How I complied with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Required Certification Maintenance (CM) for FREE and Reinstated my AICP

On June 24, 2020, I received an email informing me that my AICP membership has lapsed. I can no longer use the letters “AICP” after my name and include it as one of my credentials. I told myself that I might as well lose it since I am not using it anyway because I am based outside the United States. However, out of the blue, in the first week of October 2020, I suddenly remembered the sleepless nights I endured to acquire the AICP credentials. I decided to go through the process of reinstating my AICP.

My first problem is my Certification Maintenance (CM) credits. One credit is equal to one hour. I only acquired 1.5 credits/hours. The requirement is 32 credits/hours to comply and apply for reinstatement. This means I need to finish 31.5 hours to reinstate my CM credits. My second problem is the cost of the registration of the CM. I do not have enough resources to pay for the registration of CM webinar lectures. I learned how to look for the FREE ON DEMAND Courses.

AICP encourages its members to explore CM distance learning specially during this time of Pandemic. There are several ways to earn CM. Members can earn CM by attending an online (live online or recorded on-demand education); physically attending the annual National Planning Conference; speaking / instructing at an activity that is registered for CM credit by the educational provide; self-reporting attendance, pro bono planning service or speaking / instructing at an activity that is not registered for CM credit by the provider but meets CM criteria and is approved by American Planning Association (APA) staff; authoring an article; authoring a published journal article; and authoring a book.

As for me, my option is to attend FREE online recorded on-demand CM courses. I went to the CM Search Page, clicked the filter and clicked the On Demand Free Online and APA courses (including topics which are more than two years old). A list of topics along with their corresponding CM credits filled my monitor. I began to choose the topics that appealed to me. I noticed a pattern and came up with an observation and simple system of choosing topics:

1. There are APA Chapters that provide On Demand Free Online Courses. Try to look for those Chapters.
2. There are Free CM courses from past Conferences.
3. There are topics that are available for download in Youtube. I can easily access the downloaded lectures anytime (convenience).

I made a daily schedule and planned to finish the remaining 31.5 CM/hours. I targeted 3CM / hours per day. CM hour ranges from 30 minutes (.5 credits) to 8 hours. An average CM activity I think is around 1 hour. I started downloading videos on October 8 and planned to finish all by October 18 (11 days). I finished watching and evaluating the courses on October 21.

I am required to evaluate and provide feedback from each course. It is easy to just click on the multiple choice feedback options and skip the comment / suggestion part. It is tempting given that I want to finish it fast. However, this will personally reflect on my professional integrity. If I do this, I can never be proud of the four letters (AICP) I put after my name. I didn’t succumb to this enchanting temptation of choosing the easy way. What I did is to chat down notes during the webinars and summarize them. I also took note of the sub-topics that impressed me most and the policies that may be applicable in my country (personal reflection). I wrote the topic summary and personal reflection in the comment section. I hope that is fine with AICP.

On October 18, 2020, I sent an email to AICP informing them that I finished and closed my 2018 – 2019 Certification Maintenance Reporting Period. I also request for the AICP Reinstatement Invoice. I received an invoice of $50 for the Reinstatement fee along with my 2021 APA dues ($184) and AICP dues ($110).
I now again have my AICP Credentials. Although I paid for the APA and AICP dues, I am happy that I didn’t pay any for the CM Credits.

Here at home (Philippines), I am a member of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP). PIEP is the Accredited Professional Organization (APO) of licensed Environmental Planners (Urban Planners) in the Philippines. Our license is renewable every three (3) years. Environmental Planners renew their licenses at the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC). One of the requirements of renewing the Environmental Planning (EnP) license is completion of a 45 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units during the three year period starting July 1, 2017. However, there are general oppositions to the policy from licensed professionals (not only EnPs) in the country. One of the major issues raised was the cost of the 45 CPD points. APOs and PRC may argue that there are several ways of earning CPDs (Professional Track – Training Offered by Accredited CPD Providers, Face To Face /Online; Academic Track and Self-Directed) but still the easiest and most convenient way to earn CPD is by attending conferences and lectures for a fee. PRC in general declared that the renewal of licenses without full CPD Compliance is accepted until December 2021.

