: Utopia?

Utopia is a word coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as an imaginary island enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc. It is also considered as an ideal place or state or any visionary system of political or social perfection.

This entry is one of my essays submitted to the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP SURP) in 2014 when I was still a student taking my post-graduate education. I thought it would be interesting and informative to share this essay.

Utopia in the context of Urban Planning

Utopia is a word coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as an imaginary island enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc. It is also considered as an ideal place or state or any visionary system of political or social perfection (Dictionary.com). Utopia is based on the imagination and discontentment of Moore to the present situation. Thus, several people crafted and designed an ideal place (utopia) that later became popular and the basis of effective urban planning.

Ebenezer Howard (1898) introduced the Garden City. It is a settlement designed with the central business district (CBD) in the middle of the city and its outer rings composed of greenbelt and residential areas, respectively. The center is accessible with road networks and railways along its periphery. The concept is a combination of town (urban) and country (rural) perceived advantages.

Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City

Jane Jacobs (1961) on the other hand was critical of the Garden City idea due to its insensitive planned development. She put emphasis on the importance of people looking after each other in one’s neighborhood and their important role in planning.

Daniel Burnham (1890s) on the other hand, focused on creating big plans. He emphasized orderliness and harmony of form usually on a grand scale. Burnham is famous for his quote to wit:

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” “Make no little plans. They have no Magic to stir Men’s blood.”

Based on Howard, Jacobs, and Burnham; it is easy to conclude that there is no definite definition, design or concept of a Utopia. It is based on the actual needs and preference of the people, the resources available, and the political will of leaders. Therefore, the concept of Utopia is different from person to person.

My Personal Utopia

My definition of Utopia comes close to my definition of my “home”. A home is where I feel comfortable, happy, satisfied, safe, and a place to enjoy the company of my loved ones. It includes my immediate family, neighborhood and community. It is a place where I am free to develop and cultivate. It is a place where I am protected from external threats. It is more of my emotional feeling than the physical building itself. My home (my utopia) fulfills and satisfies my needs and provides tranquility. With this in mind, allow me to explore my perceived needs in different timelines so that I may understand and appreciate my utopia as an individual before I try to recommend a possible utopia for the city or country.

Twenty five years ago, I would have imagined my utopia as a place where I can be with my friends / classmates / family. A place where we can have fun either swimming in an ocean or a clean river or enjoying a game of basketball in a covered court. I am thinking more of a suburb with complete facilities and friendly neighbors. I could have also wished then for a near high quality school (University) to learn and explore both my strengths and weaknesses in the academic field and be involved in extracurricular activities.

At present, my priority is to establish a good future for my 3 kids. I want an unpolluted and safe environment that is free from criminality. I want good schools for my kids with good and available scholarship programs. I want to participate in community development. I want to be involved in how the government decides on things that will affect my family’s well-being. I want to have access to quality basic social services. I want to have a good source of livelihood to support the needs of my family and prepare for our future needs.  I want to raise well-rounded smart kids. My utopia at present is more of a mixed use site with access to schools (preferably a university town), source of livelihood, and safe residential areas. I have no issue with mixed use buildings in a central business district (CBD) but I prefer to live in a suburb with good access to the CBD (thru roads and efficient public transport system).

Fifteen years from now, my kids will have already finished their college education and probably starting to establish their individual lives. I am imagining myself spending more quality time with my spouse with a more than modest source of livelihood and busy in volunteer work. It will surely be the period of giving back to the community and playing a more active role in its management and development. I might run for public office (who knows?) or travel and enjoy other places in the world. Still I look forward to a safe and secured environment with friendly neighbors. I may want to be near/or have access to health institutions and the houses of my kids.

Twenty five years from now, I believe I will already be a grandfather with a very different set of needs. I still want to live in a safe environment that is near my kids and grandchildren’s houses. I want to have another house closer to nature (beach, farm, etc.). I may also need to be near hospitals. I hope (that’s the plan) that I have prepared and accumulated enough resources to provide for my needs in my ageing days. I may have an advocacy or may have already written and published books on different topics of interest. I still want to travel and enjoy the beautiful things in other parts of the planet. I sure would want to be still adept in that time’s latest technology (that would be exciting!).

My Utopia at the City/Country Level

Just like me, I believe every person envisions his/her own form of utopia and this vision changes as his/her need changes. However, as a city planner, I cannot exclude certain segments and must try to bring a desired utopia for all age groups. Thus, I would like to describe my idea of a Philippine Utopia both from a user’s and planner’s perspective. My hypothetical utopia is a combination of Howard’s and Jacob’s basic principles with the grandeur of Burnham. I would like to describe my utopia per sector with the belief that a clear and detailed plan turns into clear objectives which facilitate the increase of chances of its achievement. The said sectors are economic, social, technological, political/legal, environmental, and physical.

Economic activities in the utopia involve a good combination of agriculture, manufacturing, and services activities. There are ample job opportunities for both blue collar and white collar types of work. Big and small businesses are both thriving and are working together in providing quality jobs and goods to the people.  Due to the stronger financial position of the constituents, they have the option to pay for private goods or avail of public services / goods from the government.

Social services in the utopia include access to quality education (public and private) and free or subsidized health and education services to the lower income groups. Everybody should have access to education and health services. There are ample policemen and community personnel maintaining and securing the peace and order situation of the city. People are aware, trained, and ready for natural and man-made disasters. There are also recreation and sports programs for all segments in society.

In this utopia, all sectors are connected to the internet. A person may choose to conduct business, pay bills, pursue and study a full course (university), work, etc. in the comfort of his/her own home with the latest technology or go out and conduct these things personally. Information is accessible to all at minimal or no cost to the people.

People in this utopia have a say on government policies that affect their lives. Government is democratic with active people taking part in good governance. Government is willing to listen to its constituents and proactively include them in the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of public projects. Government also conducts capacity building for the civil society organizations in order for them to be skilled and knowledgeable partners in developmental projects of this utopia. A citizen can also transact business with the government through technology in the comfort of their homes.

This utopia observes sustainable development policies and practices. There are areas reserved for nature and adequate clean water for everybody. This utopia has responsible citizens that practice good stewardship of the environment. There are bike lanes, electric (solar) cars, electric (solar) trains, and power comes from renewable energy sources. There are policies crafted with and supported by the people in terms of solid waste management, wastage, sanitation, etc.

In terms of physical / infrastructure manifestations of the stated sectoral objectives of this utopia, I imagined it initially with Howard’s design but with some modifications. Howard’s design focused on one (1) CBD whereas my utopia is composed of several CBD’s (multi-nodal). Each node/CBD is separated by ample green space and is connected to good road networks and accessible via railway operated by renewable energy. Each node has its own suburb as defined in the American societies (so people have options). The node itself is composed of mixed use green buildings (residential, commercial and institutional). The development of the node is vertical to save space and with ample parks and other multi-purpose spaces.  Though there may be specialization (manufacturing, services, education, tourism, etc.) per node, it is expected that each node can survive without depending on the other nodes (economic activity, social services, renewable energy, food, solid waste management, etc.). However, inter-nodal arrangements should be carefully pursued and implemented in tackling sensitive issues that may affect the respective territorial boundaries of adjacent local communities (i.e. pollution, watershed, peace and order, etc.).

My preferred utopia expands the options of the people in a way that empowers them on how to choose the way they live. They may opt to live outside the CBD (suburbs) or in a mixed-use building in the CBD. Since they have a good source of livelihood they can choose to pay for private services/goods or avail of government public services. The government listens and involves the people in pursuing new policies and development. Religious affiliations are respected. All segments of the society are considered in the development. People are the users, the owners, and the planners in the city development. The government and other private technical people only guide and basically act only as implementors of the goals and needs of the people.

