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 Localize and Mainstream SDGs at the City Level

It is said that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were crafted using the bottom-up approach. Does this mean that the plans/goals came from City and Community levels? Or only at the Nation level? Is it safe to assume that there is a high understanding and commitment to the attainment of the SDGs at the Local Government Units (LGUs) level? Are the SDGs operationalize in its sense as an actual guide in local development planning and budgeting? How can Cities and Municipalities localized and even mainstream these SDGs?

SDGs are Global Goals enacted and adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015. SDGs are geared on universal call to action to end poverty, protection of the planet and ensures peace and prosperity to all people by 2030. The precursor of the SDGs is the Millennium Development Goals (MGs) 2000 – 2015.

For some LGUs, SDGs are big technical ideas that add to the increasing responsibilities of local public servants. Perhaps it is so big that a local project won’t even contribute to the said Big Goals. These SDGs requires baseline data that is not readily available and LGUs have difficulty producing exact required data sets given its lack of manpower and resources. It is an additional burden coming from the higher-ups. It is very seldom that we hear local officials include in their speeches and communications the importance of attaining the SDGs. It is best to continue doing business as usual taking care of the city and its populace without worrying about these SDGs. What they don’t realize is that if they are governing their LGUs well they are actually contributing to the attainment of SDGs. They just need to embrace and put to heart the importance and commitment to the SDGs.

In the Philippines, the National Agency assigned to collect data on SDGs is the Philippine Statistical Authority. Several memoranda were also released by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to LGUs regarding SDGs. Workshops were also conducted. Did it translate to the actual localization and mainstreaming of SDGs at the local level? I do not think so. It promoted awareness but not to the point of commitment to the goals.

International Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also coordinated with LGUs with regards to the promotion of SDGs. However, I observed that the sectors mostly targeted are only the Social Welfare, Health, and Environment at some degree. The attainment of SDGs requires all (majority) stakeholders’ support and commitment. The 17 SDGs are interrelated and interdependent in a way that you cannot isolate one SDG to another SDG. It is good that some sectors are already aware and actually conducting activities to support SDGs but we need to get everybody involved.

I would define localization as the adoption of SDGs by the LGU. Adoption may be in the form of an SDG-related program, plan, or activity. It may be a one-time activity or a series of projects. On the other hand, I define mainstreaming as sustainable adoption of SDGs. SDGs should not only be mentioned in plans and programs. SDG indicators should be embedded in the LGU plans, programs, and activities. These indicators should be monitored regularly. This is mainstreaming. Mainstreaming wherein stakeholders are both aware and supportive of the outcome of the SDG (indicators).

A few years back (2013), the Philippines Climate Change Commission (CCC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with the help of WorldBank chose the City of Santa Rosa as one of the pilot cities to mainstream Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET) in its Annual Investment Plan (AIP). The CCET purpose is to identify, prioritize, and tag Climate Change programs, activities, and projects as well as to track and monitor climate change expenditures of LGUs. In 2014, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2014-01 which encourages LGUs to track their climate expenditures in their AIPs. In 2015, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular 2015-01 which introduced the revised guidelines for tagging and tracking climate change expenditures in the local budget and DBM’s Local Budget Memorandum No. 70 which required LGUs to prepare their AIP using the revised AIP form which include a column under the CCET. These policies made sure that Climate Change activities are mainstreamed in the LGUs.

The Philippines has a good experience of mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) and Gender and Development (GAD) down to the level of cities and municipalities (LGUs). This was brought about by clear national policies and guidelines.

In 2010, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 10121 “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010”. The act mandated LGUs to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change in development processes such as policy formulation, socioeconomic development planning, budgeting, and governance. The act also required LGUs to set aside 5% of its annual budget (Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – LDRRMF) to support disaster risk management activities.