I hope that PRC and APOs (PIEP) will consider providing the CPDs for free to their members as an option similar to the AICP’s CM units provided that members will provide inputs and personal reflections as part of their evaluation.

In the future, I’ll surely remember the hardships I encountered reinstating my AICP which will further strengthen my conviction to maintain my AICP credentials as long as I can.

To Learn on How to Apply for the AICP exam – https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/09/29/how-i-passed-the-american-institute-of-certified-planners-aicp-exam-even-if-i-am-not-from-the-united-states-how-to-apply-for-the-aicp-exam/

To learn more on How I prepared and passed the AICP exam – https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/09/29/how-i-prepared-and-passed-the-american-institute-of-certified-planners-aicp-exam-even-if-i-am-not-from-the-united-states/

To learn more about the Benefits of Passing the AICP exam – https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/09/29/how-i-passed-the-american-institute-of-certified-planners-aicp-even-if-i-am-not-from-the-united-states-benefits-of-passing-the-aicp-exam/

2020 Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) and COVID 19: City of Santa Rosa, Philippines

For several consecutive years, the City of Santa Rosa has always been a Finalist in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class). I’ve attended several Awarding Ceremonies watching other cities receive the award. This year, the City finally bagged the award! – 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category!!

As the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Director) of the City of Santa Rosa, I am trying to reflect and explain in my own lens why the City won the award this year and only became finalists in the previous years.

The PCCI is a non-government business organization in the Philippines. It is composed of small, medium, and large enterprises, local chambers and industry associations representing various sectors of business. The objective of PCCI is to foster a healthier Philippine economy and improve the viability of business in the community. According to their webpage “PCCI is recognized as the “sole official representative and voice of entire private business community” by virtue of Letter of Instruction No. 780 signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos”. Part of their programs is their Yearly Search and Recognition of Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU). There are three levels for the competition: Provinces, Cities, and Municipalities. City of Santa Rosa belongs to the City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class Cities).

In the past years, the PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria is consists of four parts as follows:
LGU Profile and Fund Source (Internal Revenue Allotment and Locally Sourced Income)
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as number of registered enterprises, new businesses registered and renewals, total investment generated by new business registrants, Real Property units classified as commercial units, commercial building permits issued, LGU Employees, banks, and micro financing institutions. Other KPIs like Power rate per kilowatt, unemployment and underemployment rate, poverty and crime rate incidence, and presence of local chamber/other business organizations were also included.
Qualifying Indicators such as presence of previous year’s Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), appointment of Local Economic Investments Promotions Officer (LEIPO), local ecological profile, incentive code, Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) code or ordinance.
Essential Indicators are for me the most important part of the four criteria. These are series of qualitative questions. The questions are: What are the challenges that affect local economic development in your city / municipality that impedes your ability to achieve the Vision and Mission of your LGU? What are you doing to address these challenges and what are the positive impact of these initiatives?; What are your initiatives to make it easy to do business in your LGU? What are your efforts to comply with the provisions of Ease of Doing Business (EODB)? Are you using the simplified registration form?; How does the LGU attract local and foreign investors to the city / municipality?; and How can the LGU promote competitiveness? What are your programs and the positive result/s of these initiatives?

It is already an accomplishment to belong as one of the Finalists in the PCCI program. However, as a Progressive City with a Progressive Mayor, we do not only want to become a finalist, we want to win and bring pride and honor to our City.

2020 is different. COVID 19 and the Pandemic happened. Everybody was affected. Governments, Businesses, Communities, and down to households and individuals were impacted by the Pandemic. Quarantines and Lockdowns were implemented. People stayed at home and waited for the support from the Government. Public Transport System was suspended. Public Health and Livelihood were at risk. Children stopped schooling early. Majority of Businesses and Companies halted their operation.

This is where the Leaders of the City of Santa Rosa stepped up. When the National Government declared a State of Emergency, the City Mayor – Arlene B. Arcillas called for an immediate Strategic Planning activity. Department heads and component Barangay Captains (lower LGUs) were consulted and a set of activities were drafted as an output. While other LGUs are immediately taking aggressive actions, the City first checked its resources and developed an implementable and sustainable plan of actions and activities as well as local resolutions and ordinances that are needed in this time of crisis. This resulted to a more impactful, effective, and sustainable support to its constituents.

