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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

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?

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

As a city planner, people often ask me about the plans of my city. Most of the time, I answer with a question “what do you want to know?” or “what are the plans that you are interested in?” It is important as a planner to have the ability to communicate to people the big picture, the different classification, and the level of plans in our government. Even if you are a private urban planner practitioner, you still need to check government plans to ensure that your plans are aligned, compatible or relevant with the government’s direction. How well do you know government plans?

As a student, researcher, person preparing for his/her urban/environmental planning exam, or a new urban planner; it is essential for you to learn, understand and appreciate the different levels of plans in the government and how these plans relate to each other. I am going to present the levels of government, classification of government plans and the vertical and horizontal relationships of the said plans in this blog entry. I hope this will give you the required basic understanding on how plans work.

The hierarchy of plans can be downloaded at https://dhsud.gov.ph/guidebooks/. However, I modified the chart to include the annual plan and the budget allocation. The budget though not a plan itself is a very important (if not the most important) document which ensures the implementation and success of plans.

Levels of Government

On the left column (from top to bottom / vertical) of the Chart, we can see the levels of Government from National, Regional, Provincial and the City/Municipal level.

The central government is the national government. Formulation of plans in the national level is led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The formulated plan covers the entire territory of the Philippines.

Levels of Government and Corresponding Plans

The regional level is not actually a government level. It is not part of the national government or the local government unit. It is more of a coordinating body in the region represented by its Regional Development Council (RDCs). Section 14, Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides that the President shall create RDCs and other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and government offices and representatives from non-governmental organizations within the regions. The RDC is the highest policy-making body in the region and serves as the counterpart of the NEDA Board at the subnational level. The RDC is the primary institution that coordinates and sets the direction of all economic and social development efforts in the region. The formulated plans cover its corresponding region in the Philippines along with its component provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays.

The third level is the Provincial level which is a local government unit. The provincial level is led by its Governor and Provincial Council. The Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator (PPDC) which is also an urban/environmental planner facilitates the formulation of plans in the provincial level. The formulated plans cover its corresponding province along with its component cities, municipalities and barangays.

The last local government unit level is the city and municipal level. The city/municipal level is led by its Mayor and Council. The City or Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator (C/MPDC) which is also an urban/environmental planner facilitates the formulation of plans at the city/municipal level. The formulated plans cover its corresponding city or municipality along with its component barangays.

There is still another level below the city/municipal level. It is not shown in the illustration. This level is the barangay level. The Barangay is led by its Barangay Chairperson and council. The barangay is not required to hire an urban planner. The City / Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator (C/MPDC) of the city/municipality where the barangay is located helps the barangay formulate its development and annual plans. The formulated plans cover only the concerned barangay.

The Planning process uses both the Top-Down and Bottom-up approaches. The national government when formulating its framework and development plans ask for inputs from the regions, provinces, and cities/municipalities. The inputs are usually gathered by the regional development councils and submitted to the national government. On the other hand, when local government units prepare their framework and development plans, they consult and check the alignment of their plans with the present national framework and development plan.

Classification of Government Plans

On the second top level of the chart, from left to right (horizontally), you can see the different plans except for the budget component. The plans are the Physical Framework Plans (PFP) and Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUP), Comprehensive Socio-Economic Development Plans (DPs), Development Investment Programs (DIPs), Sectoral / Departments Agency Plans and Programs, and Annual Investment Plans (AIPs).

The Physical Framework Plans (PFP) and Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUP) deal with the physical development of the different levels of planning institutions (National to local). Physical means land uses and allocation of land / spaces for different activities depending on the objectives of the government.

The Comprehensive Socio-Economic Development Plans (DPs) deal with the holistic sectoral plans of the government institution. It is comprehensive because the different sectors are represented in the DPs. The DPs should be aligned with the identified uses of spaces in the PFP and CLUP. If a land is identified in the PFP/CLUP for agricultural use, the DPs as much as possible should not make a conflicting plan that will change or alter the use of the said land. This is an example of (horizontal) alignment of plans.

The Development Investment Programs (DIPs) are the lists of programs, projects and activities in relation (aligned) with the Development Plans (DPs). It includes infrastructure projects, procurement of land and machineries, and establishment of a unit, department or organization, among others. The years covered by the DPs are usually from 3 years to 6 years.

The Comprehensive Socio-Economic Development Plans (DPs) and the Development Investment Programs (DIPs) always go hand in hand. DPs will not be implemented without its DIPs.

The Sectoral / Department / Agency Plans and Programs are the specific plans per sector or department. The main sectors are social, economic, environment, infrastructure and institutional. The main sectors are composed of several sub-sectors. There are various departments at different levels of the government. Examples in the national level are the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Finance, Department of Defense, Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, Department of Education, etc. These are their individual sectoral / department plans. Examples of departments in the local government levels are the engineering, health offices, environment and natural resources, social welfare, treasurer, assessor, budget, disaster risk reduction management, etc.

The Sectoral / Department / Agency Plans and Programs are both inputs and outputs of the Framework Plans / Land Use Plans and Development Plans (DPs).  They are considered as important inputs in the preparation of the plan. They give contexts to the current situation and what is needed to be done to achieve the identified objectives. They are also considered as outputs because the identified plans in the Framework Plans / Land Use Plans and Development Plans (DPs) will be part of their individual plans. The departments and agencies are also responsible to implement the plans.

The National Priority Plan (NPP) and the local government Annual Investment Plans (AIPs) are one-year development plans based on the Development Investment Programs (DIPs). It is the annual slice of the 3-6 years coverage of the DIPs. It constitutes the total resource requirements for all the programs, projects and activities (PPAs) and consists of the annual expenditure and regular operating requirements of the of the government institution. The PPAs in the NPP /AIP are the basis or inputs in the formulation of the annual appropriation.