In 2012, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) – National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) -DBM released Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2012-01 Guidelines for the Preparation of Annual Gender and Development (GAD) Plans and Budgets and Accomplishment Reports to Implement the Magna Carta of Women. The PCW-NEDA-DBM JMC No. 2012-01 mainstreamed gender perspectives by identifying (attributing) GAD-related LGU programs, projects and activities in the AIP. Thus, mainstreaming GAD in local planning and budgeting. The JMC required a minimum of 5% of the total budget to be GAD-related. The budget for gender mainstreaming is a way for agencies to influence the entire agency program, plan and budget

Even without such National Government policies obliging LGUs to clearly mainstream the SDGs, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas of Santa Rosa in the Philippines took the initiative to mainstream SDGs in the City AIP. Mayor Arcillas asked the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Planning Head / Director) to conduct an SDG Orientation to all Department Heads and to request them to include the SDG indicators in their Department’s AIP.

Mainstreaming the SDGs in local plans will reinforce local public officials and employees to consciously include SDGs in their regular day to day activities and decision-making. LGUs would also feel that their projects are contributing to the Global Goals (how the small parts fit in the Big Picture). It is also easier to monitor the progress and outcome of projects using the indicators (Monitoring and Evaluation Framework – outcome measurement). Though, not all technical data are readily available at the LGU level, the LGU may start using indicators initially with known data sets. However, absence / inadequate data should not hinder LGUs in pursuing the SDGs. After all, even without acknowledging the SDGs, the LGUs are implementing projects that will directly affect the attainment of the SDGs.

Check your City / Municipality: Are your Local Leaders Localizing and Mainstreaming the SDGs?

Click the AIP SDG Orientation Report Below for Details:

3 Things I Learned from Attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School on Urban Resilience at the University of Southern Denmark

I am elated to be part of this year’s BLOXHUB Summer School on Urban Resilience 2020. The Summer School is under the International Urban Resilience Academy (IURA) program which serves as a platform for education, research, networking and capacity building activities on Urban Resilience hosted by the University of Southern Denmark. The BLOXHUB Summer School Urban Resilience brings together global practitioners, policy makers and researchers. This is the second the year that the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen hosted the summer school.

The summer school initial set-up was to invite participants to go to Copenhagen to attend the program. However, due the COVID 19 Pandemic, the plan changed and the organizers opted to conduct it on-line. The program itself was challenged by the Pandemic and proved its resiliency amidst the disaster. The conduct of the program served as a simple microcosm of what is happening globally. The program showed its resilience by understanding and analyzing the situation, being resourceful with the use of technology, and engaging the commitment of the participants and the organization as a whole.

But first, what is resiliency to you personally? When can you say that you are resilient? When can you say that your community or city is resilient? There are so many definitions of resilience – from being able to hang on through (survive) tough obstacles, being able to adapt to the current trials, up to being able to anticipate, plan, and not be significantly affected by the disaster when it arrives. My favorite is the UN Habitat definition of resilience which is “the ability of any urban system to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses while positively adapting and transforming towards sustainability”. Wherever we are in the world, there will always be issues and problems that will come our way, how we deal with these challenges define our state of resiliency.

The lecture part of the program was organized in two ways. First is the General Webinar hosted by IURA wherein anybody can register and attend. The second lecture is the Community Sessions exclusive for participants. The General Webinar and the Community Sessions presents a combination of lectures, reports, tools and methods or presentation of best practices. The Community Sessions served as an in-depth discussion of the general webinar.

This year’s batch is very diverse both occupationally and geographically. Though diverse, it seems that issues in different parts of the world are similar specially in climate change and its effects, governance, and this current pandemic.

Bloxhub participants

We were assigned to different groups and were given tasks and weekly outputs / deliverables.

My 3 Major Takeaways from attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School

1st Takeaway – Importance of Systems Thinking / Approach

A system for me is a group of interrelated parts wherein if something happens to one part it will affect directly or indirectly all the other parts. A system is a defined group of different parts or components. To appreciate a system, imagine an aching tooth, the aching tooth no matter how small will affect the function of your whole body or the performance of your daily activities. It is up to the researcher / student to provide the context or define the boundaries of your system. It may range from a simple to a complicated system. In my example, we can define the system as limited as the oral cavity or as extensive as its relationship to actual work performance or family relationships.

