Urban Planning: Utopia?

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

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

Utopia in the context of Urban Planning

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

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

Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City

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

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

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

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

My Personal Utopia

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

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

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

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

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

My Utopia at the City/Country Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Topics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What it meant to be a Local Government Planner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nexus Project

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

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

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

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

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

Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant in Berlin, Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 City Pyrolysis Facility

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting times in the City of Santa Rosa!!

How is the solid waste management system in your city?

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

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

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

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

Levels of Government

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

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

Levels of Government and Corresponding Plans

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

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

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

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

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

Classification of Government Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Budget component

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vertical Alignment of Plans: Physical Framework Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horizontal Plan Alignment at the Level of the City and Municipality

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

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

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

This is the whole picture.

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

Related Topics:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are LGUs slides:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other related topics:

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

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


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

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

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

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

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

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/