The Budget component

The General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the local government Annual Appropriation Ordinance provide the resources needed to implement the NPP and the AIP, respectively. The NPP and the AIP are based / aligned with its PFP and CLUP, DP and DIP.

A plan with no allocated resources will not be implemented. It is important that plans are budgeted to ensure its implementation and meet its objectives. A plan without allocated resources is just a piece of document.

A plan precedes the budget. The budget is dependent on the approved plan. Thus, it is really important that the approved plan reflects the needs and objectives of the government institution.

Vertical Alignment of Plans (top to bottom / bottom – up plans)

The Physical Framework Plans (PFP) should be aligned from the National level down to the city / municipal level. The National Physical Framework Plan (NPFP) should be the reference theme by which all other plans (in any level) are directly linked and aligned. This will also ensure that plans are contributing and supportive of the physical development objectives and goals of the adopted national, regional, and local physical plans. The period coverage of the present NPFP is from 2016 to 2045 (30 years). The NPFP is composed of several MTPDP representing the term of the President.

The Physical Framework Plans (PFP) at the level of the national government is called the National Physical Framework Plans (NPFP), at the level of the region is called the RPFP, and the level of the province is called the Provincial Development and Physical Framework Plan (PDPFP).

The Physical Framework Plans (PFP) at the city / municipal level is called the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). Unlike the other PFPs, the CLUP has an implementing law which is the Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance directly affects the land use in the city or municipality. A landowner cannot alter or build a structure in his land without a locational clearance or zoning permit. The zoning clearance / permit is the first of the requirements that a person needs to comply before he can apply for a building permit. This ensures that construction of the building follows the CLUP and Zoning Ordinance of the city / municipality.

Vertical Alignment of Plans: Physical Framework Plans

Comprehensive Socio-Economic Development Plans (DPs) from the National to the City and municipal levels are the following: Philippine DP, Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), RDP, Provincial DP, and C/M CDP. The Philippine DP covers the years 2017-2022 (6 years) coinciding the term of the President. The Philippine DP is also called the MTPDP.  The RDP, Provincial DP and C/M CDP coverage is around 3-6 years.

The Development Investment Programs (DIPs) from the National to the City and municipal levels are the following: Medium-Term Philippine Investment Program, RDIP, PDIP, and C/M Local Development Investment Plan. The DIPs are part of the DPs. They enumerate the lists of projects needed to be implemented to achieve the goals and strategies identified in the DPs.

The Sectoral / Department / Agency Plans and Programs are specific plans from the National to the City and municipal levels. They differ in their time period. What is important is that the plans and programs identified in the national level are aligned with the plans and programs at the lower levels and vice-versa.

Annual Investment Plans (AIPs) from the National to the City and municipal levels are the following: National Priority Plan (NPP); RDIP is composed of multi-year component which is the basis for preparing the annual budget proposals of Regional line agencies (RLAs); state universities and colleges (SUCs), and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs); Provincial AIP; and C/M AIP.

The annual budget or appropriation makes sure that the AIPs are implemented by providing its needed resources. The budget approval from National to the City and municipal levels are as follows: General Appropriations Act (GAA), Provincial Annual Appropriation Ordinance, and C/M Annual Appropriation Ordinance. The regional level does not have a separate budget. Their budget usually comes from the GAA.

Horizontal Alignment of Plans (Plans in the same government level)

Horizontal alignment means the consistency and alignment of plans in the same government level. The highest plan is the physical framework plan while the annual investment plan is composed of specific programs, projects, and activities. The budget makes sure that the PPAs have allocated resources for implementation.

We identified four (4) government levels: National, Regional, Provincial and City / municipality level. The presentation of horizontal alignment of plans is repetitive per level.  I’ll present it briefly. What is important is that you appreciate the horizontal relationships and pattern of plans in the same government level.

At the national level, we have the NPFP, Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, Medium-Term Philippine Investment Program, National Agency / Department / Sectoral Plans and Programs and the (annual) National Priority Plan (NPP). The General Appropriations Act (GAA) provides resources for the implementation of the NPP.

At the regional level, we have the RPFP, RDP, RDIP, Regional Sectoral Plans and Programs, and the RDIP annual component. The RDIP is budgeted via the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

At the Provincial level, we have the Provincial Development and Physical Framework Plan, Provincial DP, PDIP, Provincial Department / Sectoral Plans and Programs, Provincial AIP, Provincial Annual Appropriation Ordinance.

Horizontal Plan Alignment at the Level of the City and Municipality

At the City / Municipality level, we have the C/M CLUP, Zoning Ordinance, C/M CDP, C/M  LDIP, City / Municipal Department / Sectoral Plans and Programs, C/M AIP. The AIP is budgeted via the C/M Annual Appropriation Ordinance.

Unlike the other levels, the frame work plan of the city (CLUP) has its own implementing law which is the zoning ordinance.

Planners always see the big picture. When you look at a plan, try to look at its vertical and horizontal related plans.

This is the whole picture.

Can you see the big picture in your city / municipality??

Related Topics:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

Most of us when we envision the world of Urban Planning think of places like Singapore, Washington DC, Netherlands, and the likes. It is a good start but urban planning is not limited to grand urban designs. It is not limited to big urban planning firms. Actually, it is more felt and relevant at the local government unit (LGU) level.

What is an LGU? Why is it important? Why is it relevant? Does urban planning reach LGUs? How does it affect you as a constituent of your LGU?

LGUs are territorial and political subdivisions of the State that enjoys genuine and meaningful local autonomy which enables them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. – RA 7160 Declaration of Policy (Sec 22 a)

I believe I need to elaborate the definition of an LGU. First is a country is composed of LGUs. These LGUs have defined territories (land areas). Second is they are political subdivisions in a way that people in the LGUs vote for their governors, mayors, barangay captains and their councils. Third is it is the state’s policy is to provide LGUs genuine and meaningful local autonomy. It means that the state (national government) allows its LGUs to decide and formulate policies which are important and relevant to them. The objective is for the LGUs to achieve its desired development, self-reliance and decide what is good or beneficial (general welfare) to them. Fourth and last is to make LGUs effective partners of the state (national government) in the attainment of national goals. Take note that the word used was “partner” and not “subordinate”.