Our group looked at the Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH) system in informal settlements in Asia during the Pandemic. We analyzed it geographically looking at different contexts, culture, and norms. We also looked at its temporal situation (before and during COVID 19 and what is ideal post-Covid 19). The problem of WASH is already significant in informal settlements before COVID 19. COVID 19 amplified the problem and further put families in greater danger. We also learned that problems go beyond the WASH system. This include poverty, livelihood and land ownership, among others. However, we defined our system boundary to only include access to WASH given the limited time in preparing our outputs.

Systems Thinking / Approach allows you to understand the problem deeper and better and gives you a comprehensive set of solutions. The Summer School advocated consistently the use of systems thinking.

2nd Takeaway – Use of Tools (Systems Approach and Collaborative Tools)

In the absence of face-to-face communication, the summer course used its resourcefulness and maximize the available internet tools that helped in delivering an effective program. All the tools or online applications presented in the course are all new to me. The three new online applications I learned are Slack, Miro Board, and Kumu.

Slack is very similar to Whatsapp, Viber, or Facebook. It is an online messaging application where team members communicate and work together. Similar to other applications, you can send different files through Slack. It is also nice that I can use different apps for different groups. I used Slack for the course while using other apps for personal mode of communication and expressions.

One powerful tool for collaboration is the Miro Board. It helps group work together effectively. There is a common board where members can work simultaneously. It is the main collaborative tool used in the course. It is very effective in brainstorming wherein members may put digital sticky notes as inputs.

I enjoyed making system maps in Kumu. It is a visualization platform used for mapping systems and better understanding relationships. The map can also be shared with group members and a good tool for collaboration. It provides great visual to the map of the system and the relationship of its elements. We also used Kumu in mapping our solutions / intervention using the Theory of Change. The map is also great as a communication tool to audience and stakeholders.

3rd Takeaway – Heart of Resiliency – Vulnerable Sectors

The first meeting of the group involved a workshop that requires group member to personally assess their knowledge (Head), skills (Hands), and advocacies (Heart). It is similar to stating your strengths and weaknesses, expertise and motivation. I was surprised that all of the groups chose to help or focus on the needs of vulnerable sectors.

Some of the participants are from international agencies but the focus of their advocacies are cities and communities and not at the country level. Some of the participants are also urban planners but instead of proposing “big plans” (like those of Daniel Burnham), they also focused on what the community really need and how to improve the daily lives of these communities. The advocacies are not that complicated but will create big impacts to the community.

As a City/Urban Planner, I advocate the localization of Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, Vision of the New Urban Agenda, etc. in our City. I realized that these big goals are just goals in paper agreed by higher level organization if not localized at the city or community level. These big goals will only serve as lip service if not alleviate the daily situation or struggles of the vulnerable sectors. All communities must be involved and committed to attain this global goal. Communities should be empowered to promote sustainability and resiliency. Probably, these are the reasons why most groups focused on local settings.

Attending the summer course is a great experience for me personally and professionally. Sometimes when you are at the local level, you may feel that what you are doing doesn’t contribute significantly to the betterment of the world. Now I believe that the fight to a sustainable and resilient world starts at the community / city level. I hope that more participants from Developing Countries will participate in the coming years. A very special thanks to the Organizer.

Is your City / Community Resilient?


My Team – Javed Hussain (Pakistan), Shailendra K. Mandal (India), Ermin Lucino (Philippines) and Gusti Ayu Ketut Surtiari (Indonesia)


Local Citizens and Non-Citizens in the Middle of the COVID 19 Pandemic

Everything stood still during the Pandemic Lockdown. Schools, restaurants, businesses and public transportation, among others, stopped or operated in a limited capacity. Most of the people waited for the government to provide support in terms of financial assistance and food packages. The situation revealed two types of inhabitants (Beneficiaries) living in local governments (communities): the local non-citizens and the citizens.

First let us define what are citizens. Citizens are those who are living or resides in the community that are registered voters and/or included in the masterlist (whether as senior citizen, person with disability, solo parent, etc.) of the local government. Non-citizens are those living in the community who are not registered voters and does not directly deal with the local government. Usually these are the transient workers, company workers, stranded people, and those who by choice doesn’t want to engage or be part of the community.

