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

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

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

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

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

Arnstein’s Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Participation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application of the Eight Rungs of Participation in Local Government Units

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

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

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

DILG MC No. 2019-72

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

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

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

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

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

People’s Participation during the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I then partnered it with this quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nexus Project

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

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

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

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

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

Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant in Berlin, Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 City Pyrolysis Facility

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting times in the City of Santa Rosa!!

How is the solid waste management system in your city?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody wins.

Five (5) Things I Learned from Attending the Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training

I was fortunate to be one of the participants in the “Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities” Online Training on December 7-11, 2020. The Training was organized and sponsored by UN-Habitat in partnership with the International Urban Training Centre (IUTC) and Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. The training should have been conducted face to face (in person) but because of the Covid 19 Pandemic the organizers decided to conduct it online (virtual).

I also applied and was accepted in the previous training offered by the organizers on “Urban Transportation” International Training Course on April 24 to May 3, 2019 in IUTC, Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. However, I was not able to attend because of conflict of schedule. When I learned that IUWM training was offered, I immediately applied and was again accepted.

Let’s first learn more about the Organizers.

UN Habitat. “UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. It works in over 90 countries to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action.” 1

International Urban Training Centre (IUTC). IUTC “aims to contribute to the global community by providing a wide range of capacity building programs for central and regional government officials and policy makers as well as non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders of developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, the center focuses on issues related to sustainable urban and regional development.” 2

Gangwon Province. Gangwon Province of the Republic of Korea in collaboration with UN-HABITAT established IUTC in 2007. The center has trained thousands of policy makers and leaders from 54 countries in the Asia-Pacific region since its establishment. 2

The IUWM for Better Resilience in Cities online training course objective is to provide participants a deeper understanding of the principles of IUWM and how these principles can be equitably applied in cities. The training also aims to help and further understand and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on improving access to water and sanitation for all and at the same time address higher resilience and sanitation services in the cities, especially in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. We learned to understand and analyse the different water actors that participate in the implementation of water services. We were expected to initiate the process of developing and applying IUWM action plan in our home cities. The course also gave us the tools to analyse our urban and institutional environments in order to select the best possible choice opportunities for implementing IUWM. 3

The course is comprised of four modules: Introduction and technical aspects of water management; Sanitation and Disease Prevention, including COVID-19 pandemic response; Climate Change and Disaster risk prevention in relation to IUWM; and Institutional development and action-planning for IUWM.3
By the way, SDG 6 is one of the 17 SDGs adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

After downloading the requirements and forms, I filled-out the application form for the training. The application form is comprised of your basic information, career experience, job description, English as a Language background, motivational essay, and the official nomination of your agency to attend the training. I also submitted my IUWM Case Study. My proposed Case Study is about Integrated Urban Water Management: The Case of the City of Santa Rosa.

I emailed both filled-out application form and IUWH Case Study and was duly acknowledged by the organizers. After a few days, I received an email that I have been accepted.

Our batch is diverse. It is comprised of 31 participants coming from different countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. My co-participant from my country (Philippines) is the City Planning Director (City Planning and Development Coordinator) of Olongapo City. The online training was from 2pm – 7pm, Monday up to Friday.

Below are the topics and some of the lessons I gained from the lectures:

1st Day. Integrated Urban Water Management for Sustainable Water Security in Korea, Smart Water Grid of Water Supply Systems, Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province.
I like how water issues and management in South Korea presented were aligned with the history of the nation. I remember urban planning lectures that water defines civilization and development. Thus, water at present will influence present, future, and sustainability of cities and nation. Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province is a good example of sustainable water management.

2nd Day. Cities for the Post Covid-19 Pandemic Recovery, Untact Climate Smart, Resilient and Resource Wise, Water Security in a Climate Crisis Area, Water Management from a Livelihood Perspective.
The COVID 19 pandemic highlighted the current situation of global water access. There are communities that still don’t have access to clean water, toilet, and sanitation. One of the best practice / weapon to combat COVID 19 is frequent handwashing with soap. How can we address COVID 19 if not all households have access to clean water? If you have access to water while your neighbour doesn’t and you happened to made contact in public places (supermarkets, restaurants, churches, parks, etc.), aren’t you still at high risk of acquiring the virus? Everyone regardless of socio-economic status should have access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).