I assume that most developments are government initiated. In this new age, governments are mostly democratic in a sense that it is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. With that in mind, development or specifically urban planning and development should also be people centered. A project implemented without the people’s support may fall short to its intended use or worse may become a white elephant project. Technical people tend to put the wishes of the people last, they assume they know what the people wanted already, or worse they do not believe that the people know what they want. The era where leaders establish pyramids and other edifices depending on their whims has ended thousands of years ago. It is only ethical and moral to ask people their priorities and preferences in pursuing development since they are the owner, the users, and the ones paying for it with their taxes.

Though, it may be difficult to synergize the different views on utopias of all the people, one needs skills in squeezing out their common or general sentiments. With my earlier analysis of my needs, this includes having a safe and secured community with access to basic services (basic).

In closing, I appreciate Howard’s intention of a balanced living, Jacob’s emphasis on the important roles of people in urban development, and Burnham intention of grand plans. This is my utopia and hopefully the desired utopia of my country.

For me, a home is what you make it. I believe that you choose where you want to live first and make it your home. An urban plan or an urban area is not a utopia or a home unless people are empowered to get involved and make it their own.

References:

Howard, Sir Ebenezer George, Garden Cities of To-morrow – 1902, Kessinger Publishing, LLC (June 29, 2008)

Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities – 1961,Vintage; Reissue edition (December 1, 1992)

Inspired by the Lecture Slide Presentation of Prof. Jed Gomez on “Utopias, Dystopias, and Everything in Between” delivered on September 2, 2014 during the Plan 201 Class at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning

Meaning of “utopia” downloaded at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/utopia in September 5, 2014

The Social City image downloaded at http://www.mediaarchitecture.at/architekturtheorie/garden_cities/content/the_social_city_1898.jpg in July 28, 2021

Mandanas-Garcia Ruling; Unconstitutionality of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); and the National Government and Fiscal Autonomy of Local Government Units

LGUs should not celebrate too early by embarking on expensive projects that they cannot sustain. LGUs should always review Art. 17 of RA 7160 to both guide them in choosing projects to implement and manage the expectations of their stakeholders.

One of the key features of the Philippine 1987 Constitution is its push towards decentralization of government and local autonomy. Local autonomy has two facets, the administrative and the fiscal. Fiscal autonomy means that local governments have the power to create their own sources of revenue in addition to their equitable share in the national taxes released by the National Government, as well as the power to allocate their resources in accordance with their own priorities. Such autonomy is as indispensable to the viability of the policy of decentralization as the other.

Implementing the constitutional mandate for decentralization and local autonomy, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 7160 (RA 7160), otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC), in order to guarantee the fiscal autonomy of the LGUs by specifically have a share in the national internal revenue taxes. The internal revenue allotment (IRA) is determined on the basis of the actual collections of the National Internal Revenue Taxes (NIRTs) as certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Mandanas and his group as well as Garcia challenged the national government by filing a case in the Supreme Court to address whether or not the exclusion of certain national taxes from the base amount for the computation of the just share of the LGUs in the national taxes is constitutional. Mandanas’ group and Garcia filed a petitioned to release the additional and unpaid IRA, respectively to LGUs.

Mandanas et. al Petition – Following the Petitioned Base Amount of LGU Shares in FY 2012
Release of the additional amount of to the LGUs as their IRA for FY 2012P60,750,000,000.00
Release of the  total unpaid IRA for FY 1992 to FY 2011P438,103,906,675.73

To know more about the Mandanas-Garcia Ruling check out https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2021/07/09/mandanas-garcia-vs-executive-secretary-case-digest/

Let us simplify the story.

Imagine you are the head of your family. A person promised to pay you yearly a certain amount that you will use to provide for the needs of your family. Eventually, you realized that the amount being paid to you for almost two decades is not the agreed amount that should have been given to you and your family. You filed a case in court and it took several years before the court decided that the amount being paid to you is not the right amount.

You started to look back and imagined how your family should have benefitted from the withheld payment. You thought that with the said amount, you could have provided your children very good education and health care as well as widened possible opportunities (opportunity cost). But, all is well, you’ve won, you are right in asserting what is just.

However, the court ruled that this person would not pay anymore the two decades withheld amount and will just give the correct (just share) amount the following year. You cannot argue with the court because that is their final decision and must respect it. You are excited that you’ve won your case, proved you are right, and will have more resources for your family the following year.

But there’s more, the person realized that since you will be getting more, there is a need to give you more responsibilities that will entail additional expenditures on your part. This person is thinking of ways on how to give you more/additional tasks or responsibilities so that your just share (not additional) is spent according to what they want you to spend on your family.

In fairness, in the last two decades, the said person, aside from giving you your yearly agreed support, helps your family by providing casual assistance in different forms.

This is the current situation of the Local Government Units (LGUs) in the Philippines. The family is the LGU, the person is the national government, the children are the LGU constituents, and the support is the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) which is now called the National Tax Allocation (NTA).

Executive Order 138

The National Government enacted Executive Order No. 138 entitled “Full Devolution of Certain Functions of the Executive Branch to Local Governments, Creation of a Committee on Devolution, and for other purposes” on June 1, 2021 in response to the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.

To know more about EO 138 check out https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2021/06/01/executive-order-no-138-s-2021/

The recitals of EO No. 138 state that in the Constitution, LGUs shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be automatically released to them and that the President shall exercise general supervision over local governments; that RA 7160 devolved the delivery of certain basic services from national to LGUS (Section 17, RA 7160) in accordance with established national policies, guidelines and standards; and that the total shares of the LGUs from the national taxes is expected to significantly increase starting FY 2022 in line with the implementation of the Mandanas ruling; among others.

The general policy of EO 138 is that the National Government (NG) is fully committed to the policy of decentralization enshrined in the Constitution and relevant laws which are aimed at the following:

  1. Developing capabilities of local governments to deliver basic social services and critical facilities to their constituents, increase productivity and employment, and promote local economic growth.
  2. Ensuring accountability, competence, professionalism and transparency of local leaders through the development of institutional systems that uphold good governance and strengthen their capacities for managing public resources.

According to the EO the role of the NG is to set the national policy, development strategy, and service delivery standards, and to assist, oversee and supervise the LGUs, complementary to the stronger implementing role that the LGUs shall assume by reason of devolution; to determine functional assignments between and among different levels of government; to formulate and pursue an institutional development program in collaboration and to support the LGUs in order to strengthen their capacities and capabilities to fully assume the devolved functions based on RA 7160 and other relevant laws; and to resolve any ambiguity as to the interpretation of the power granted to an LGU in favor of devolution.

According to EO 138, the role of LGUs include the preparation of their Devolution Transition Plans (DTPs) in Close Coordination with the NGAs concerned, formulation of their Capacity Development Agenda based on the assessment framework and guidelines issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government – Local Government Academy (DILG-LGA), and the formulation of their respective Communications Plans and Strategies which are aligned and complementary to the communications plan formulated and approved by the Committee on Devolution.

The Mandanas-Garcia ruling prompted the national Government to enact EO 138 to ensure full devolution of certain functions. However, specific functions were already devolved to LGUS in 1992 via RA 7160. Did RA7160 only mandate partial devolution? Why is it called full devolution? Is there something new to devolve?

For me, EO 138 showed obvious realities at the LGU levels.

First is that the NG is aware that there are LGUs that cannot provide all the required devolved services to them as enumerated in Sec. 17 RA7160 due to inadequate financial resources. This is the reason NG provides Assistance to LGU programs and projects.

Second is that the Mandanas-Garcia ruling will help promote LGUs further pursue their desired development. Align with the concept of local autonomy and with the just share of the national taxes, LGUs can now fund their needed projects.

Third is that with the transfer of the remaining “just share” of the LGUs from the NG, wherein the NGs enjoyed the said share for almost two decades, the NG is worried that some of their programs will be affected by the decrease in their available fund, thus, the NG is clearly delineating projects that will be funded by them and by the LGUs and in part ensure that the LGUs perform their devolved services or add to those already devolved services.