During the pandemic (or any other disasters), the local government procures and prepares supplies for distribution and formulate programs to support its people. The local government uses the masterlist in identifying the number of food packages or the budget to prepare for the relief operation. However, during the pandemic, many inhabitants took to social media their cries of being excluded from the support. Sometimes, they air their complaints even before the actual distribution of support to the point of accusing local leaders of politicking, corruption, and discrimination.

On the government side, they cannot just allocate resources not based on actual data while on the side of the non-citizens, they are also part of the community contributing to its economy and development. Both sides have strong points. I do not want to decide which is the right argument. I only hope that this incident brought learnings on both sides. This way we can prevent this from happening again when disasters occur (and disasters will definitely occur whether we like or not).

If a person is a non-citizen by choice, he/she should be ready if he/she is not included in the masterlist of beneficiaries. However, being a non-citizen does not exempt him/her from government services such as peace and order, health, environmental programs, etc. Other non-citizens can easily be included in the local government masterlist if they just register in the local Commission on Election (COMELEC) Offices available in all local governments. This is a strong document that you are part of the community. However, take note that if a person fails to vote two consecutive times, he/she will be written off from the COMELEC masterlist. Another way is to get identification card from the local government Social Welfare and Development Office if you are a senior citizen, person with disability, solo parent, etc. There are many ways to become a citizen of the community which requires very minimal effort.

Local Government is tasked to promote the general welfare of its inhabitants (whether citizens or non-citizens). Thus, local governments formulate plans, programs, and activities in promoting what is best to the community. Masterlists are outdated the very time it is submitted and adopted. Everyday a person is being born (die) or transfer to and from the community which is not captured real-time in the masterlist. Local government should be adept in developing projections or actually capturing the number of its inhabitants on a regular basis. The Philippines has a lower level of local government below the city/municipal level. This is the Barangay (Village) local government unit. The duties of its barangay secretary are to keep an updated record of all inhabitants of the barangay containing the following items of information: name, address, place and date of birth, sex, civil status, citizenship, occupation, and such other items of information as may be prescribed by law or ordinance; and to submit a report on the actual number of barangay residents as often as may be required by the sangguniang barangay. Hence, it is the duty of the local government to have an updated record or masterlist. They should also promote the COMELEC registration of the inhabitants by making it accessible and convenient to the (qualified) people.

The Pandemic revealed this simple issue that created a big impact during the incident. I feel that it is both the duty of the inhabitants and the government to reach out to each other. The inhabitants to fulfill its moral duty of registering and voting and the local government to carry out its mandate, improve planning tools, and reach out/encourage its inhabitants to participate in local activities and governance.

I hope we learned from this experience and I hope that as a community, we are all prepared and focused on our next/future challenges.

Resilient Cities 2018, Bonn, Germany

Personal Reflection on Resilient Cities 2018 – 9th Global Forum on Urban Resilience & Adaptation held in Bonn, Germany, 26-28 April 2018

Personal Reflection on Resilient Cities 2018 – 9th Global Forum on Urban Resilience & Adaptation held in Bonn, Germany, 26-28 April 2018

Attending the Resilient Cities 2018 9th Global Forum was both an eye-opener and rewarding experience as I was able to gather so many useful information that I could bring back home.

No automatic alt text available.

The first few hours of the first day of the forum was quite intimidating. I met people around the world who are really game-changers with regards to global climate change and disaster management advocacy. Global organizations are really trying to control the 1.5 – 2 degrees increase in global temperature. I realized that these people/agencies who are mostly from developed countries are dead serious in helping our global environment and that I am fortunate that they are here to lead since the effects of climate change is mostly directed in my country, the Philippines.

This is also the first time I’ve heard about the Talanoa Dialogue. It was a participative process involving global stakeholders on getting consensus on what is the current situation, what is our collective goal, and identify strategies on attaining the goal.

I was impressed on how Mayor Ashok Sridharan of Bonn is leading his city and other cities in advocating sustainable cities (SDG 11) and climate change actions. I was awed by the speech of Ms. Patricia Espinosa’s call for action. All of the speakers in the opening program were impressive. The general message that I got from the plenary is that: 1. We have to know the current situation and understand the do-nothing scenario, 2. We need to act now if we want to effect change, and 3. We need to work together.