3rd Day. Water Engineering for Sustainable Urban Water Cycle, Initial Reaction of Waterborne Disease, Pollution Prevention, and Citywide Inclusive Sanitation System.
Sometimes as Planners and water advocates, we stop our efforts when we already ensured community access to water or providing them latrines and toilets. However, equally important to water access is sanitation. Sanitation is the treatment and disposal of human waste and sewage (waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers). It is also important to ensure proper management of latrines and toilets. When we pollute our ground water, we not only endanger the source of our clean water but also invite diseases and increase the cost of water due to water treatment. There are different methods of Sewerage systems (refers to the facilities through which sewage flows). It may be a centralized sewerage system (developed countries) or an individual septic tank (enclosed) system (developing countries). We need to be equally conscious and demanding about water access and wastewater treatment.

4th Day. Institutional Issues in Urban Water Management, Development of an IUWM Action Planning for Cities.
Water supplies (source), waste water treatment (sewerage), and water related issues transcend political (city) boundaries. Thus, it is important that neighboring cities coordinate and cooperate among themselves on how to manage this important resource. Central / National government should have clear and just policies on water management and inter-city coordination. It is expected that conflicts may arise from IUWM but what is important is that these conflicts are addressed and resolved by involved parties.

5th Day. IUWM Action Plan Presentations. Closing Ceremony.
I enjoyed and learned a lot from the group presentations. Though, we come from different countries, there are similarities in terms of water-issues. Not all (100%) of countries/cities presented have access to clean water and sanitation. Every country/city has its underprivileged community that needed support. The first step is analysing and understanding the present issues. This will help the leaders develop the right strategy to the right issue. One important thing is partnering with the community in defining the problem and developing solutions to the problems.

My lessons / Takeaways:

  1. Wherever you are in the world, when it comes to water, the issues are somewhat similar. The issues include sustainability of the water source and access of the poorest communities. It is the duty of planners, policy-makers, and the high-interest / high-influence stakeholders to ensure sustainability of water source and equal access of everybody to this precious resource.
  2. Equally important in ensuring sustainable water source is waste water management. Do not stop by providing latrines / toilets. Make sure that these toilets are managed in a way that the community (benefits) uses it well and the wastewater doesn’t add to water pollution.
  3. Understand the Price of Doing Nothing (Status Quo). Doing nothing is not only inhumane (poor communities who doesn’t have access to water and sanitation) but posts danger to the community / city as a whole. Viruses and diseases don’t choose between those who have and those who do not have access to WASH. It is important that everyone have access to WASH to manage present and future diseases.
  4. Importance of Stakeholders. Plan with stakeholders. Define problems, assess situations, shortlist solutions, and choose best solutions together with stakeholders. Involved them. This will build trust among key stakeholders. This will promote commitment and support. This will define success of projects and future endeavours.
  5. Water is an important precursor to development. It influences development, sustainability of that development, and decline of cities. Failure to Integrate Urban Water Management (IUWM) may result to decline (development).

Special thanks to Ms. Trang Nguyen (UN-Habitat) and Mr. Yeonghoon Kim (IUTC) for facilitating the course well despite the challenges of distance seminar and internet connection.

I hope that more policy-makers, planners, and stakeholders attend/participate in the UN-Habitat / IUTC/ Gangwon Province’s courses. I personally hope that after the Pandemic I can personally attend one of their courses.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this years’ Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training.

1 https://unhabitat.org/about-us
2 https://iutc.gwd.go.kr/user/aboutUs/intro.do
3 https://uni.unhabitat.org/international-training-course-on-integrated-urban-water-management/

5 Tips on How to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam


Ermin Lucino, PMP®. I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam on April 17, 2019.

In my previous Blog, I discussed the steps and provided some tips on how to apply for the PMP® exam. This time, I’ll tell you the things I did that helped me passed the test.

First, download the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). You do not need any other book to pass the exam. You can download the PMBOK® Guide Download for free when you sign-up and become a member of Project Management Institute (PMI). You may also purchase it directly but it is more economical to sign-up as a member and download the guide for free as one of its benefits. The thickness of the book is daunting!