Department of Budget and Management Local Budget Memorandum No. 82-2021

The DBM LBM No. 82 – 2021 entitled “Indicative FY 2022 National Tax Allotment (NTA) Shares of LGUs and Guidelines on the Preparation of the FY 2022 Annual Budgets of LGUs” was released on June 14, 2021.

To know more about DBM LBM No. 82 – 2021 check out https://www.dbm.gov.ph/index.php/279-latest-issuances/local-budget-memorandum/local-budget-memorandum-2021/1887-local-budget-memorandum-no-82

According to DBM LBM No. 82 – 2021, the NTA shares of LGUs significantly increased in FY 2022 as a result of the implementation of the SC decision on the Mandanas-Garcia Case. Consequently, starting FY 2022, there shall be scaling down of the financial subsidy of National Government Agencies (NGAs) for local programs and projects of LGU.

However the memorandum reminds LGUs to consider the expected down trend of NTA in the succeeding years, specifically in FYs 2023-2024. This is because of the lower revenue collections of the Government in FY 2020 and possibly in FY 2021 as a result of the continuous imposition of community quarantines and restrictions on the mobility of the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DBM LBM No. 82 – 2021 showed the NTA allotment of LGUs for fiscal year 2022. LGUs will have more resources to fund their preferred projects (if not negatively affected by the impact of EO 138). However, LGUs should be very careful in choosing projects that will require the same resources to maintain or sustain. The memorandum warned LGUs that their just share in 2023-2024 will be lower than in 2022.

What are its implications?

First is if the LGU embarks on big projects like building hospitals, hiring more personnel, etc., it may afford to implement it on 2022 but will have difficulty sustaining it in 2023-2024.

Second is that the LGUs are still recovering from their unplanned expenses brought about by the illegal drug war and the pandemic. 2022 is the time wherein hopefully they can resume their programs related to their desired local development with the help of its “just share” from the NG.

The Pandemic displayed how LGUs stepped-up to the global problem by taking care of its constituents. The NG and LGUs partnered in delivering support (food and health) to ensure the survival of the people. It may be enough or ideal but I believe they are doing their best specially the LGUs.

Just Share and Beyond

The “just share” is not an additional fund. It is the right fund that should have been given to LGUs to ensure to reach their self-determination via their political and fiscal autonomy. It is not correct to treat it as an additional fund. It is also not proper to add responsibilities to the LGUs because they will now get what they should have gotten yearly in the past two decades.

LGUs should not celebrate too early by embarking on expensive projects that they cannot sustain. LGUs should always review Art. 17 of RA 7160 to both guide them in choosing projects to implement and manage the expectations of their stakeholders.

Devolved Services (RA 7160 Sec. 17)
BarangayMunicipalityProvince
(i) Agricultural support services which include planting materials distribution system and operation of farm produce collection and buying stations;   (ii) Health and social welfare services which include maintenance of barangay health center and day-care center;   (iii) Services and facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation, beautification, and solid waste collection;   (iv) Maintenance of katarungang pambarangay;   (v) Maintenance of barangay roads and bridges and water supply systems;   (vi) Infrastructure facilities such as multi-purpose hall, multi-purpose pavement, plaza, sports center, and other similar facilities;   (vii) Information and reading center; and   (viii) Satellite or public market, where viable;    

     
Devolved Services to Municipalities + Provinces
= Devolved Services to Cities
(i) Extension and on-site research services and facilities related to agriculture and fishery activities which include dispersal of livestock and poultry, fingerlings, and other seeding materials for aquaculture; palay, corn, and vegetable seed farms; medicinal plant gardens; fruit tree, coconut, and other kinds of seedling nurseries; demonstration farms; quality control of copra and improvement and development of local distribution channels, preferably through cooperatives; interbarangay irrigation systems; water and soil resource utilization and conservation projects; and enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves;   (ii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, implementation of community-based forestry projects which include integrated social forestry programs and similar projects; management and control of communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers; establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, and similar forest development projects;   (iii) Subject to the provisions of Title Five, Book I of this Code, health services which include the implementation of programs and projects on primary health care, maternal and child care, and communicable and non-communicable disease control services; access to secondary and tertiary health services; purchase of medicines, medical supplies, and equipment needed to carry out the services herein enumerated;   (iv) Social welfare services which include programs and projects on child and youth welfare, family and community welfare, women’s welfare, welfare of the elderly and disabled persons;  community-based rehabilitation programs for vagrants, beggars, street children, scavengers, juvenile delinquents, and victims of drug abuse; livelihood and other pro-poor projects; nutrition services; and family planning services;   (v) Information services which include investments and job placement information systems, tax and marketing information systems, and maintenance of a public library;   (vi) Solid waste disposal system or environmental management system and services or facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation;   (vii) Municipal buildings, cultural centers, public parks including freedom parks, playgrounds, and other sports facilities and equipment, and other similar facilities;   (viii) Infrastructure facilities intended primarily to service the needs of the residents of the municipality and which are funded out of municipal funds including, but not limited to, municipal roads and bridges; school buildings and other facilities for public elementary and secondary schools; clinics, health centers and other health facilities necessary to carry out health services; communal irrigation, small water impounding projects and other similar projects; fish ports; artesian wells, spring development, rainwater collectors and water supply systems; seawalls, dikes, drainage and sewerage, and flood control; traffic signals and road signs; and similar facilities;   (ix) Public markets, slaughterhouses and other municipal enterprises;   (x) Public cemetery;   (xi) Tourism facilities and other tourist attractions, including the acquisition of equipment, regulation and supervision of business concessions, and security services for such facilities; and   (xii) Sites for police and fire stations and substations and municipal jail;(i) Agricultural extension and on-site research services and facilities which include the prevention and control of plant and animal pests and diseases; dairy farms, livestock markets, animal breeding stations, and artificial insemination centers; and assistance in the organization of farmers’ and fishermen’s cooperatives and other collective organizations, as well as the transfer of appropriate technology;   (ii) Industrial research and development services, as well as the transfer of appropriate technology;   (iii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, enforcement of forestry laws limited to community-based forestry projects, pollution control law, small-scale mining law, and other laws on the protection of the environment; and mini-hydroelectric projects for local purposes;   (iv) Subject to the provisions of Title Five, Book I of this Code, health services which include hospitals and other tertiary health services;   (v) Social welfare services which include programs and projects on rebel returnees and evacuees; relief operations; and population development services;   (vi) Provincial buildings, provincial jails, freedom parks and other public assembly areas, and similar facilities;   (vii) Infrastructure facilities intended to service the needs of the residents of the province and which are funded out of provincial funds including, but not limited to, provincial roads and bridges; inter-municipal waterworks, drainage and sewerage, flood control, and irrigation systems; reclamation projects; and similar facilities;   (viii) Programs and projects for low-cost housing and other mass dwellings, except those funded by the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF); Provided, That national funds for these programs and projects shall be equitably allocated among the regions in proportion to the ratio of the homeless to the population;   (ix) Investment support services, including access to credit financing;   (x) Upgrading and modernization of tax information and collection services through the use of computer hardware and software and other means;   (xi) Inter-municipal telecommunications services, subject to national policy guidelines; and   (xii) Tourism development and promotion programs;
Devolved Services to LGUs (RA 7160)

Mandanas-Garcia vs. Executive Secretary Case Digest

Mandanas, et. al vs. Executive Secretary et. al
G.R. No. 199802, July 03, 2018
Garcia vs. Executive Secretary et. al
G.R. No. 208488, July 3, 2018
En Banc
Ponente; BERSAMIN, J.:

Facts:

Mandanas et. al and Garcia both filed a case against Executive Secretary et. al challenging the manner in which the just share in the national taxes of the local government units (LGUs) has been computed.

The 1987 Constitution continued to push towards decentralization of government and local autonomy. Republic Act 7160 also known as the Local Government Code of 1991 further strengthened the local autonomy and fiscal capability of Local Government Units (LGUs).