Image may contain: 2 people, including L You Bims Lucino, people standing and suit

I started to feel I belong to this forum during theme session A. I connected with the presenters who are similar to me are doing their best to institute positive changes in their cities. I attended A2 Brokering new partnerships and stimulating private sector engagement for resilience. All the presenters were great with their presentations.

The topic Jersey City: 6 Key Resiliency Planning Documents piqued my utmost interest. As a city and urban planner, one of my responsibilities is to facilitate land use planning and supervise implementation of the zoning code. I have been to Jersey City and I admire their innovative zoning strategies. These are the things I only read in books and they are implementing it. I asked a question during the session on how the local council accepted the plan. The idea is to give up immediate economic benefits of the city for the long-term environment benefits.

I just had our city land use plan and zoning code approved. We mainstreamed climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management mitigation in the 9-year plan. Our plan is quite far from the advance strategies in the New Jersey plan. Knowing these strategies can be implemented in other areas made me feel confident that when it is time for us to update our plan, we can institute similar strategies given our local context.

I attended B4 Achieving social cohesion through inclusive resilience-building in theme session B. The topics and presenters again were all great. Aside from my co-Filipino presenter Marie Angelique Go’s presentation Build back better Zamboanga, my interest zoomed in to the presentation of Gerardo Berthin and Simon Griffiths.

Gerardo Berthin’s presentation is Four ways to support local service delivery in expanding urban environments. He discussed the importance of (1) conducting policy dialogue (2) developing local capacity (3) engaging citizen engagement and (4) promoting accountability and transparency. As a city planner, I engage with these activities on a regular basis. One of my responsibilities is serving as the local development council secretariat. The local development council develops and approve long-term and annual plan of the city for approval of the local council. This seems like a review of my subjects in post graduate studies applied in the real world.

Simon Griffiths’ presentation is Urban resilience bridging humanitarian support and urban development in Somalia. He discussed about local social power dynamics and political situation. These are the realities we faced with daily in the local setting. As a change agent (city planner), I need to develop trust from stakeholders, acquire their collective interest, handle/moderate selfish interests, etc. Simon offered practical advise and situations in the Somalia context.

On the second day, I attended the special sub-plenary session (SP2) Driving transformative climate change adaptation in cities through nature-based solutions. The format of the activity is different and interesting. The first part was an interview with three organizations involved in national and local project implementation. The second part was presentations on why nature-based solutions are key to resilience. The third part was a panel discussion of experts in the field. The last part was the take of the three implementing agencies on the nature-based solutions in their practice.

The main reason I was invited to this forum was to present the city project Eco-Tourism People’s Park (stronger collaboration and resilience for all). I learned from this session that the project may also be considered as a nature-based solution. I need to learn more about the principles of this strategy. I approached Christos Fragakis of the European Commission’s Deputy Head Unit of its Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and told him about our project. He was gracious enough to offer his help and has promised to look into our project details.

I was also invited to be one of the panelists in the session (D5) Bringing the insurance industry and cities together. The facilitator was Butch Bacani, UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative, a fellow Filipino. I told him I am not comfortable about the topic because insurance is not yet mainstreamed or prioritized in the Philippines. He told me that it’s not a problem because people should also hear that there are cities / areas in the world where insurance is not yet wholly accepted. During the discussion, I talked about the insurance acceptance in our city, the reason why it is still low, what the government is doing about it, and opportunities of the insurance industry to fill in the gaps in protecting people and their investments.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoor

The discussion revolved around the importance of getting data from insurance companies as inputs to evaluating actual effects (quantifying) of disasters and for planning and decision-making activities. The challenge is on how to get the data and how to convince insurance companies to provide the data.

On the third day, I attended the (G5) Preparing for internal climate migration: Introducing Groundswell findings session. Viviane Clement, Climate Change Specialist of the World Bank presented the study clearly. She talked about the findings of the World Bank’s newest flagship report Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration and its implications for inclusive and climate-resilient city. She discussed the pattern of migration among cities, the reason of migration, the challenges of both sending and receiving cities. Ma. Veronica C. Hitosis, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programs, and Projects of the League of Cities of the Philippines also explained the pattern of migration and challenges faced by cities amidst disaster in the Philippines. In-migration differs and is context based. It is also important to raise the adaptive capacity and conduct disaster risk management mitigation on areas identified as high risks.