LGUs are lower government units that are not part or below the national government level. LGUs are composed of autonomous regions, provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. As of 2017, there are 81 provinces, 145 cities, 1,489 municipalities and 42,046 (year 2020) barangays which totals to 43,761 LGUs in the Philippines.

Now, let us look at some concepts related to LGUs. I learned these things when I studied Public Management. I’ll upload a slide presentation copy so you can review it later.

What are LGUs slides:

The most important concept when we talk about LGUs is decentralization. From the word itself we can easily say that it means moving away from the center. And you are right! So what is the center that we are talking about? It is the National Government. These are the Offices / Departments of our President and National Congress. The things being decentralized are the power, authority and responsibility to govern the people.

Decentralization generally refers to the systematic and rational dispersal of power, authority and responsibility from the center to the periphery, from top to lower levels, or from national to local governments (Raul de Guzman).

There are two main and obvious reasons for decentralization. First is it hastens decision-making processes by decongesting central (national) government and reducing red tape. Imagine if a simple change of street name, identification of garbage collection route, putting up of pedestrian lanes, designation of smoking areas, etc. are being sent to Congress or to the President for decision. It is not practical. Second is it increases citizen participation and empowers them by leading to a more open and democratic government. It is easier to talk to our mayors, council members, or LGU employees and demand for improvement of services or promote or rally against a policy than bringing them up to the national level. It gives people more power to participate, influence and be heard by the government at the LGU level.

There are three (3) major types of Decentralization in the Philippines. These are devolution, deconcentration and debureaucratization.

When we talk about decentralization of LGUs, we are talking about devolution. Devolution is the transfer of powers and authorities from the national government to lower level political or local government units. The LGU has an elected executive and local legislative body that passes laws or ordinances; has specific taxing powers; has jurisdiction over a certain defined geographical area; and is political in nature. In devolution there is an actual transfer of power and autonomy from the central government to its components.

In deconcentration, there is no transfer of power and autonomy but only transfer of functions. It is the transfer of functions to lower level administrative units designated by the central office. These are Regional or provincial offices of the departments of the national government like the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development Authority, etc. In deconcentration, the authority still rests in the central offices and the decentralization is mostly administrative in nature.

The last type decentralization is debureaucratization. It is the transfer of power and functions of the government to non-government institutions. The power is in the civil society organizations, non-government organizations, professional organizations, cooperatives, people’s organization and private sectors. We can appreciate debureaucratization in the following instances: awarding of service / management / lease Contracts; public-private partnerships; joint venture agreements; concessionaires, privatization / divestiture, etc.

“With great power comes great responsibility”— Peter Parker / Spiderman

The responsibilities of the LGUs are clearly presented in the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160). The Local Government Code of 1991 is known as the Bible guide of LGUs. The law provided the legal and institutional infrastructure for the participation of civil society in local governance, increased the financial resources available to LGUs and laid foundation for the development and evolution of more entrepreneurial-oriented local governments. (Brillantes, 1998)

Numerous aspects of basic services that earlier were the responsibility of the national government were devolved to LGUs as well as the enforcement of certain regulatory powers.

RA 7160 link: https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1991/ra_7160_1991.html
There are two inherent characteristics (nature) of LGUs. These are political and corporate characteristics.

An LGU is a political subdivision of the national government. It is an instrument of the State to help carry out functions of the government. It is a Public or Government Agency. LGU has a public character (not private). Being a public agency its concern is to promote the general welfare of its constituents, deliver devolved function and collect taxes to fund the delivery of its services.
LGU as a corporate entity or corporation represents the inhabitants of its territory to administer its own private affairs / private character. It means that an LGU has a right of succession in its corporate (LGU) name, to hold and convey properties, borrow money, to sue and be sued, and to enter into contracts, etc.

Let’s go back to urban planning. Now that we know the powers, responsibilities and impact of LGUs in our everyday life, do you think it is important to have planners in each of the LGUs?

Urban planning is strong at the province, city and municipality levels (total of 1,715 LGUs).

LGUs are required to appoint a Local Planning and Development Coordinator (Planning Director) that is responsible for planning formulation and activities in their locality. These planning directors are required to be a licensed urban/environmental planners via Civil Service Commission Memorandum 1700294 entitled Amendment to the QS of the Local Planning and Development Coordinator Positions in the LGUs enacted on February 2, 2017. Imagine 1,715 Urban Planners leading their LGUs!

CSC Memorandum 1700294 Link: http://www.csc.gov.ph/phocadownload/MC2017/MC%20No.%2010,%20s.2017.pdf

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – Aristotle

Having Urban Planners practicing urban planning knowledge and skills at the LGU level will surely positively influence the development of the country as a whole. Let us all get involved and participate in our municipalities and cities planning activities and determination of local policies.

Other related topics:

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

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


I wished someone showed me a roadmap of topics I needed to study when I prepared and took my Environmental Planning (EnP.) Board Exam in 2015. The coverage is overwhelming. I really do not know where to start. Fortunately, I passed the exam and became an Urban Planner. Nevertheless, I do not want future test takers to experience my chaotic system in preparing for the Board Exam. Hence, this is the reason for this blog entry.

Are you the type of person who wants to see the big picture and its small components? Do you want to see how the parts fit in the bigger picture? If you are a checklist / to-do list type of person, do you want to cross-out the item that you already accomplished/read/studied? Somewhat giving you a sense of accomplishment, small win, and motivation to go on to the next task? Then, what you need is a Roadmap, something tangible that you can monitor your progress and help you manage your time. You need a roadmap for your upcoming exam.

A Planner always sees the big picture and how the small important parts fit in the big picture.