Local autonomy has two facets, the administrative and the fiscal. Fiscal autonomy means that local governments have the power to create their own sources of revenue in addition to their equitable share in the national taxes released by the National Government, as well as the power to allocate their resources in accordance with their own priorities. Such autonomy is as indispensable to the viability of the policy of decentralization as the other.

The Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is the basis of the share of LGUs from the national taxes. The IRA is determined on the basis of the actual collections of the National Internal Revenue Taxes (NIRTs) as certified by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Below are details of the petitions of Mandanas, et. al and Garcia.

G.R. No. 199802 (Mandanas, et al.)G.R. No. 208488 (Congressman Enrique Garcia, Jr.)
a special civil action for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus assailing the manner the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2012 computed the IRA for the LGUsseeks the writ of mandamus to compel the respondents thereat to compute the just share of the LGUs on the basis of all national taxes
– allege herein that certain collections of NIRTs by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) – specifically: excise taxes, value added taxes (VATs) and documentary stamp taxes (DSTs) – have not been included in the base amounts for the computation of the IRA;
– that such taxes, albeit collected by the BOC, should form part of the base from which the IRA should be computed because they constituted NIRTs;
– that, consequently, the release of the additional amount of P60,750,000,000.00 to the LGUs as their IRA for FY 2012 should be ordered; and
– that for the same reason the LGUs should also be released their unpaid IRA for FY 1992 to FY 2011, inclusive, totaling P438,103,906,675.73.
– insists on a literal reading of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution.
– that the insertion by Congress of the words internal revenue in the phrase national taxes found in Section 284 of the LGC caused the diminution of the base for determining the just share of the LGUs, and should be declared unconstitutional;
– that, moreover, the exclusion of certain taxes and accounts pursuant to or in accordance with special laws was similarly constitutionally untenable;
– that the VATs and excise taxes collected by the BOC should be included in the computation of the IRA; and – that the respondents should compute the IRA on the basis of all national tax collections, and thereafter distribute any shortfall to the LGUs.
The cases were consolidated on October 22, 2013

In response to the petitions, the several respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), urged the dismissal of the petitions upon procedural and substantive considerations.

Below are the answers of the OSG.

Response of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)
urged the dismissal of the petitions upon procedural and substantive considerations
Procedural considerationsSubstantive considerations
1. mandamus does not lie in order to achieve the reliefs sought because Congress may not be compelled to appropriate the sums allegedly illegally withheld for to do so will violate the doctrine of separation of powers; and,
2. mandamus does not also lie to compel the DBM to release the amounts to the LGUs because such disbursements will be contrary to the purposes specified in the GAA;
– that Garcia has no clear legal right to sustain his suit for mandamus;
– that the filing of Garcia’s suit violates the doctrine of hierarchy of courts; and
– that Garcia’s petition seeks declaratory relief but the Court cannot grant such relief in the exercise of its original jurisdiction.
– Article 284 of the LGC is consistent with the mandate of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution to the effect that the LGUs shall have a just share in the national taxes;
– that the determination of the just share is within the discretion of Congress; that the limitation under the LGC of the basis for the just share in the NIRTs was within the powers granted to Congress by the 1987 Constitution;
– that the LGUs have been receiving their just share in the national taxes based on the correct base amount;
– that Congress has the authority to exclude certain taxes from the base amount in computing the IRA;
– that there is a distinction between the VATs, excise taxes and DSTs collected by the BIR, on one hand, and the VATs, excise taxes and DSTs collected by the BOC, on the other, thereby warranting their different treatment; and
– that Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) Resolution No. 2003-02 dated September 4, 2003 has limited the base amount for the computation of the IRA to the “cash collections based on the BIR data as reconciled with the Bureau of Treasury;” and that the collection of such national taxes by the BOC should be excluded.

ISSUES

Issues
General Issue: Whether or not the exclusion of certain national taxes from the base amount for the computation of the just share of the LGUs in the national taxes is constitutional
I. Whether or not mandamus is the proper vehicle to assail the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of the GAA and the LGC;
II. Whether or not Section 284 of the LGC is unconstitutional for being repugnant to Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution;
III. Whether or not the existing shares given to the LGUs by virtue of the GAA is consistent with the constitutional mandate to give LGUs a “just share” to national taxes following Article X, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution;
IV. Whether or not the petitioners are entitled to the reliefs prayed for.

RULING / HELD

Ruling of the Court (Mandanas-Garcia Case)
1. Mandamus is an improper remedy– The writ of mandamus may not issue to compel an official to do anything that is not his duty to do, or that is his duty not to do, or to obtain for the petitioner anything to which he is not entitled by law.
– Congress cannot be compelled by writ of mandamus.
– The discretion of Congress thereon, being exclusive, is not subject to external direction; otherwise, the delicate balance underlying our system of government may be unduly disturbed
2. Municipal corporations and their relationship with Congress– Municipal governments are only agents of the national government.
– Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature.
– This basic relationship between the national legislature and the local government units has not been enfeebled by the new provisions in the Constitution strengthening the policy of local autonomy.
– The LGC provided a norm of interpretation in favor of the LGUs in its Section 5(a), to wit:  (a) Any provision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned; [Bold underscoring supplied for emphasis]
3. The extent of local autonomy in the Philippines– The 1987 Constitution limits Congress’ control over the LGUs by ordaining in Section 25 of its Article II that: “The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.”
– Certain limitations are and can be imposed by Congress in all the forms of decentralization, for local autonomy, whether as to power or as to administration, is not absolute. The LGUs remain to be the tenants of the will of Congress subject to the guarantees that the Constitution itself imposes.
4. Section 284 of the LGC deviates from the plain language of Section 6 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution– Section 6, Article X the 1987 Constitution textually commands the allocation to the LGUs of a just share in the national taxes
– Section 6, when parsed, embodies three mandates, namely: (1) the LGUs shall have a just share in the national taxes; (2) the just share shall be determined by law; and (3) the just share shall be automatically released to the LGUs.
– LGC Section 284. Allotment of Internal Revenue Taxes. – Local government units shall have a share in the national internal revenue taxes based on the collection of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year
– Section 6 mentions national taxes as the source of the just share of the LGUs while Section 284 ordains that the share of the LGUs be taken from national internal revenue taxes instead.
– Garcia contends that Congress has exceeded its constitutional boundary by limiting to the NIRTs the base from which to compute the just share of the LGUs.
– The Court agree with Garcia’s contention.
– Section 284 has effectively deprived the LGUs from deriving their just share from other national taxes, like the customs duties.
– Strictly speaking, customs duties are also taxes because they are exactions whose proceeds become public funds.
– The exclusion of other national taxes like customs duties from the base for determining the just share of the LGUs contravened the express constitutional edict in Section 6, Article X the 1987 Constitution.
– To read Section 6 differently as requiring that the just share of LGUs in the national taxes shall be determined by law is tantamount to the unauthorized revision of the 1987 Constitution.
5. Congress can validly exclude taxes that will constitute the base amount for the computation of the IRA only if a Constitutional provision allows such exclusion– Section 284 does not authorize any exclusion or deduction from the collections of the NIRTs for purposes of the computation of the allocations to the LGUs.
– Anent the share of the affected LGUs in the proceeds of the sale and conversion of the former military bases pursuant to R.A. No. 7227, the exclusion is warranted for the reason that such proceeds do not come from a tax, fee or exaction imposed on the sale and conversion.
6. Entitlement to the reliefs sought– The petitioners’ prayer for the payment of the arrears of the LGUs’ just share on the theory that the computation of the base amount had been unconstitutional all along cannot be granted
– doctrine of operative fact
* recognizes the existence of the law or executive act prior to the determination of its unconstitutionality as an operative fact that produced consequences that cannot always be erased, ignored or disregarded. * nullifies the void law or executive act but sustains its effects. It provides an exception to the general rule that a void or unconstitutional law produces no effect
* applies only to cases where extraordinary circumstances exist, and only when the extraordinary circumstances have met the stringent conditions that will permit its application
* the effect is prospective
7. Automatic release of the LGUs’ just share in the National Taxes– Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution commands that the just share of the LGUs in national taxes shall be automatically released to them.
– The term automatic connotes something mechanical, spontaneous and perfunctory
– The LGUs are not required to perform any act or thing in order to receive their just share in the national taxes
– Automatic release without need of appropriation
Decision
1. DECLARES the phrase “internal revenue” appearing in Section 284 of Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code) UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and DELETES the phrase from Section 284.
2. ORDERS the SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE; the SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT; the COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE; the COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS; and the NATIONAL TREASURER to include ALL COLLECTIONS OF NATIONAL TAXES in the computation of the base of the just share of the Local Government Units according to the ratio provided in the now-modified Section 284 of Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code) except those accruing to special purpose funds and special allotments for the utilization and development of the national wealth.
3. DECLARES that:
(a) The apportionment of the 25% of the franchise taxes collected from the Manila Jockey Club and Philippine Racing Club, Inc. – that is, five percent (5%) to the National Government; five percent (5%) to the host municipality or city; seven percent (7%) to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; six percent (6%) to the Anti-Tuberculosis Society; and two percent (2%) to the White Cross pursuant to Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6631 and Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6632 – is VALID;
(b) Section 8 and Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7227 are VALID; and, ACCORDINGLY, the proceeds from the sale of the former military bases converted to alienable lands thereunder are EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allocations of the Local Government Units; and
(c) Section 24(3) of Presidential Decree No. 1445, in relation to Section 284 of the National Internal Revenue Code, apportioning one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) of national tax collections as the auditing fee of the Commission on Audit is VALID;
4. DIRECTS the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs and their deputized collecting agents to certify all national tax collections, pursuant to Article 378 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7160
5. DISMISSES the claims of the Local Government Units for the settlement by the National Government of arrears in the just share on the ground that this decision shall have PROSPECTIVE APPLICATION
6. COMMANDS the AUTOMATIC RELEASE WITHOUT NEED OF FURTHER ACTION