The 2020 PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria includes the previous year’s criteria with additional questions about the City’s response to Covid 19. There are two major questions included in the nomination this year as follows: What are the three (3) current major challenges affecting the recovery, maintenance and promotion of businesses in your LGU/area of responsibility?; and What are the response of the LGU to these Challenges?

The Planning Office with the inputs of several City Departments prepared the nomination and organized the many COVID 19 challenges into three categories: 1. Decrease in Economic Activities / Workforce Concerns and Suspended Operation of Businesses due to Quarantine (For Non-essentials); 2. Operations and Supply Chain during Quarantine; and 3. Crisis Management and General Public Health Issue.

The City Business Processing and Licenses Office (BPLO) led by Ms. Olivia Laurel developed an online registration system using current available and open technologies to ensure efficient and safe (health) transaction in business registration and renewal as a response to the Pandemic. The City did not pay for expensive software and system to implement the Business Quick Registration (QR) project of the City.

The City submitted its nomination on September 15, 2020. On September 22, 2020, the City was chosen to advance to the Final Judging on September 29, 2020. The Final Judging was conducted on-line platform. The LGU presented a 5-minute audio-visual presentation and a 10-minute Questions and Answer with the panel. On September 29, 2020, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas along with the City Planning team waited for the city’s panel interview turn in the City Mayor’s Office. Mayor Arcillas answered all the questions excellently specially the Covid-related programs questions.

On October 8, 2020, in the second day of the 46th Philippine Business Conference & Expo, the City of Santa Rosa was awarded the 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category.

So what’s in it for the city? Aside from the bragging rights of the city, it proved that the cities and local government units are frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 and in bouncing back better (forward) toward a resilient future. It showed the importance of the role of the LGUs in maintaining security and promoting public health in the business sector. It showed the interdependency of city programs and why it is important to businesses. It displayed the risk of businesses and the general population to crisis such as the pandemic. The City also exemplified the strong partnership between the business sector and the city government in managing this crisis. It means that it is safe and wise to put your investment and businesses in the City of Santa Rosa.

Congratulations City of Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines!

*picture courtesy of City Government of Santa Rosa, Laguna FB Page

To Learn more about PCCI check this link: https://www.philippinechamber.com/

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

Do you want to be an Urban Planner? Do you think you have the skills and knowledge to become one? Do you want to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines? Are you qualified to become an Urban Planner?


Only Registered Urban (Environmental) Planners are allowed by law to practice the Urban Planning profession in the Philippines. According to Republic Act No. 10587 (RA 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 (PRC).” Thus, to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines, you must be eligible to take and pass the exam. What are these Eligibility Criteria required from test applicants?


There are four (4) requirements to qualify to take the Urban Planning (Environmental Planning) Board Exam. The three (3) requirements are the easiest and self-explanatory: a citizen of the Philippines or a foreign citizen whose country or State has a policy on reciprocity in the practice of the profession, of good moral character, and not convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude by a court of competent jurisdiction.


The last requirement involves a combination of Educational Degree and Planning related experience. If you are an incoming student or in college, you may opt to take the Bachelor’s Degree related to urban planning. At this point in your life, you may belong to one of these three (3) situations:


Situation 1. You finished a Graduate degree in Environmental Planning, Urban and Regional Planning, City Planning, Town and Country Planning and/or Human Settlements Planning. Graduate degrees are master and doctoral degrees while Undergraduate degrees are associate and bachelor degrees. Finishing a Graduate Degree in the aforementioned courses will allow the graduate to take the exam without any planning related work experience.


Situation 2. You acquired a Post-Graduate Diploma in Environmental Planning, city and regional planning and/or Human Settlements Planning. There are several schools in the Philippines offering a post-graduate Diploma recognized by the Board of Environmental Planning and the PRC. A post-graduate Diploma course can be finished in 1 and a half year. I finished my Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning in the University of the Philippines in 1 and a half year.


Finishing a Post-Graduate Diploma in Urban Planning and at least one (1) year on-the-job training in planning allows a person eligibility to take the Urban Planning exam.


Situation 3. You finished a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Planning, city planning or urban and regional planning, or town and country planning, or its equivalent.