Second, browse Youtube and Google for PMP® exam tips and reviewer. I downloaded many videos on Youtube, some are very helpful in memorizing the Project Knowledge Areas and Management Process Groups. It helped me quickly memorize the process using different codes and mnemonics. I also tried filling-out templates to ensure that I memorize them quickly. However, I realized that even though Youtube and Google helped me memorize the basics, it is not enough to help me pass the exam.

Third, look for review materials from credible institutions. These institutions require you to pay for their review resources. Nevertheless, the cost of paying is really worth it. They will give (recommend) you a structured review schedule. Lecture videos are available. I usually watch them before I go to sleep and early morning because I need to work from 8am-5pm in our City Hall.

Fourth, answer practice tests repetitively. The practice tests really helped me prepare for the exam. I think there are more than 6 practice simulation (mock) tests available in my paid review. Due to lack of time, I only managed to answer four practice tests. Practice test quickly provides feedback reflecting topics you may already mastered (strong knowledge areas) and topics you still need to further study (weak areas). It boosts your confidence when you get a high score and challenges you when you get a low score. Practice Test allows you to assess your knowledge over an immense amount of topics represented by random important questions. It also provides you the opportunity to retain answers in your brain to test questions when you check your answers especially when you didn’t get it right. So, you learn more when you get it wrong during mock exams.

I have a system when I answer mock exams. By the way, I also passed the Urban Planning Board exam in the Philippines (Environmental Planning) administered by the Philippine Regulatory Commission and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam administered by the American Planning Association. In my younger life, I also failed so many subjects and tests. I am just glad that I failed early and had the chance to learn from my experience. Anyway, I call my system the 90% system:

When I answer mock questions, my goal is to get 90% correct answers and move on the next set of mock questions. However, when I do not reach my 90% target, I do not move to the next set but rather analyze the wrong answers and then try to forget the test questions. I immerse myself reading, studying, watching videos of other topics with the goal of forgetting the answers of the mock questions. After 2-3 days, I go back to the mock exam and try to get 90% correct answers. I am not sure if this will work for you but it works for me. I do not feel that I just memorize the correct answers because I let myself forget when I checked and analyzed it 2-3 days ago. When I answer it again, it seems that the answers just pop out from the computer. Maybe there is a term in psychology for this, but I will not dwell on it. The more I get 90% from the exams, the easier I answer the succeeding mock exams. I hope this strategy will help you in any exams that you will take in your lifetime.

I never felt scared or experienced anxiety during the actual exam because I have been answering mock exams. This really helps. A lot!

Fifth, get excited to take the test. When I was in high school up to college, I was always worried when I take exams. I understand it now. My anxiety is a result of my level of preparation (which is really very low). However, when it comes to taking my College Removal Exams (it means you failed the subject and this is your last chance to pass it by passing the test) wherein the topics covers the whole semester, miraculously I managed to pass it all and get a barely passing grade. That is nothing to be proud of but I could have done better if only I put more effort and understand my priorities back then. Anyway, because you are prepared, you are excited. You want the exam to be over and excited to know your score or get the certification.

Some are asking about the review I took. I took the PM Prepcast1 and its Exam Simulator when I reviewed for the exam. I am not paid to promote them nor have the knowledge/expertise to compare their review package with review packages of other organizations. I didn’t take any other course. This helped me pass my exam. I hope it will help you too and please also check other review packages out there if you want.

I believe you’ve read this blog because you are planning to take the PMP® exam. Hope this helped and best of luck to you.

1 https://www.project-management-prepcast.com/pmp-exam/the-pm-prepcast

To learn more about PMP®, you may visit: https://www.pmi.org/

To know how to Apply for the PMP® exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/12/18/how-to-apply-to-the-project-management-professional-pmp-exam/

How to Apply to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam

A lot of my friends and colleagues are asking me about the PMP® abbreviation I put after my name. You see, I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam on April 17, 2019. It gave me the permission to put the said 3 letters after my name. You might be wondering about the PMP®. How will you qualify for the exam? What is in it for you to pass and acquire this certification?