Most of the attendees in the session are urban planners. This was an opportunity for me to share our local issues in relation to in-migration. There are more similarities of the issues we faced even though we practice in different parts of the world.

I was asked to present at theme session (H1) cities in focus: active citizen engagement and participatory urban resilience planning. Here, I presented the city’s eco-tourism people’s park project. During this session, they talked about the importance of partnering with people, developing and using data on participation and approval, and the openness of government to really engage their constituents.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoor

My presentation began with a brief macro situation of the country leading to the local situation of my city. By using maps, I presented the issues of people living in vulnerable areas, informal settlements, poverty, and inadequate public parks in the city. I then described the project and its sustainable community facets. I discussed the project’s participative approach, how it addresses the identified issues, its challenges and exciting opportunities.

The closing plenary program has the theme measuring progress, enhancing action and anticipating future urban resilience challenges. It was again attended by the mayor of Bonn with his call to collaborative action. Robert Kehew, UN-Habitat, provided the summary of the 3-day forum with the overarching theme of involvement of stakeholders in our goal of attaining sustainable cities. The program’s last topic was presented by Michael Glotz-Richter, Senate Department for Environment, Construction & Transport of Bremen, Germany. Basically, his takeaway message is autonomous driving cars is not the answer to sustainable mobility. Monika Zimmerman, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI facilitated well the opening and closing program.

The 3-day forum was overwhelming and challenging. Overwhelming because of information overload but instead of getting stressed I still want to attend every session to get something from it. Challenging because the theories l learned are being applied in different world context and makes me think of how l can apply them to my city.

Planning is both science and art. Theory and application. The forum provided most of the theory part. But the practical part is what is happening outside the venue– the daily and quality life of the city’s citizen. I was fortunate to book a hotel located 3-4km from the venue. The hotel booking comes with a complimentary ticket for train/bus ride within the city. Everyday I walk approximately 400m to the train, ride the train (3 stops) and walk again (400m) towards the venue.

Coming from a developing country, there are some things I appreciate that I think people in developing countries take for granted. First is the respect for pedestrian. Having an ample and exclusive space for pedestrian sidewalk clearly shows this respect. Even persons on a wheelchair is safe to use the sidewalk. This encourage people to walk safely and conveniently. Second is the presence of bike lanes. Together with walking, biking promotes non-motorize mode of transportation which is good for the body and for the environment. Third is the presence of ample open spaces (parks) with benches and trees. This promotes outdoor activities and socialization. Lastly is I didn’t have the chance to use my complimentary train/bus ticket because no one is checking it.

The story in my country is different. We prioritize street carriageway than the sidewalks. We do not have bike lanes; we have inadequate parks; and public transport fare is increasing. I know the situation between my country and Bonn, Germany is far different but that doesn’t mean we cannot study or benchmark good practices of the latter.

I am excited to work back in my city. I just had our bike lane consultancy awarded to a third party consultant (this will be the first time that we will study having a bike lane). I am excited to study about nature-based solution incorporated in our eco-tourism people’s park. I am optimistic that I can find a project that our city can partner with the City of Bonn. Perhaps enter into a sister city arrangement so that people in my city (elected leaders) will also understand and support the road to SDG 11. We have good policies in our country like mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management in major plans. Aside from being compliant with our policies, I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the objective of our policies.

I am also inspired to finish my thesis in my Master of Urban and Regional Planning. My thesis is about complete streets concept application in the local context. I encountered the term complete streets when I was reviewing for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in 2017. Bonn, Germany’s street exemplified the complete street concept.

Thank you, ICLEI World Secretariat and the City of Bonn for sponsoring my trip. I gained friends and colleagues from around the world with the same mindset of trying to literally save our world. I met global heroes and I hope to be one of them.

Thank you again and I hope I’ll be invited to future activities and next year’s Resilient Cities 2019 10th Global Forum.