Urban Planning degree before 2015 is considered as both a Graduate Degree and a Post-Graduate Diploma course. It is just only a few years ago that universities started offering Environmental (Urban) Planning as an undergraduate (Bachelor Degree) course.


Finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Planning etc. with two (2) years on-the-job planning training allows a person eligibility to take the Urban Planning exam.

As per RA 10587 “The on-the-job training required shall be undertaken under the supervision of a registered and licensed environmental planner or the applicant’s immediate supervisor in an agency or organization acceptable to the Board, which is engaged or involved in environmental planning functions or programs.” This means an Environmental Planner (Supervisor) or the Human Resources Management Office of your company (urban planning related company) may provide your on-the-job training certification.


These are the Eligibility Requirements for a person to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam. You need to plan your life first (to be eligible for the exam) before you can 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 interested, You may check a brief description and definition of Urban Planning in the Philippines at: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=278


You may also be interested to know more about the job / responsibilities of an Urban Planner at: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=269


To Know more about the Eligibility Requirement to take the exam:
https://www.prc.gov.ph/requirements/environmental-planner

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

Dreaming of becoming an Urban Planner? Do you want to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines? What are the responsibilities and job description of an Urban Planner?


We see Urban Planners in news and documentaries explaining what and how things should be implemented to address current issues and problems. Effects of major disasters could have been handled well if there is a plan for it or if the plan was implemented accordingly. Communities can be livelier and bustling with economic activity with site plans. Residential lots are more expensive in masterplanned communities. Poverty can be addressed in social development plans. There are also plans that are so absurd that implementing it would not only waste resources but will also invite ridicule to government leaders.
Planners work in different sectors. There are basically 5 major sectors. First is the Social Sector. Social Sector includes Planning for Health, Education, Housing, Social Welfare, Peace and Order, Sports and Recreation, and Disaster Management. Second is the Economic Sector. The Economic Sector includes the primary (agriculture-related), secondary (manufacturing), and tertiary (services) formal economy sub-sectors as well as some of the informal Medium-Small-Micro Enterprises (MSMEs). Other sub-sectors of the Economic Sector are Agriculture, Business Generation, Cooperatives, Public Employment, etc. Third is the Environment Sector. This sector includes management of land (solid waste), water, and air resources. It deals with issue on pollution, climate change, and judicious and sustainable use of natural resources. Fourth is Infrastructure. This are the tangible projects like buildings, bridges and facility that supports the function of the other sectors. The fifth and one of the most important sectors is Institutional. Institutional sector tackles on the government system. It involves good governance, financial housekeeping, rule of law and others. In the middle of all these different sectors and plans are the Urban Planners.

There are many sectoral plans but there is one major plan that incorporates all of these: Comprehensive Development Plan. As a City Planner, I am often asked if the City have plans. I always answer in the affirmative and ask back if the person asking has a specific sector in mind when he/she asked me the question. Oftentimes, I ended discussing the different sectors. After the discussion and most of time, the person I am talking to appreciates the challenges, complexity, and comprehensiveness of the responsibilities of an Urban Planner.
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”. The Law also defines the Scope of Practice of Urban Planners in the country.


Urban Planners provide their professional service in the government, private sector, and non-government institutions. National government include nation government department and agencies while local government Units (LGUs) include special administrative regions, provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. Urban planners are involved in all the sectors. Urban Planners in Private institutions are involved in the development of residential (housing) projects, masterplanned communities, commercial centers, private cemeteries, golf courses, hotels, etc. Urban Planner also work in Non-Government Organizations like Habitat for Humanity Philippines (HFHP), Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, and other NGOs specializing in various sectors (social, economic, environment, infrastructure or institutional).


Urban Planners are also part of the Academe and as a professional expert may serve as resource persons in community and legal circumstances. Urban Planners’ responsibilities are not limited to the development of plans (in general). Since Urban Planning is a process, Urban Planners are deeply part of Plan / Program / Project Development, Monitoring and Evaluation.


In the Philippines, it is expected that there will be at least one Urban Planner per Local Government Unit (LGU) in the coming years. Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No, 10 Series of 2017 required the appointment of the head of the Local Planning and Development Coordinator in LGUs to be a Registered Urban (Environmental) Planner. This will professionalize and level up the planning development of LGUs.