I made a simple roadmap and I’ll share it with you. The roadmap is a product of a combination of the provisions of RA 10587 (Environmental Planning Act of 2013), my subjects when I studied in the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP SURP), and my EnP. Board exam and American Institute of Environmental Planners (AICP) review materials.

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


Based on RA 10587 (Environmental Planning Act of 2013) a test taker should obtain a weighted average of not less than seventy percent (70%) and a rating of not less than fifty percent (50%) in the three areas (exams) in the EnP. Board exam. The three areas are the following:
(a) History, concepts, theories and principles of environmental planning;
(b) Environmental planning process, methods/techniques and strategies; and
(c) Environmental plan implementation, legal aspects and administration.

According to the law the subject areas and syllabi shall include topics and subtopics in accordance with the syllabi or tables of specifications of subjects for licensure examinations by the Board in consultation with the academe and the Accredited Professional Organization (APO) and that the subject areas and syllabi may be revised as the need arises to conform to changes and new developments brought about by trends in the practice of environmental planning.

However, when I checked if there are already an updated subject areas and syllabi, I always end up downloading Board of Environmental Planning Resolution No. 01, Series of 2000 Revised Syllabi for the Environmental Planner Licensure Examination. It has 5 Areas of coverage. In this blog, allow me to follow the new law (2013) and expound on its 3 coverage areas.

Board of Environmental Planning Resolution No. 01, Series of 2000 Revised Syllabi for the Environmental Planner Licensure Examination.

The first area (Area 1) is what I call the Planning Basics.

It consists of topics related to history, concepts, theories and principles of environmental planning. I’m adding another topic in Area 1 which is Functional Areas of Practice. This is where we can find actual application of planning theories and concepts. I further subdivided it into sectoral, temporal, and level/organization.

The sectoral functional area of practice can be subdivided into five (5) sectors which we can still subdivide into sub-sectors. The first sector is economic. The economic sector has primary, secondary and tertiary sub-sectors. The second sector is environment. The environment sector has air, water, and land sub-sectors. The third sector is social. The social sector has may sub-sectors such as health, education, housing, peace and security, water supply and sanitation, transport and poverty alleviation, among others. You will learn the concepts of equality, equity and inclusive in the social sector. The fourth is the infrastructure sector. The infrastructure sector supports the other sectors by providing the needed facility such as buildings, roads, bridges, utility infrastructure, etc. The last is the institutional sector. This is the administration and management side of planning. You will learn the concepts of efficiency, accountability, transparency, good governance and citizen participation, among others, in the social sector.

It is easy to get confused in studying the different sectors because all these sectors are inter-related. You cannot plan a sector without considering the influence of the other sectors nor its effects to the other sectors.

The temporal-based simply deals with the timeframe of a plan. There are long-term, medium-term, short-term, annual, and term-based plans. You need to get familiar to the different types of plans.

The third functional areas of practice subtopic under (Area 1) the Planning Basics is the level of planning/organizations. Planning and plans are formulated and implemented in different levels and organizations. There are agreements and policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the international level. There are plans at the national level. There are also plans at the local government unit (LGU) level (province, cities, municipalities and barangays). There are also plans made and implemented by the private sectors, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations.

The second area (Area 1) is composed of Environmental planning process, methods/techniques and strategies. I subdivided it into four sub-areas.

The first sub-area is the Rationalized Planning System (RPS). The main reference for this topic is the book of Prof. Serrote. It gives the reader the big picture of the actual planning system in the Philippines. It discusses the relationship of the different plans as well the actors involved in the plan formulation. It describes how the different small planning parts fit in the bigger planning system. If there is one book you should not miss to read in the review, it’s the RPS of Prof. Serrote.

The second sub-area is about Stakeholders Participation, GIS and Other Planning Tools. A part of every plan is the inputs of stakeholders. This may be in the form of market research, focus group discussion, surveys, etc. Plans are made to benefit a certain group of people (beneficiaries). It is common sense to involve them as early in the planning process. A geographic information system (GIS) is a data tool used in planning. It captures, analyses, and presents planning data/information. As for the exam, you do not need to learn how to formulate a map using GIS. What is important is you know the concepts, importance, and planning applications of GIS.

The third sub-area is research, quantitative methods and data collection. Plans are formulated based on data collected. These data are the basis of the plan. Planners decide on what data are needed, how to acquire these data and analyze them and make them useful information to be considered in plan formulation. As for the exam, you need to study basic background and methods used in research.

The fourth sub-area is Plan Making / Process. Planning is a journey and a plan is a tangible output. The output is the actual or physical plan (document). The journey is the process. The process is composed of steps. The planning steps are generic and simple. However, there are some modifications or differences in the steps depending on the plan or the institution that provided the guidelines. Two non-negotiable and must-know plans in the LGU level are the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) which is implemented through its Zoning Ordinance (ZO) and the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and its Local Development Investment Program (LDIP). The former Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) now Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development e-CLUP guidelines are available online. The e-CLUP guidelines describe the process of formulating the CLUP. On the other hand, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) formulated the CDP guide which is also available online.

e-CLUP Guidebooks:https://dhsud.gov.ph/guidebooks/

CDP Guidelines: https://dilg.gov.ph/PDF_File/reports_resources/dilg-reports-resources-2017110_298b91787e.pdf

The third and last area includes environmental plan implementation, legal aspects and administration. I subdivided it into two sub-areas.

The first sub-area is planning laws. There are so many planning laws to study which is overwhelming. You need to develop a system on remembering all of them. Fortunately, these laws are discussed in different study topics that you will encounter along the way. By the time you will study the actual law, I am sure that you are already familiar with it. Nevertheless, these are some of the laws that you needed to be familiar with as follows: RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991), RA 7718 (Build Operate Transfer Law), RA 7279 Urban Development Housing Act, RA 7899 (Condominium Act), RA No. 8435 (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997), RA 8749 (Philippine Clean Air Act), RA 9729 (Climate Change Act), RA 10121 (Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010), RA 11038 (Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System), Batas Pambansa 220 (Socialized Housing), and of course the Environmental Planning Act of 2013 (RA 10587), among others.