SEPARATE / DISSENTING OPINIONS

Separate Opinion – Velasco, Jr., J.
Voted to partially grant the petitions
Concur with the following dispositions:
1. The phrase “internal revenue” appearing in Section 284 of RA 7160 is declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL and is hereby DELETED.
2. Respondents are hereby DIRECTED to include all forms of national tax collections, other than those accruing to special purpose funds and special allotments for the utilization and development of national wealth, in the subsequent computations for the base amount of just share the Local Government Units are entitled to.
3. In addition, the Court further DECLARES that:
a. The apportionment of specified incremental taxes is VALID and shall be observed;
b. Sections 8 and 12 of RA 7227 are hereby declared VALID. The proceeds from the sale of military bases converted to alienable lands thereunder are EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allocations of the Local Government Units since these are sales proceeds, not tax collections;           
c. The one-half of one percent (1/2%) of national tax collections as the auditing fee of the Commission on Audit under Section 24(3) of Presidential Decree No. 1445 shall not be deducted prior to the computation of the forty percent (40%) share of the Local Government Units in the national taxes; and
d. Other special purpose funds are likewise EXCLUDED from the computation of the national tax allotment base.
4. The Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs are hereby ORDERED to certify to the Department of Budget and Management all their collections and remittances of National Taxes;
5. PROSPECTIVE APPLICATION from finality of this decision in view of the operative fact doctrine. Denied petitioners’ claims of arrears from the national government for the unlawful exclusions from the base amount.
6. The national tax allotments of the Local Government Units shall AUTOMATICALLY and DIRECTLY be released, without need of any further action
Dissenting Opinion – Leonen, J.
Voted to Dismiss the Petitions
1. There was no unlawful neglect on the part of public respondents, particularly the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in the computation of the internal revenue allotment. Moreover, the act being requested of them is not their ministerial duty; hence, mandamus does not lie and the Petitions must be dismissed.
2. The deductions to the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s collections made pursuant to special laws were proper.
3. The Court should exercise deference to the interpretation of Congress and of the President of what constitutes the “just share” of the local government units.
4. Congress has full discretion to determine the “just share” of the local government units, in which authority necessarily includes the power to fix the revenue base, or to define what are included in this base, and the rate for the computation of the internal revenue allotment. Absent any clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, this Court should proceed with restraint when a legislative act is challenged in deference to a co-equal branch of the Government.
5. The “automatic release” in Section 286 of the Local Government Code as “without need for a yearly appropriation” is contrary to the Constitution. A statute cannot amend the Constitutional requirement.
6. The release of the local government units’ share without an appropriation substantially amends the Constitution. It also gives local governments a level of fiscal autonomy not enjoyed even by constitutional bodies like the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman. It bypasses Congress as mandated by the Constitution. “Without appropriation” also substantially alters the relationship of the President to local governments, effectively diminishing, if not removing, supervision as mandated by the Constitution.
Separate Opinion – Caguioa, J.
Voted to Dismiss the Petitions
Submit that J. Leonen’s liberal approach should be upheld.
1. Posits that if any reasonable basis may be conceived which supports the statute, it will be upheld, and the challenger must negate all possible bases; that the courts are not concerned with the wisdom, justice, policy, or expediency of a statute; and that a liberal interpretation of the constitution in favor of the constitutionality of legislation should be adopted. Before a law is declared unconstitutional, there must be a clear and unequivocal showing that what the Constitution prohibits, the statute permits. In other words, laws shall not be declared invalid unless the conflict with the Constitution is clear beyond reasonable doubt.
2. Constitution gave Congress the absolute authority and discretion to determine the LGUs’ “just share” — which include both the classes of national taxes and the percentages thereof.
3. Appropriation is not a judicial function, Congress, which holds the power of the purse, is in the best position to determine the “just share” of the LGUs based on their needs and circumstances
4. Agree with the ponencia’s position that the operative fact doctrine should apply to this case. The doctrine nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law or an executive act by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences that cannot always be ignored. Petitioners cannot claim deficiency IRA from previous fiscal years as these funds may have already been used for government projects, the undoing of which would not only be physically impossible but also impractical and burdensome for the Government.  
Dissenting Opinion – Reyes, Jr. J.
Voted to Dismiss the petitions
1. The national legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or modify or violate it. despite the shift towards local autonomy, the National Government, through Congress, retains control over LGUs—albeit, in a lesser degree.
2. The plain text of Section 6, Article X of the 1987 Constitution requires Congress to provide LGUs with a just share in the national taxes, which should be automatically released to them. Nowhere in this provision does the Constitution specify the taxes that should be included in the just share of LGUs. Neither does the Constitution mandate the inclusion of all national taxes in the computation of the IRA or in any other share granted to LGUs.
3. Congress has the authority to determine the exact percentage share of the LGUs, Congress may likewise determine the basis of this share and include some or all of the national taxes for a given period of time. Congress possesses the power of the purse.
4. The determination of Congress as to the base amount for the computation of the IRA is a policy question of policy best left to its wisdom. The Court may neither bind the hands of Congress nor supplant its wisdom.

Full Case Texts can be viewed at: https://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2018julydecisions.php?id=530

Planning a Walkable and Bicycle-Friendly City (Local Government Unit)

Imagine our parents, children, students, women, wheel-chair bound persons with disability (PWD), and the people of a city/municipality in general enjoying and safely using their sidewalks, walkways, and bicycle lanes in their neighborhood. Close your eyes and picture this – Students having fun walking or biking to schools or playgrounds, employees safely biking to work, people going to malls and markets in their bicycles, our senior citizens walking safely to parks, and persons in wheelchair greeting each other in an accessible and safe pedestrian space. As planners, what can we do to somehow come close to this ideal place?

The City Government of Santa Rosa formulated its Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP). The aims of the PBMP is to improve safety and accessibility of other road users by strategically providing quality walkway and bikeway network spaces and infrastructure for the people in the City.