You may the check Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No, 10 Series of 2017 Here – http://csc.gov.ph/phocadownload/MC2017/MC%20No.%2010,%20s.2017.pdf.


The responsibilities of an Urban Planner are complex, comprehensive and holistic. However, the opportunities to effect change and promote sustainable development outweighs the complexity and challenges of the job.


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!


You may check a brief description and definition of Urban Planning in the Philippines at: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=278


You may also be interested to check the Eligibility Requirements for a person to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam at: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=286

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

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.

https://www.sdu.dk/en/forskning/sducivilengineering/iura/teaching+and+education+activities/bloxhub+summer+school+on+urban+resilience+2020

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. https://slack.com/intl/en-ph/

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. https://miro.com/

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. https://kumu.io/

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?

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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.

What it meant to be a Local Government Planner

What it meant to be a Local Government Planner

Last week, the City Youth and Development Office assigned Youth Representatives to shadow and learn from city elected officials and city department heads for a whole week. Unfortunately, last week was a hectic week for me wherein more than the normal number of urgent projects are ongoing. I managed to orient the youth assigned to be the young City Planning Development Coordinator (CPDC) but failed to ask for his feedback on what he learned from our office. This specific blog is for the non-planners who want to know more about local planning in the Philippines.

A City Planning and Development Coordinator (CPDC) is the chief or head planner in a city in the Philippines. Its counterpart is the City Plannning Director in the United States and Town Planner in the European Union.

A city is part of a group called the Local Government Units (LGUs) which are government organizations below the national or central government. The LGUs govern and provide certain basic services to its territory. There are several levels of LGUs. From highest to lowest: autonomous administrative regions, provinces, cities, municipalities, and the village level (barangays). There are 3 basic level of LGU head planners: provincial planning and development coordinator, CPDC, and municipal planning and development coordinator. The appointment of a planning and development coordinator is mandatory for provincial, city and municipal governments.

The operational guidebook (law) for LGUs is the Local Goverment Code of 1991 or Republic Act 7160.

To learn about more about RA 7160 click https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1991/ra_7160_1991.html

In 1991, RA 7160 defined the qualification of a local planning and development coordinator in Section 476a as follows:

• a citizen of the Philippines

• a resident of the local government unit concerned

• of good moral character

• a holder of a college degree preferably in urban planning, development studies, economics, public administration, or any related course from a recognized college or university

• first grade civil service eligible or its equivalent

• experience in development planning or in any related field for at least five (5) years in the case of the provincial or city planning and development coordinator, and three (3) years in the case of the municipal planning and development coordinator

In 2013, Republic Act 10587 or the Environmental Planning Act of 2013 was enacted. This changed (added) the existing qualifications of an LGU planner – specifically the need for an Environmental Planning Board Certificate.

To learn more about RA 10587 click https://lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2013/ra_10587_2013.html

In 2017, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) through CSC Memorandum Circular No. 10 series of 2017 released an Amendment to the (Quality Standards) QS of the Head Local Planning and Development Coordinator Positions in the Local Government Units. In 2018, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) released a memo on the Reiteration of Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 10 series of 2017 compliance with Republic Act No. 10587 (Environmental Planning Act of 2013). This means that starting 2017 all new appointed planning and development coordinators (aside from the RA 7160 requirements) should be a licensed environmental planner.

To learn more about CSC MC 10, s. 2017 click the link: http://www.csc.gov.ph › MC2017PDF

To learn more about the DILG memo click the link: https://dilg.gov.ph/issuances/mc/Reiteration-of-Civil-Service-Commission-Memorandum-Circular-No-2017-10-in-compliance-with-Republic-Act-No-10587-Environmental-Planning-Act-of-2013/2679

What is the job of a local planning amd development coordinator? RA 7160 Sec. 476 enumerate the duties of a local planner.

First is to formulate integrated economic, social, physical, and other development plans and policies for consideration of the local government development council.

Integration means unity and alignment of sectoral plans and policies. There are 5 sectors considered in the LGUs. These are the social, economic, enviroment, infrastructure, and institutional. There are also subsectors per sector. For example in the social sector the subsectors are education, health, social welfare, protective services, parks and recreation and disaster preparedness and reduction, among others.