According to Project Management Institute (PMI), PMP® is the gold standard of project management certification. PMI also said that the PMP® certification is recognized and required by organizations worldwide. It validates the competence of the person to perform in the role of a project manager, leading and directing projects and teams. PMI is a global not-for-profit organization of project, program or portfolio managers. It has a worldwide advocacy for project management. It promotes globally recognized standards, certification program, extensive academic and market research programs, chapters, and volunteer and professional development opportunities.

It is advisable to sign-up and become a member of PMI if you are really committed to take the PMP® exam. Aside from the other benefits of becoming a member, the most valuable advantages for me are the free The Standard for Project Management and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge PMBOK® Download and discounts to PMI products (test registrations, reviewers, resources, etc.). The cost of membership is US$129/year and a one-time US$10 application fee. If you are not that sure if you will take the exam, you may create a free PMI online account and try to learn more if the credential fits your life’s objectives.

Aside from the PMP®, PMI also facilitates other certifications as follows: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®; Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®; Program Management Professional (PgMP)®; Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)®; PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®; PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)®; and PMI Project Management Ready™. If you are new to Project Management or still in high school or college you may try CAPM® (Entry-Level Certification) or PMI Project Management Ready (high school and post-secondary students)

If you are really interested to take the exam, first thing you need to do is learn about it. You may download the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Handbook for free at the PMI Website even if you are still not a member of the PMI. The Handbook discusses the overview of the certification, timeline of the certification process, application and payments, audit process (application), examination information, policies and procedures, and certification policies and procedures.

You do not need to finish College to qualify to take the exam. However, you need to fulfill the required 5 years of experience of leading projects and 35 hours of related trainings or CAPM® Certification. The qualification requirement is based on the applicant’s Educational Background, Project Management Experience and Project Management Education.

One of the application requirements is the number of months of project management experience. This is quite tricky if at this time you do not know the definition and components of project management (Learn it Early!). The application states to submit your experience leading and directing the project. It is not required that it is paid work. However the project management experience should be in a professional setting. School projects or planning personal events are not considered as professional experience. I started working in the City Planning Department since 2008. It is quite easy for me to justify my years of project management experience because of the nature of my work. I described my job responsibilities and projects handled in the past when I applied for the exam.

Another application requirement is your 35 hours Project Management Education / Seminars / Trainings. 35 hours is around 5 days (1 working week) of 8 hours/day of training. I am fortunate that I have been attending project management seminars here in my country. I submitted my certificates as part of my requirement. If you do not have the required training, just look online, there are many seminars providers that will qualify you for the 35 hours requirement.

Make sure to fill-out your application honestly. There is a step in the application called as Random Audit. Your application may be chosen for audit and you will be asked to provide detailed information and submit supporting documentation such as: Copies of your diploma/global equivalent Signatures from your supervisor(s) or manager(s) from the project(s) recorded in the experience verification section of the application Copies of certificates and/or letters from the training institute(s) for each course recorded on the application to meet the required contact hours of project management education. I was not chosen to undergo audit, however, all my supporting documents are readily prepared during my application. You’ll never know. If chosen for audit, you need to comply first with the audit requirements before the certification process starts. Once you successfully comply with the audit, your one-year examination eligibility period starts.

I received an email after a few days of submission informing me that my PMP® application has been accepted. I have one year to sit for and pass the exam. My next step is to pay for the exam. I applied for PMI membership early and this made my payment for the exam less than non-members ($405 for members while $555 for non-members – present rate). I paid through the PMI Webpage and chose the center-based testing (CBT). CBT allows me to take the exam here in my country (Philippines).

After payment, I received my eligibility ID. I logged-in again at the PMI Webpage and viewed my nearest Test Center Location in the Prometric’s site. I chose my test center location (Makati) and the date of exam.
I now need a plan to pass the exam. I’ll discuss how I prepared for my PMP® exam on my next blog.

Are you qualified to take the exam?

To learn more about PMP®, you may visit: https://www.pmi.org/

To know how I prepared and passed the PMP® exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/12/18/5-tips-on-how-to-pass-the-project-management-professional-pmp-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

To prepare for the EnP Exam you may check: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2021/05/17/environmental-planning-board-exam-roadmap/

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