The City of Santa Rosa hired an expert consultant to assist in the formulation of the PBMP. The Mayor created a Technical Working Groups (TWG) composed of members from the government, private sectors, and non-government organizations to work together in the formulation of the master plan. The objective of the city in formulating the plan is to check if the PBMP is technically feasible, acceptable and sustainable in Santa Rosa.

The strategies identified in the plan are the identification and establishment of dedicated or segregated lanes, hybrid or shared lanes, and facilitating short cuts or secondary networks.

The study revealed that the PBMP is feasible, acceptable and sustainable to the city. National government policies are also aligned with the PBMP aims and objectives.

The PBMP is aligned with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-100 (July 17, 2020) Guidelines for the Establishment of a Network of Cycling Lanes and Walking Paths to Support People’s Mobility and the Department of Public Works and Highways Department Order No. 88 series of 2020 (September 29, 2020) Prescribing Guidelines on the Design of Bicycle Facilities along national Roads.

The plan also supports the achievement of the eleven (11) of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as follows:

a. Goal No. 1: End Poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Biking and walking are affordable and simple modes of transport enabling access to education, jobs, markets, and community activities. Biking and walking for some are the only affordable technical means of transport for people and goods thus lowering the expenses of the household.

b. Goal No. 2: End hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Biking and walking, in particular for the poor, help ensure access to food supplies, increasing their nutrition options and ensuring the sustainable transportation of food products.

c. Goal No. 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

Biking and walking generate healthy and non-air-polluting lifestyles.

d. Goal No. 5: Achieve Gender Equality and empower all women and girls.

Biking and walking encourage governments to provide safe spaces/access for women and girls to schools, markets, and jobs.

e. Goal No. 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Biking and walking improve the energy efficiency of transport systems as it uses renewable human power in the most efficient way to move people and goods.

f. Goal No. 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

Biking and walking will open up a culture which will provide a very high potential for biking tourism and other healthy leisure activities.

g. Goal No. 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Biking and walking enable people to switch from the use of individual motorized transport to a combination of active mobility (walking and biking) and public transport. Biking and walking will make it easier for the government to build resilient infrastructure and sustainable transport systems for economic development and human well-being, with focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

h. Goal No. 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Biking and walking are affordable, safe, non-polluting, healthy, and promote a sustainable economy. Biking promotes a sustainable transport system.

i. Goal No. 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Biking and walking offer people the opportunity to move around in a sustainable way. Some goods can be delivered using bicycles. Possible increase in biking tourism will create more options for people to choose sustainable tourism.

j. Goal No. 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Walking/biking facilities are strong symbols of decarbonizing transport and communities; it offers immediate climate action.

k. Goal No. 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Biking and walking advocacy may promote effective public, private and civil society partnerships.

As early as 2007, Mayor Arlene Arcillas together with the Rotary Club of Sta. Rosa and Toyota Autoparts Philippines, Inc. launched the “Road Safety Academy” which is the first in the Philippines. Its objective is to educate students, drivers, operators, homeowners, etc. on the importance of following traffic regulations through a series of traffic seminars/orientations. The PBMP is a document plan that promotes Road Safety of all road users.

The PBMP ensures that the responsible people of Santa Rosa have the infrastructure and policy support in terms of ensuring a safe and connected bicycle and pathway system in the City.

The identified strategies and initiatives in the Santa Rosa Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan addresses the Santa Rosa’s call to promulgate the use of bicycle and walking as an alternative forms of travel not only because of its health benefits, but also its effect on the environment such as environmental protection, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while connecting communities the natural way.

The City of Santa Rosa PBMP was approved and adopted by the City via Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution No. 0025 on March 2, 2020. Mayor Danilo Fernandez (2016-2019) continued the objective of Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2007 – 2016) on making sure that all road users in the city (including pedestrians and cyclists) can safely access important public spaces such as roads and streets. Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2019 – present) is again the Mayor of the City. Through the strong leadership of the Mayor, the policies of the National Government, the commitment of the city to the SDGs, and the programs, projects, and activities identified in the PBMP; it will only be a matter of time to appreciate Santa Rosa as a walkable and bicycle-friendly LGU.

Bikelanes and green pedestrian spaces are now being incorporated in road projects. Pilot areas are identified for establishment of bikelanes. I can see that more people are using their bicycles in their daily activities such as going to work or the market and leisurely during weekends and holidays. A culture of people using alternative and sustainable modes of transport such as biking and walking is inevitable to develop in the City of Santa Rosa. The City should continue to be aggressive in providing accessible and safe spaces to match the demand/need of our bikers and pedestrians.

How walkable / bicycle-friendly is your city/municipality?

Related Topics:

Addressing Traffic Issues without Building New Roads (but through Urban Planning)

NYC and LA – A Tale of Two Cities – Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright

How to Formulate and Update the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP)

One of the required plans from Local Government Units (LGUs) is the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP). The CDP is a three to six year multi-sectoral plan of the LGU which has its Local Development Investment Program (LDIP) composed of various multi-year projects. The LDIP is the basis of the LGU’s Annual Investment Plan (AIP). AIP on the other hand is the basis of the annual budget. Programs, projects and activities not budgeted are seldom implemented. Hence, it is safe to say that projects in the CDP are likely to be budgeted and implemented and will greatly affect / benefit the people in the LGU. Thus, it is really important to LGUs to formulate a good CDP.

As a City Planner, formulating the CDP is both challenging and rewarding. All we need to know and do to formulate the CDP is available online. A complete and detailed guide is available on the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) website. It is downloadable in PDF form – Guide to CDP Preparation for LGU. The guide is so complete to the point that it is overwhelming even to a seasoned city planner. Hence, in this blog entry, I tried to (hopefully) simplify the steps and tweak the process. I hope that the changes I present will be practically useful for other LGU planners like me.

The DILG CDP guide is composed of 5 major steps as follows: Step 1 Organize and Mobilize the Planning Team; Step 2 Revisit Existing Plans and Review LGU Vision; Step 3 Prepare Ecological Profile and Structured List of PPAs; Step 4 Prepare the Local Development Investment Program (LDIP); and Step 5 Prepare Needed Implementation Instruments. 

It is my personal opinion that the said steps are ideal for LGUs that are formulating their CDPs for the first time. Its comprehensiveness will truly guide the LGU planner in formulating their first ever CDP. However, most LGUs already have their CDP and only need to update the plan to be relevant to changing needs and priorities of its leaders and constituents. Hence, I am introducing an 8-step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide.

8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide

Instead of immediately starting with organizing and mobilizing the Planning Team, I started with Step 1 as Pre-Planning Activities – Prepare Draft Socio-Ecological and Physical Profile (SEPP). The reason is that it is mandated to the Provincial/City/Municipal Planning and Development Coordinators (P/C/MPDCs) to conduct continuing studies, researches, and training programs necessary to evolve plans and programs for implementation. These studies and researches become part of the LGUs SEPP. Thus, the P/C/MPDCs should not wait for the Executive Order (EO) of the Local Chief Executive (LCE) initiating the formulation of the CDP before they formulate the LGUs SEPP. SEPP formulation is Step 3 in the DILG CDP Guide while it is Step 1 in our Modified CDP Process.

Step 2 is Organize and Mobilize the Planning Team. In this step, the LCE formulates an EO initiating the formulation of the CDP. The EO is the document that gives authority to the local planner and the planning team to coordinate and demand cooperation from other sectors (departments, agencies) with regards to the CDP formulation.

Step 3 is Revisit Existing Plans and Review Vision, Goals, Objectives, Timetable and Strategies (VGOTS); and Validation of the SEPP. Together with the planning team, the local planner revisits the LGU’s VGOTS and validates the SEPP formulated in Step 1.

Step 4 is Prepare Structure List of Programs, Projects, and Activities (PPAs). This is a wish list of PPAs per sector.