The local government development council (LDC) is separate from the local elected council. Sectoral plans originate from and approved by local development council. The members of the LDC are the heads of the component LGUs (provinces – all mayors in the provinces; cities/municipalities – all barangay chairmen in its territory), representatives of the district (congressman), and civil society organizations (which comprise 25% of the membership). The LDC approved plans is presented to the local elected council for adoption and approval.

The role of the planner is more of a facilitator ensuring the planning process is observed and there is participation in the formuation of the plan.

Second is to conduct continuing studies, researches, and training programs necessary to evolve plans and programs for implementation.

At present our city is planning and studying the establishment of a City College and formulation of a Transport Plan and Traffic Code. The study of the city college will be conducted by the city while the formulation of a Transport Plan and Traffic Code will be outsourced to planners specializing in transport management.

Third is to integrate and coordinate all sectoral plans and studies undertaken by the different functional groups or agencies.

There are several plans and studies at different levels that need to be integrated at the local level. Examples are the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level, Philippine Development Plan and Ambisyon Natin 2040 at the national level, plans of national (sectoral) government agencies, local plans of the higher level LGU (Province) and local plans of component/lower level LGUs (Barangays). The role of the planner is to make sure that their plan is aligned to other major plans.

Fourth is 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.

The LGU allocates a certain percentage of its annual budget to its annual Development Fund. These are capital outlay projects (mostly infrastructure) that should be implemented in a given year. The role of the planner is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these projects.

Fifth is to prepare comprehensive plans and other development planning documents for the consideration of the local development council.

There are two major plans in any LGU. These are the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).

The CDP is an integrated sectoral plan with a planning period of 3 to 4 years. The CDP has a Local Development Investment Program/Plan where projects are sourced out amd budgeted. The CLUP is a long-term land use plan with a planning period of 9 years. The CLUP is implemented through a Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance guides the development of different land areas in the LGU.

The role of the planner is to ensure that the LGU has these two plans. The planner should also make sure that the plans are aligned with other plans and that utmost stakeholder participation is observed in the formulation of the plans.

Sixth is to analyze the income and expenditure patterns, and formulate and recommend fiscal plans and policies for consideration of the finance committee of the local government unit.

The Local Finance Committee is composed of the local planning and development coordinator, local treasurer, and local budger officer. The local finance committee provides advice to elected officials on the financial status of the LGU.

The planner together with the local development council (LDC) formulates and approve the annual investment plan (AIP). The AIP is the basis of the Annual Budget. Only programs, projects and activities included in the AIP are allowed to have an allocated budget to be implemented.

Seventh is to promote people participation in development planning within the local government unit concerned.

The local development council has 25% membership from non-goverment / civil society organizations. This ensures that stakeholders other than government actors are included in the development of local plans.

The plans that our office facilitated recently are the eco-tourism people’s park conceptual plan and the bikelane and pedestrian conceptual plan. Both underwent a series of public consultations with stakeholders.

Eight is to exercise supervision and control over the secretariat of the local development council.

The Office of the local planner provides the administrative work of the council. Secretariat functions include coodination with all members, setting of agenda, formulation of minutes and resolutions, etc.

Last but not the least is to exercise such other powers and perform such other functions and duties as may be prescribed by law or ordinance.

An idea or a policy in its early stage is usually assigned to the planner for his/her study. The mode of assigning this task can be through verbal request, a memorandum from a national government agency, an executive order, or a council resolution.

The tasks can be so diverse such as preparing the city for an audit (seal of good local governance), ISO certification, nomination of a city (Phillipine Business-Friendliness entry), transfer of a public elementary school to a new site, survey of new right-of-way for new roads, site planning, local speeches, etc.

The local planner should always be ready. The Office of the local planning and develoment coordinator should be composed of teams that are fast learner, dedicated, resilient, and thrive on a fast paced environment.

Being a local planner is both daunting and rewarding. Daunting because of the diverse roles and responsibilities. Rewarding because the planner has the opportunity to personally see and feel the output and outcome of their local plans.

Are you ready to be a local planner?