Don’t worry about the Planning Laws. You’ll learn them as you go along. It will just be a review for you when you are done with the other topics.

The second sub-area is project management. Plans are implemented through projects. There are different steps in project management. In project management, a planner must know the process groups and knowledge areas. I learned all these concepts only after I passed the EnP. Board exam and took my Project Management Professional exam. As for your exam, you just need to learn the steps in project management and you’re going to be fine.

I wish you luck on your journey in becoming an Urban/Environmental Planner.

You may want also want to check my related blog entries:

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

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

Why Do I want to become a Lawyer?

Why do I need to sacrifice and delay all my fun activities for the next 4-5 years of my life to study and become a lawyer?

I am already enrolled and taking law subjects in a nearby school. I just started this semester. I am having a difficult time balancing my study, work, family, and personal time. I am also experiencing difficulty paying my tuition fee. I was also stressed the past week attending to my midterm exams, written case digests, and enduring my anxiety when called during recitations.

I decided to take up law to have a ready career when I reach my age of 65 and retire from work which is twenty (20) years from now. However, I feel that my motivation is not enough to encourage and remind me to go on when (not if) I encounter life’s challenges.

Hence, I made this personal motivational essay for the said reason.

This is a too personal entry that I will share with you. I need to remind myself time and again that I am ready for this new journey and I can accomplish my dream of becoming a lawyer.

It was May, 1994, when I was elected as Barangay Councilor of Barangay Market Area, Santa Rosa, Laguna at the age of 18. I was the youngest Barangay Councilor in our town. Elected Sangguniang Kabataan Chairmen were even older than me. It was at this time when I realized that I had a dream of becoming a lawyer.

I had only one opportunity in college being eldest of four in our family. My college tuition fees were paid by the College Assurance Plan (CAP) which my parents bought when I was younger. I took up Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy (BSPT). I contemplated then to shift my course to political science as a step in studying law. However, due to financial reasons, I wasn’t able to switch course. I finished my BSPT course in 1997 but my dream of becoming a lawyer was still there.

I continued my public service work as an elected official. I was elected first in 1994, re-elected twice on 1997 and 2002. I finished my 3-consecutive term limit. I served our barangay until 2007. Back in my mind, I firmly believed that I could have done a better job if I entered law school or became a lawyer during my 13 years of service in our barangay. Nevertheless, I believed I did a good job as the Committee Chairman on Education and Health and Sanitation during my term.

I immediately worked after I finished college in 1997. I first volunteered as a Physical Therapist (PT) in a nearby hospital. Volunteer means I do not get a salary or an allowance from the hospital. I did get patient referrals where I treated patients in their homes as a private PT and got paid per treatment session. In 2000, I was hired as a medical representative in a multi-national company. I became a pharmaceutical sales/marketing person of pharmaceutical companies until 2007. I worked in the private sector but at the same time served my barangay as an elected official. I had no time and resources then to pursue my dream of entering law school.

I married in 2003. In 2010 I already had three beautiful children. My priorities changed when I got married and started to raise my own family. I need to provide and take care of them. They should always come first. Hence, my dream of going to law school started to fade away.

In 2007, a few months before my term as an elected barangay kagawad ends, I was preparing to run as Barangay Chairman in the next barangay election. My team was already organized and I had modestly prepared the needed logistics for the said election. I confidently believed I will win. But then Vice-Mayor Arlene Arcillas approached me and convinced me to run as City Councilor in her ticket. I had a debt of gratitude to her father, the assassinated Mayor Leon Arcillas, because he supported my political campaign and for the help and favors he has given to the people I brought to him. I ran in the May 2007 National Election. I lost. My mayor won. I was demoralized, my family was tired and frustrated and we incurred debts used to support my personal campaign. Truly, law school was very far from my mind during this time.

In October 2007, my term ended, but due to the request of our barangay leaders, my wife ran as barangay councilor and won (She also served the maximum 3-term until 2018). I worked hard in the private sector during this time to support my family and pay off my incurred debts. In 2008, Mayor Arcillas hired me as a Planning Officer II in the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator. I discovered a personal new paradigm when I started working as a government/city hall employee: I do not need to be an elected official to affect change and serve my city, I can also do it as a City Planner.

In the decade of 2010 to 2020, I experienced pivotal changes in my life. I got sick in 2010, got operated in my spinal column, and was hospitalized and bed-ridden for almost 3 months. My thoughts during that time was that if I become wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life, can I still work in the City Government and provide for my family? That thought challenged me to get well. After I got out of the hospital and with the help of the PT clinic and my wife who is also a graduate of physical therapy, I trained and exercised to regain my ambulation. In a month time, I can walk with the help of a walker, then with a cane, and soon independently. However, up to this time, my left leg is still weak that causes my limp when I walk. Our family again incurred debts when I was hospitalized. But we did not dwell on that problem for so long, I am alive, I can walk, and I can pay off those debts. I am a fighter and a survivor.

In 2009, a year after I was hired as Planning Officer II, I was promoted as Project Evaluation Officer III. In 2013, I was again promoted as Planning Officer IV (Assistant Department Head). When the Department Head retired, I was promoted in 2014 as the City Planning and Development Coordinator (Department Head) of the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator. People may say that I was only promoted because of my connections but I disagree. I believe I worked hard and prepared for it and I am the best option to lead the department when I was promoted due to the following reasons:

First, I ranked third (3rd) nationwide in the Career Executive Service Written Examination in June 2013. I am the only City Government employee in our city to pass and rank in the said exam.

Second, also in 2013, I finished my Master in Public Management major in Local Government and Regional Administration in the University of the Philippines (UP) Open University. I am one of the only two department heads who finished a Master Degree.