Step 5 is Prepare the Local Development Investment Program (LDIP). The PPAs wish list in Step 4 is prioritized based on agreed criteria of the planning team. Step 4 and Step 5 in our 8-Step Modified CDP Process corresponds to Step 4 of the DILG CDP Guide.

Step 6 is Prepare Needed Implementation Instruments and Authority Levers and Formulation of the Draft CDP and LDIP. Step 6 in our 8-Step Modified CDP Process corresponds to Step 5 which is the last step of the DILG CDP Guide. I emphasized the importance of coming out with draft documents at this stage. The draft document will be the basis of the next and last two steps.

Step 7 is Conduct of Public Consultation and LDC meeting. One of the responsibilities of the P/C/MPDCs is to promote people participation in development planning within the LGU concerned. Hence, Step 7 validates the draft plan, develops local champions and advocates, and promotes transparency, accountability, and good governance of the LGU.

Step 8 is Adoption, Approval, Implementation, and Monitoring of the CDP and LDIP. This is considered the culmination of the plan formulation. A plan is only a piece of paper if not adopted, approved and implemented by the LGU. The CDP and LDIP is approved via a Sanggunian (Council) Resolution and implemented via a Sanggunian (Council) Annual Investment Plan Resolution and Budget Appropriation Ordinance. It is again another responsibility of the P/C/MPDCs to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the different development programs, projects, and activities in the local government unit concerned in accordance with the approved development plan.

I will further explain the required activities and outputs per stage in the 8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide in my next blog entry.

If you want to learn more about the responsibilities of a P/C/MPDCs; How to Formulate a CDP without hiring a Planning consultant; and the different plans in the LGUs; check the links below.

Let me know your thoughts on the 8-Step Modified CDP Process based on the DILG CDP Guide.

Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant

Urban Planning from National to Local Governments: Alignment and Relationship of Plans

What it meant to be a Local Government Planner

Pyrolysis in Integrated Solid Waste Management in Local Government Units (LGUs)

As a City Planner, there are local projects that I am personally excited to see accomplished. Some of these projects are the City Community College, City eco-tourism Park, and the City Pyrolysis facility, among others.

For this blog, I’ll focus on our on-going City Pyrolysis facility project.

Santa Rosa is a medium sized progressive city in the Philippines. The population growth rate of the city is higher than the population growth rate of the Philippines, CALABARZON region, and the Province of Laguna. This means that more people are attracted to live, study, or work in the City. The continuous increase in population also increases the waste specifically solid wastes output of the city. The city does not have its own dumpsite. Even if the city would want to establish its dumpsite it is no longer feasible. Hence, the city brings its solid wastes to its neighbouring city’s private dumpsite which at present is almost at its maximum capacity. The Solid Waste Management Plan of the City identified strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle our solid wastes. One of the identified strategies of the city is the establishment of a Pyrolysis facility.

Pyrolysis is the heating of both organic and non-organic materials using very high temperature, in the absence of oxygen.  Pyrolysis of organic materials produces three products: one liquid (bio-oil), one solid (bio-char) and one gaseous (syngas) while pyrolysis of non-organic materials also produces solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. This means that the solid wastes of the city would not be dumped in dumpsites located in other local government units. It will be processed within the city in its pyrolysis facility. The products of the facility can be stored and used as recycled energy source. The city may also opt to promote the facility as one of its economic enterprises wherein solid wastes of other cities will be processed in the city for a fixed fee/payment. The earnings may be further used to fund its environmental programs.

I believe that one of the important events that influenced the City in establishing its own Pyrolysis facility was our Study Tour for the NEXUS Project “Waste Water Management and Energy Recovery of Biogenic Wastes” in Berlin, Germany on March 18 -23, 2014. The trip was sponsored by Deutsche Gesellschaft fűr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The objective of the study trip is to promote institutional and personnel local capacities for Integrated Resource Management sustainably in selected Asian cities. Hon. Arlene B. Arcillas our City Mayor, Engr. Maria Amor A. Salandanan  from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, Mr. Celso Catindig from the City General Services Office, and I participated in the study tour.

Nexus Project

The Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: the Urban NEXUS rationale is to prepare pilot cities (including Santa Rosa) in the growing demand for water, energy and food by more than 50% by 2050. The increase in demand is due to rapid urbanization in Asian cities, high migration rates, and increasing supply problems. The Nexus Approach is to introduce new technologies to increase water, energy and food production efficiency. It is an integrated holistic urban planning and management of resources that promotes cross-sectorial planning thus breaking down the said “silos”. The identified Metropolitan Solutions are the following: establishment of energy efficiency of buildings; adjustment of  tariffs (consumption oriented and cost covering); strengthening of building codes and energy labeling for increased transparency; application of subsidies and price signals to incentivize energy-efficient investments; use of integrated design approaches and innovations; development and application of advanced technology to enable energy-saving; strengthening of workforce capacity for energy saving; and  mobilization of a culture of energy-awareness.

2014 Study Tour for the NEXUS Project “Waste Water Management and Energy Recovery of Biogenic Wastes”

The itinerary of the study tour includes learning visit to three major waste facilities: a modern recycling sorting plant, a sewage treatment plant, and a biogas and waste incineration plant.

First is we visited the ALBA Sorting Plant at Alt-Mahlsdorf 123,12623 Berlin. The theme of the visit is “Recycling at the source and further processing”. The visit includes an introduction to the system and a guided walk tour of the sorting plant. The ALBA sorting was commissioned in 2005 and is – even on an international scale – the most modern of its kind. We saw in the facility how waste packaging and other items made of plastic composites, tinplate and aluminum are being sorted.

The second facility we visited was the Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant at Muhlenbeckerstrasse, Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Neue Judenstrare 1, 10179 Berlin, 16348 Wandlitz. The visit deepened our understanding of sewage treatment thru concrete demonstration of methods for extracting energy from the sewage sludge and the use of fermented waste for farming in the sewage treatment plant.  Schonerlinde cleans 105,000m3 of wastewater daily. The tour included a theoretical introduction to the wastewater reclamation and biogas recovery and a walking tour around the sewage treatment plant.

Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant in Berlin, Germany

The third and last facility we visited was the Biogas Plant and Waste Incineration Plant, Ruhleben at  Freiheit 24 – 25, 13597 Berlin. The topic of the visit is the recycling of biological solid wastes for energy production and the fermented waste for farming (fertilizers, composting). The 60,000 tons of organic waste from the Berlin households are processed into biogas per year. The system works on the principle of dry fermentation process. The micro-organisms liberate biogas from the organic waste. Biogas can be used for various purposes. Cleaned, processed and concentrated, it is 98 percent of methane and is therefore chemically identical to natural gas and can be fed into the city gas network.

The Waste Incineration Plant Thermal waste treatment is an important part of a functioning waste management of the waste incineration plant (MHKW) in Ruhleben and is the core of the safe disposal in Berlin. It combines efficiency with consistent environmental orientation. Theoretical introduction to thermal waste treatment and management over the waste to energy plant were also discussed during our visit.

I realized from the Study Tour that theWaste Management System of Berlin has been implemented through years of continuous improvement. The population of Berlin and the huge amount of its waste generated necessitate the establishment of these big and advance waste management plants. Its population is mainly composed of the middle class who can pay waste management services. It greatly differs from the Santa Rosa context.

In comparison with Berlin, the City of Santa Rosa is an infant city. Our population is only around 300,000 in 2014 (during the visit) compared to millions of people living in Berlin, Germany. It is not yet recommended for our city to put up similar plants that will entail huge capital investments in 2014. If pursued, budget for other services such as social services will be affected. However, just like in Berlin, our city should start small or pilot projects similar to the concepts learned from the visited plants.

During that time, I believe that a possible application of the knowledge learned from the study trip in 2014 was the establishment of a small space dedicated to biomass facility in the city. It would be similar to the Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant which uses wind energy (if feasible) to power the plant. The small biomass facility can be promoted by providing power to support its own operation and lighting streetlights within its vicinity for people to quickly appreciate the benefits of converting waste to energy.