How to Formulate an Executive Legislative Agenda (ELA)

Are you a new Provincial / City / Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator (Head Planner) or perhaps a seasoned planner who is tasked by your local executive (Governor or Mayor) to facilitate the formulation of your Local Government Unit’s (LGU) Executive Legislative Agenda (ELA)? Are you a department head or a non-government stakeholder involved in the formulation of this very important document? Let me try to explain what an ELA is and more importantly how we formulate the said document.

I was promoted to head city planner on 2014. A local election was held on May 2016. On July/August 2016, a DILG memo was released stating that I need to assist the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the formulation of our City ELA. It was my first time to facilitate the formulation of the ELA. There was no guide accompanying the memo. Unlike the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) which has a DILG Guidebook and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan which has the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) guidebook to follow, the formulation of the ELA does not have a guidebook.

It is again an ELA formulation season. DILG again sent out a memo (DILG Memorandum Circular 2019-114) stating what to do, specific timeline, and responsible officer (https://dilg.gov.ph/issuances/mc/Clarificatory-Guidelines-on-the-Formulation-of-the-Executive-Legislative-Agenda-ELA-/3012). The Memo stated the use of the CDP guidelines, however, the how-to formulate the ELA exclusively was not included in the memo.

My immediate response is to look for a guidebook on ELA formulation. Fortunately I found the following guidebooks: ”A Manual – How to Formulate an Executive and Legislative Agenda for Local Governance and Development” and “A Facilitator’s Guide – How to Formulate an Executive and Legislative Agenda for Local Governance and Development” published by Local Government Academy (LGA) and Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP). A newer version is The “LGU Capacity Assessment and CapDev Agenda Formulation Toolkit – A Guide to the new SCALOG and CapDev Agenda Processes and Tools Second Edition” also by Local Government Academy. The guidebooks may be downloaded online.

An ELA is a term-based (3-year) plan or document derived from the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) which contains the major development thrusts and priorities of both the executive and the legislative branches for the three year term of office. The ELA is mutually developed and agreed upon by the executive and legislative departments of the LGU in consultation with the various stakeholders. This is the first proof that the executive and legislative agree on their programs, projects, and activities of the LGU. If things go awry between the two (politically or otherwise), the planner should remind both that in the start of their term they agreed (ELA!) on the things they wanted to do for the betterment of their LGU.

I would like to share what I did in my city. It was not perfect and actually it is still a work in progress. I just hope that other planners would not go through my experience in 2016 where I desperately looked for the actual steps in ELA formulation.

I started the ELA process early (mid-June) by distributing a form to all department and unit heads. The objective was to prepare/condition the departments/units in identifying issues, goals and objectives, programs and projects, year of implementation, source of funding, indicative cost, need for legislative support, need for human resource support, and need for infrastructure support.

ELA Form

There was a turnover or leadership on July 1, 2019. In mid-July, together with our DILG City Local Government Operation Officer, we conducted a general briefing/orientation to stakeholders specifically department heads, unit heads, and elected officials. Below are the slides (based on the stated references) I used in the orientation:

ELA Orientation

The departments/units were group into sectors and its corresponding subsectors. The said groups underwent detailed briefing on the ELA process, their outputs and deliverables, and the timeframe. Each group assigned a leader, presenter, secretariat and documenter among themselves. After the initial briefing, they were expected to conduct separate meetings to finish their required outputs. Below is the hand-out discussed during the sectoral briefing:

ELA Sectoral Briefing

The ELA process may be tedious and time consuming. However, giving our stakeholders the chance to make their plan, collaborate with each other and work as a team may prove to be beneficial in the long run. For one, ownership of the ELA does not only belong to the elected officials but also to the people delivering the actual projects. This makes the projects in the ELA easily implementable. Second, teamwork and camaraderie is developed during discussion. This will make coordination better during project implementation. Third, the monitoring of the projects will be easier given the involvement and clear expectations of the agencies. Lastly, all sectors were given due importance in the formulation of the ELA making it holistic and comprehensive. Involvement of stakeholders and public consultation also make the ELA participative and inclusive.

My intention in writing this essay is to help specifically my fellow local planners and the people involved in the ELA formulation in general.

– EnP. Ermin V. Lucino, MPM, AICP, PMP®