Third, I finished a Post-Graduate Diploma with distinction in Urban and Regional Planning in the UP School of Urban and Regional Planning in 2016.

Fourth, I am a Philippine licensed Urban (Environmental) Planner. I passed the Board on Environmental Planning in 2015.

Fifth, I am a Certified United States (US) Planner. I passed the American Institute of Certified Planner (AICP) in 2017.

Lastly, I am also a Global Project Management Professional (PMP). I passed the PMP exam in 2019.

I always look for challenges to conquer and along with it ensure our constituents that they are not short-changed and have the best person serving them.

The Pandemic helped people realize what is really important. These are health, family, relationships, and financial stability, among others. For me, it rekindled the dream of my younger self of becoming a lawyer. I believe this is the perfect time to pursue my dream. I may not have the resources to pay for the tuition nor the time to allot to studies but I have my determination and life’s experience to topple these problems.

I am already a City Planner and quite secured in my family’s future and retirement. I am already 45 years old and the dream of becoming a lawyer is still there. I honestly asked myself do I really need to pursue this dream. This will mean more challenges, hardships and sacrifices for four to five years. I need a strong inner motivation, something I can hold on to when I encounter extreme difficulties in the future in achieving this dream. I found four (4) personal compelling reasons why I should endure and push thru no matter what as follows:

First, I learned at an early age the meaning of discrimination because of economic status and the meaning of the word “in good faith”. My father was a high school teacher. He bought a lot in a subdivision in the late 1970s. He applied for an SSS loan to construct our house. We are one of the first residents in our subdivision. We live in a small subdivision where everyone knows one another. Most of the parents of my friends are either working abroad, working in Manila, or running small businesses. Our house is located in one of the middle houses in our street, the smallest house, and the only one without hollow blocks fences or gate. The problem arose when eventually we found out that our house was constructed in the open space lot and the vacant lot beside our house is actually the lot my father bought. People started accusing us of stealing their open space (land). They started talking behind our backs and later upfront calling us “squatters”. They even signed and wrote a petition letter full of malice and insinuations against us and sent it to the City Government. We were looked down and discriminated. As the eldest of our siblings, I experienced the discrimination and the insults first-hand. Even if my father said that it was an honest error done in good faith and that we are willing to swap our land title (the open space land does not have a clear title), their perception did not changed. If only I was older that time, if only I am already a lawyer, I could have defended my family and remedied the problem. I owe it to my deceased father to finish law school and become a lawyer. At this point in my life, I began appreciating what our neighbors did to us because it always inspired me to always challenge myself and never give up.

Second, I believe that the new generation will always be better than the old generation. I have three children. I am hoping that by becoming a lawyer I am raising the level of our family’s achievements for them to surpass. I want them to be better than me when they grow up. If one of them decides to become a lawyer, I am paving the way for them because I can guide and help them. My middle child is interested in becoming a lawyer someday. He is one of my compelling motivations to become a successful lawyer.

Third, I believe that lawyers never retire. I do not want to rely on my kids when I retire as a City Planner. Aside from my pensions, I want to continuously earn and practice law as long as I am abled. I do not want to ask my children for money to support myself and my wife but rather I want us to give support or have means to “spoil” our future grandchildren

Lastly, the noblest of my compelling reasons (motivation) is to defend the weak and oppressed. I personally experienced how people treat others when they are weak; when they do not have the means to defend themselves; and when they do not have resources or already disabled. I do not want others to feel and experience what I’ve been through. I’ll make it my advocacy to defend the weak and the oppressed.

I consider this essay as my personal time capsule. I will try to read this essay when I feel tired, demotivated, or about to give up. More importantly, I will go back and read this essay after five years. I hope that I am already a lawyer by that time. If not (I hope not), well, I might write another essay to capture and document what happened along the way.

My experience, strong mindset, motivation, determination and dedication will fuel my journey in attaining this new goal. This entry is my documentation of my decision and my commitment to my dream of becoming a lawyer.

Image downloaded from: https://studyqa.com/public-law

The Rise of Home-Based Entrepreneurs during the Strict 3-month (Covid 19) Quarantine Period

If there is anything good that came out from the Pandemic, it is the increase of home-based businesses. The limited supplies, suspension of public transport and the strict quarantine policies made it hard for families to acquire/buy their needs in supermarkets. Housewives, teens, and families filled this gap (specially for food items) by preparing and selling home-made meals, snacks, fruits, vegetables and others. They started marketing their products using social media (mostly thru Facebook). They started selling in their subdivisions and communities.

On March 16, 2020, the President of the Philippines declared the whole Island of Luzon including Metro Manila under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to prevent the spread of COVID 19 infection. The ECQ is the highest form of quarantine. It was extended several times and up to May 30, 2020. The ECQ lasted for almost two and a half months. It was downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ) and later last year to modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Quarantine Policies were implemented strictly in all communities.

People stuck in their homes are desperately looking for news specially about what is happening within their communities. Most people relied to Social Media for local news and activities. There is an increase in the formation of Facebook group chats wherein people in the community can interact with each other without the risk of being infected (physical face to face). These group chats served as a venue for marketing and selling home made products. Because people during the quarantine have the time and are active in social media, it became an effective medium, a great marketplace.

There are so many different products being sold in the group chats. Home-made local specialties like what your grandmother used to cook (local Philippine dishes and delicacies), barbeques, rice meals, pizzas, milkteas, snacks and nuts and even raw meats and vegetables are being delivered in your doorstep. The delivery decreases the risk of people getting infected by the virus specially if they go to crowded places like markets and grocery stores. It also gave motorcycle owners (riders) short-term livelihood by delivering different products (orders) in the community.