I thought of small or pilot project applications in 2014. I was wrong. After seven years, the application is not small nor a pilot project. It is bigger and better.

2021 City Pyrolysis Facility

I believe that the Study Trip influenced the decision and strategy of our City Mayor Arlene Arcillas to establish the City Pyrolysis Facility. This will address the impending solid waste management problem, hospital wastes, etc. in the City of Santa Rosa.

The population of the city grew from 300,000 in 2014 to around 500,000 in 2021. The establishment of the pyrolysis facility is now cost-effective as compared in 2014 in terms of economies of scale (solid waste production).

The city implemented the following steps to ensure the availability of resources for the project. First, the city allocated fund for the purchase of land and land development for the pyrolysis facility site. Second, the city applied and was approved for a loan (2021) from a national government bank to fund the machines needed for the facility. Third and last, the city also prepositioned manpower to take care of the day to day operation of the facility.

The Santa Rosa Pyrolysis Plant Facility will be one of the first local government-established and managed pyrolysis facilities in the country. We are fortunate in the City of Santa Rosa because we are being led by a progressive thinking Mayor (Arlene Arcillas).

I am grateful to GIZ for including Santa Rosa as one of its NEXUS pilot cities. Our eyes and minds were opened to exciting alternatives in dealing with solid waste problems (especially during the study tour). I firmly believe that the establishment of our city’s pyrolysis facility is an offshoot of the NEXUS project.

Exciting times in the City of Santa Rosa!!

How is the solid waste management system in your city?

Ten Tips on how to formulate your Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) without hiring a Planning Consultant

How will you plan in a less than ideal situation? How will you manage without outside help of experts? How will you proceed if you do not have enough data, information, manpower, or resources? This is our story.

Four years ago (2017), our office, the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator (CPDO), decided to start the formulation of our City’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for three reasons. First is it is a mandated plan of the local government unit (LGU), second is we are excited to do it ourselves because we did not allocate resources to hire a consultant to assist us in the formulation of the CDP, and third is we badly want to update our CDP to qualify our city to the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

Our city’s past CDP is part of a combined plan composed of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and CDP. That plan is called the Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan (CLUDP) which covered the years 2000 to 2015. The city hired a consultant in 1999 to help formulate the CLUDP. Hence, if you will look at it, this is the first time our city will formulate its separate CDP. That time, we are both anxious and excited to face this challenge.

Our team is composed of officers from the CPDO. We asked the Mayor if we can go outside our city for four days to focus, study, brainstorm, and formulate a Draft CDP and Local Development Investment Program (LDIP) since we do not have an outside help (consultant) to assist us. We looked for a CDP guide or roadmap. We found a complete guide in the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) website. It is downloadable in PDF form. There is the reference (longer) detailed version and the Illustrative version. I’ll be posting here the Illustrative Guide to CDP Preparation for LGU.

We found the guide very helpful but also very overwhelming. The guide is so complete that it seems that the data and information we had would not suffice to formulate a decent CDP. We had to re-think on how to actually start our planning process. I am sharing with you some of the things or steps we did as a small group to overcome the dreaded situation and formulate a draft CDP as follows:

  1. Draft the Table of Contents

We started first by listing the suggested Table of Contents of the CDP from the DILG guidebook. This served as a checklist to review our available data, assign topics to a member, and a guidepost of our daily accomplishment. The table of contents allowed us to see the big picture and the preferred final output of our activity.

2. Divide the Table of Contents by Chapter, sectors or sub-chapters and by person responsible

We are 6 in our team. We have (2) two urban planners, (1) geographic information system (GIS) expert, (1) expert in local finance, and two (2) jack of all trades, editors, and multi-sectoral planners. We divided the table of contents by chapter, sectors or sub-chapters whichever is applicable based on available data and information.

3. Conduct Population Projection (the most important and available data)

Population data is readily available in the national government’s Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA). Population data is conducted via household census by the PSA every 5 years. The data also provides the growth rate of the LGU. For me, population data is the most important data. By population alone, a planner can project the needed number of houses, schools, hospitals, etc. I personally computed the population projection of the city from 2015 to 2022 that served as the basis for the component sectoral plans of the CDP.

4. Review vertical and horizontal plan alignment as well as other plans related to the LGU

Know the Role of the LGU un relation to other plans. I have a separate blog entry on the vertical and horizontal plan alignment of the LGU. I’ll leave a link to the blog at the end of this entry.

5. Review political platform of elected officials from national down to the LGU level

Planning is more of an art than a science. Planners who think that they are more important than the elected officials should think otherwise. There are great plans that gather dust and moulds somewhere in the planner’s office and there are not so great plans that are supported by elected officials. These not so great plans are given resources and implemented. Planners should learn to work with elected officials. Review their political platform, aspirations, and goals. Most of the time they have great and practical ideas that planners tend to overlook. Remember that as planners we plan for the people and our elected officials being voted into their positions are considered as the voice of the people.

Have a checklist of their plans, programs, and projects. You will eventually see a pattern which sector is their priority.

6. Give time to the person responsible to finish his/her draft report

Each of us went to our independent spot to work on our assigned task. We took note of our available data, tried to research to fill in the gaps in the data, benchmarked CDPs of other LGUs available in the internet, and prepared tables, graphs, and write-ups.

7. Present the individual output to the group

This is the time where we brainstorm. Everybody was encouraged to give his/her inputs to the presentation. We discussed what are the data needed to be included in the report, what are missing, is there a chance we can still get the data, if the data is not available – can the profile still supports the recommendation, will it look good in tables or graphs, and which should come first from the sets of data, among others. We all decide what should be included in the chapters, sectors or sub-chapters. When we are done, we again assign a different topic to cover the other chapters, and so on.

8. Fill-out the required information to the Table of Contents

Remember how someone solves a jigsaw puzzle? This is how we keep progress by fitting-in one piece at a time in our Table of Contents puzzle. It gave us a feeling of accomplishment whenever we fill-out a chapter or a sub-chapter. It further motivates us. For us, this numerous small wins greatly contribute to our objective of formulating our city’s CDP.

9. Decide which part of the Table of Contents should remain and which should be deleted

Some of our puzzle pieces or data and information are not available. However, the data that we have already provided us a more than clear picture of the situation of our city, what needs to be done, how the other plans (national, other LGUs, other local plans and elected officials) align, and how plans should be implemented. We then decide to cut part of the table of contents that we do not have enough data or not in the priority areas. It is not practical to put a sub-sector which does not have any data or impact to the city.

10. Finalize the draft

For me, this is the fun part, putting all the things together. Finalizing the draft is not a one-time step. It is actually reiterative. However, it always felt good to check on what your team accomplished in a short span of time.

We managed to formulate a draft CDP when we went back to our office. We then presented the outputs to the concerned departments for their additional comments, inputs, recommended changes, and validation. It took us around 2 months in conducting series of coordination and editing with the departments to finally finalize the CDP.

The DILG guidebook served as our main reference in the formulation of the CDP. However, I suggest treating it only as a guide and not aiming for its strict adherence. You’ll be frustrated. It is your plan, it is your city’s plan, and your city knows best what should be included in your plan.

As a practicing city government planner, I am planning to make a blog entry in the future introducing modified steps in the CDP guidebook to make it simpler and practical without straying away from the said guidebook.

Yes, you can formulate your CDP with your team without hiring a planning consultant. It is hard, challenging and painstaking but it is not impossible. Yes, we got the CDP approved by our Mayor and City Development Council; and adopted by our city council. It got the support of our elected officials. Finally, yes, our city qualified and got the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

How about you? What challenges did you overcome as planner?

Vertical and horizontal plan alignment https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2021/05/25/urban-planning-from-national-to-local-governments-alignment-and-relationship-of-plans/

You might also want to check my other Urban Planning Blog entries:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

How to become an Urban (Environmental) Planner? – Qualifying for the Exam

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?