I will share a good and personal example of my observation. My wife and I are both working as city government employees. We are both full time employees and do not own a business. When the government declared the quarantine we were forced to work from home. Because of the scarcity of loaf breads that time, my wife thought of baking different type of breads for the family. She loves to bake but doesn’t have time before the quarantine. With the help of Youtube videos and the small oven I gave to her as a Christmas gift in 2013, she started baking different kind of pastries. Most of her baked goods turned out great and some are good (I cannot say “bad” because I might get into trouble when she reads this!). Sometimes we have excess baked pastries which we share with our friends. Our friends convinced her to sell the product and market it in the different group chats in our village.

Hence, Derek’s Delight Cakes and Pastries was born (named after our youngest son). People started ordering her products, specially her baked Soft and Fluffy Ensaymada. She also started getting cake orders. In a way, the side income modestly helped in our finances.

I saw many stories similar to her story. The Pandemic provided a short-term opportunity to small businesses to level the field with big corporations and capture their community market. Social media became a Free tool to market local home-based products. The local (community) economy adapted and developed in its unique way.

The economy and activities are now beginning to normalize. I observed a decrease in activities (marketing/selling) in the groupchats. Probably because the micro entrepreneurs are now back in their full-time jobs (employment) and don’t have the anymore time to prepare/sell their products. Probably the people grew tired of the group chats (instead of community news, the group chats are now full of product advertisements). After being forced to stay at home, people are also excited to go out of their houses to eat at restaurants or visit supermarkets. Another possible reason is that the big corporations are taking back their clients after a very long quarantine period.

As for Derek’s Delight, we got a lot of orders last Christmas and New Year. My wife that time didn’t sleep for 24-36 hours – baking! We do not know how the small business will perform this 2021. Nevertheless, we thank 2020 for the opportunity. I just hope and pray that we can sustain the gains we got from 2020.

I hope that more small businesses survive and apply their experience and learnings from 2020. I hope that many become big businesses with a good story to tell.

As an urban planner, I see this as a good thing. A thriving local (community) economy promotes social interaction, cohesion, and cooperation; job availability; and diverse and expanded product choices (quality and affordable) for the consumers; among others. As for big corporations, I hope they partner with the small businesses so they can sell their products in their establishments. Both of them will earn this way. Partnering instead of competition.

I always make it a point to order regularly from different sellers in the group chat. In my small way I support/encourage them to continue their businesses and in return I get access to their tasty and delicious local products (watch the diet!).

Everybody wins.

My New Year (2021) Reflections and Goals

January 1, 2020. This is a personal blog entry.

2020 has been difficult for everybody. As the year changes, it is just right to reflect on all the important things that happened this year. I am writing not only for personal understanding but also for personal documentation of our life’s milestones. Who knows, after 5-10 years, I may realize that 2020 was the pivotal year of our family’s journey.

A lot happened in our country (Philippines). We started 2020 with the threat of the African Swine Flu infecting our meat supply and possible infection to humans. Taal volcano erupted. Ashes filled the sky and were deposited in our roads, roofs, and almost every exposed surfaces. The risk of acquiring respiratory diseases from ash inhalation was very high. We wear facemasks when we go out because of the ash particles. Come to think of it, wearing facemasks that time prepared us to wear facemasks for the rest of the year. COVID 19 pandemic came after the Taal eruption. First time in my lifetime that I experienced families forced to stay at home due to the lockdown (quarantine). At first we thought it was only for fifteen days, then it was extended to a month and was further extended up to three months. Everything we knew as normal (work, schooling, transportation, etc) were suspended. During the first month, I had sleepness nights monitoring the news and thinking about what will happen to my family. Storms frequented the country in the last quarter of the year. We can only watch and pray for the families stucked on the top their roofs waiting to be rescued from 3-meter high flashflood. 2020 is generally not a good year.

Unlike other families, I believe that we are fortunate enough to shield our children from the mental stress that the lockdown brought to households. Our salaries continued even if we don’t report to work physically. Work-from-home arrangements were implemented to protect workers (except frontliners) from possible virus infection. We continued to eat at regular intervals and enjoyed the company of each other. The kids quarrel among themselves sometimes but their time together at home made them closer. If there is anything good we got from the quarantine, it is that our family got closer.

I do not want to sound political but I need to express and in a way document what I felt from the Covid 19 management of our national government. In fairness, all governments in different countries were not ready for this pandemic. Some of the covid-19 management positive points for me are the following: I think the quarantine was handled well (people generally cooperated and followed the government), communities worked together, selfless service dedication of frontliners, and cities stepped-up in taking care of their citizens, etc. The negative points for me are the following: the country did not close the borders early specially to the source of the virus because of international relationships, government failure to accept accountability (scapegoating, blaming the people for poor policies like rationalizing that Filipinos are hard-headed), above-the-law entitlement of high-ranking government officials (high ranking policeman birthday partying “mananita” when it was not allowed for everybody, a senator who knows he is/may be positive for Covid visiting a hospital and supermarket exposing other people to the virus, intense corruption in the government health insurance institution, etc.) and super sensitiveness of the national government to suggestions, comments, and criticisms (focusing on proving they are right and not on doing what is right). Anyway, these are just my observations and opinions, others for sure will have a different perspective on this matter. I don’t have time to argue to prove my point nor defend my opinion. It’s all up to you.

Though, 2020 has been challenging, our family is grateful to many things that happened this year.

First is we started Derek’s Delight Cakes and Pastries.

My wife found time to bake again during the quarantine. At first, she just baked for the us/family. She baked breads, cookies, cakes, and local Filipino pastries. There are times when she bakes beyond our consumption and we share them to our friends. Our friends pushed us to sell her baked pastries. Thus, with the help of friends and social media, we founded Derek’s Delight. It is now known in our community for its Soft and Fluffy Artisan Ensaymada (bread). I hope that this business will thrive and last for our lifetime. My wife found time to rekindle her passion in baking.

Second is my wife finished her second Masters Degree this year.

Her first Masters Degree is Master in Business Administration (MBA). This year she finished her Masters in Development Policy (MDP).  The quarantine period helped her focused and finish her thesis.

Third is I finished my two international training courses.

I finished this year’s BLOXHUB Summer School on Urban Resilience by the University of Southern Denmark. I am the only Filipino from the batch. I am thankful for the knowledge and skills I learned from the course. I am also thankful for the global network I gained from attending (Global Resilience Ambassadors) the 4-week course.

I also finished the “Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities” Online Training on December 7-11, 2020. The Training was organized and sponsored by UN-Habitat in partnership with the International Urban Training Centre (IUTC) and Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea.

I enjoy attending  trainings. I learn new things, validate what I know, and expand my professional. However, sometimes I get frustrated because some of the high-impact projects I learn are so easy to implement in our country but they are not in the priority list of our leaders. Anyway, change doesn’t happen overnight. I just trust the process.

Fourth is my son who is just 12 years old is now taller than me.

My height is around five feet and nine and a half inches (5’9″). I hope he’ll be taller than 6’2″ and learns to play basketball.

Fifth is our children is adapting to their online mode of education.

Due to Covid 19, schooling are now conducted on-line. However, I feel that the amount of schoolwork and the stress of detainment of the kids to their homes put enormous pressure to their mental health. I do not force my kids to really excel in their studies. I believe (by experience) that they will eventually excel when they become mature enough and decides to do good in school. What I ask them is just to get an average grade and comply with the school requirements. I noticed that the use of gadgets for the online schooling is also the cause of their sometimes stubborness (due to online games). I just wish that Covid 19 pandemic ends so that they can physically go back to school and socialize with other kids before they get addicted to gadgets. Anyway, we have a gadget daily use time-limit implemented to our children. However, more than ever, we need to closely and regularly check the mental health status of our kids because of the pressure of online schoolwork and the mental effects of the pandemic scare and its quarantine.

Sixth is no one got infected from Covid 19 in our family.

I have friends and family members of friends that succumbed and died of Covid 19. I also have friends and colleagues who got infected and got well. Their families suffered the burden of them getting infected (physically, financially, and emotionally). I am always grateful that no one in my family members caught the virus.

Despite the pandemic, there are still so many things to be grateful for in 2020 (relatives, friends, work, health).

Now for this year’s goals. Some people call it resolutions, I call them goals. I need to write them here because I believe that written goals are more likely to get achieved than unwritten goals. One of my favorite quotes is about change. Though, I can’t remember the exact quote. It is like old ways (status quo) will not give you new results. If you want something new to happen in your life you need to do something new. However, this entails sacrifices, time, hardwork and dedication. The question is are you ready to pay the price of your desired change?

My 2021 Goals (to be achieved by end of Dec 31, 2021) are the following:

1. Attain my Target weight of 176 lbs/ 80kgs by December 31, 2021. (this is the hardest for me)

At present (January 1, 2021), my weight is 206lbs/93.5kgs. It means I need to lose a total of 30lbs/13.5kgs!! However, if you look at it, I only need to lose around 2.5lbs/1.125kgs per month (looks manageable?). The hardest part for me is to exercise (frail body and time) and to minimize sweets (which I need when I study or finish a mental task). It seems that I am coming out with excuses this early but that is not the case. I am just defining the challenges that I need to overcome. Anyway, I have 12 months to attain this goal (goodluck to me!).

2. Start schooling again (start law school or continue PhD).

I stopped my Doctorate study late 2019 because of my trip to the United States to attend my sister’s wedding. I didn’t continue my study in 2020. Probably because I worry about my family during the quarantine/pandemic and I cannot focus on studying. Though I took several online short courses, I used them not only to gain knowledge but also to provide a sense of normalcy in my life. Everyone’s mental health was affected by the threat of the virus and the quarantine. If someone says he/she was not affected or did not worry is lying.

I decided to again pursue my studies this year. However, I am in a crossroad wherein I need to chose between continuing my PhD or pursuing a new course (law). I remember I wanted to be a lawyer when I was first elected as a barangay councilman when I was only 18 years old (way back 1994). Now, I am seriously considering pursuing my old dream. I am weighing the pros and cons of entering law school. Let’s see what will happen.

3. Business Registration of Derek’s Delight Cakes and Pastries and its tie-up with restaurants and other commercial establishments.

I believe (optimistic) that Derek’s Delight will grow and eventually become a must-bring-home (pasalubong) to tourists visiting the city. We need to register it to become a formal business. We need to come up with a good business plan and milestone targets for it. This is challenging for us because my wife and I both have day jobs. Let’s see where will be Derek’s Delight by the end of this year.

4. At least go on two out of town (within the country) vacation with family if the situation (pandemic) allows them.

We need to get out and enjoy the outside world. If the situation and the government will allow leisure travel this year, we will surely book that much needed vacation. The kids need to see beaches, natural wonders, historical sites, museums, probably zoos, etc. They need to get out and enjoy. We also need it too. I just hope we get vaccinated soon and reduce the risk of getting the virus.

5. Protect the health (physically and mentally) of all our family members.

This year, I’ll do my very best to continue protecting my family from the virus. I will ensure that they take their vitamins everyday, eat well and healthy foods, do exercises (some physical activities) outside, wear face masks/face shields when they go out to public crowded places, and get the vaccine (when available). Health should be one of the highest priority this 2021.

2020 for me is the year of “appreciation”. The virus brought unimaginable disruption and risk to our daily lives. Suddenly, you missed going physically to work, spending time with your friends and loved ones in the other side of the world, enjoying vacations (other places), and even riding the airplane, among others. However, it shed light to what is really important in our lives: Health, Family, and how to spend our borrowed Time.

2020 is not that bad for us but I am happy it is over (good riddance). I hope all families recover and come back stronger this year (2021).

2021 is a year of “hope”. A year for rebuilding. It will be a good year because we are bringing all the lessons we learned from 2020. We are now stronger and more focused. We now know what is really important in our lives.

I wish everybody a happy, healthy, productive and full of opportunities New Year!