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

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

How will you plan in a less than ideal situation? How will you manage without outside help of experts? How will you proceed if you do not have enough data, information, manpower, or resources? This is our story.

Four years ago (2017), our office, the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator (CPDO), decided to start the formulation of our City’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for three reasons. First is it is a mandated plan of the local government unit (LGU), second is we are excited to do it ourselves because we did not allocate resources to hire a consultant to assist us in the formulation of the CDP, and third is we badly want to update our CDP to qualify our city to the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

Our city’s past CDP is part of a combined plan composed of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and CDP. That plan is called the Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan (CLUDP) which covered the years 2000 to 2015. The city hired a consultant in 1999 to help formulate the CLUDP. Hence, if you will look at it, this is the first time our city will formulate its separate CDP. That time, we are both anxious and excited to face this challenge.

Our team is composed of officers from the CPDO. We asked the Mayor if we can go outside our city for four days to focus, study, brainstorm, and formulate a Draft CDP and Local Development Investment Program (LDIP) since we do not have an outside help (consultant) to assist us. We looked for a CDP guide or roadmap. We found a complete guide in the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) website. It is downloadable in PDF form. There is the reference (longer) detailed version and the Illustrative version. I’ll be posting here the Illustrative Guide to CDP Preparation for LGU.

We found the guide very helpful but also very overwhelming. The guide is so complete that it seems that the data and information we had would not suffice to formulate a decent CDP. We had to re-think on how to actually start our planning process. I am sharing with you some of the things or steps we did as a small group to overcome the dreaded situation and formulate a draft CDP as follows:

  1. Draft the Table of Contents

We started first by listing the suggested Table of Contents of the CDP from the DILG guidebook. This served as a checklist to review our available data, assign topics to a member, and a guidepost of our daily accomplishment. The table of contents allowed us to see the big picture and the preferred final output of our activity.

2. Divide the Table of Contents by Chapter, sectors or sub-chapters and by person responsible

We are 6 in our team. We have (2) two urban planners, (1) geographic information system (GIS) expert, (1) expert in local finance, and two (2) jack of all trades, editors, and multi-sectoral planners. We divided the table of contents by chapter, sectors or sub-chapters whichever is applicable based on available data and information.

3. Conduct Population Projection (the most important and available data)

Population data is readily available in the national government’s Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA). Population data is conducted via household census by the PSA every 5 years. The data also provides the growth rate of the LGU. For me, population data is the most important data. By population alone, a planner can project the needed number of houses, schools, hospitals, etc. I personally computed the population projection of the city from 2015 to 2022 that served as the basis for the component sectoral plans of the CDP.

4. Review vertical and horizontal plan alignment as well as other plans related to the LGU

Know the Role of the LGU un relation to other plans. I have a separate blog entry on the vertical and horizontal plan alignment of the LGU. I’ll leave a link to the blog at the end of this entry.

5. Review political platform of elected officials from national down to the LGU level

Planning is more of an art than a science. Planners who think that they are more important than the elected officials should think otherwise. There are great plans that gather dust and moulds somewhere in the planner’s office and there are not so great plans that are supported by elected officials. These not so great plans are given resources and implemented. Planners should learn to work with elected officials. Review their political platform, aspirations, and goals. Most of the time they have great and practical ideas that planners tend to overlook. Remember that as planners we plan for the people and our elected officials being voted into their positions are considered as the voice of the people.

Have a checklist of their plans, programs, and projects. You will eventually see a pattern which sector is their priority.

6. Give time to the person responsible to finish his/her draft report

Each of us went to our independent spot to work on our assigned task. We took note of our available data, tried to research to fill in the gaps in the data, benchmarked CDPs of other LGUs available in the internet, and prepared tables, graphs, and write-ups.

7. Present the individual output to the group

This is the time where we brainstorm. Everybody was encouraged to give his/her inputs to the presentation. We discussed what are the data needed to be included in the report, what are missing, is there a chance we can still get the data, if the data is not available – can the profile still supports the recommendation, will it look good in tables or graphs, and which should come first from the sets of data, among others. We all decide what should be included in the chapters, sectors or sub-chapters. When we are done, we again assign a different topic to cover the other chapters, and so on.

8. Fill-out the required information to the Table of Contents

Remember how someone solves a jigsaw puzzle? This is how we keep progress by fitting-in one piece at a time in our Table of Contents puzzle. It gave us a feeling of accomplishment whenever we fill-out a chapter or a sub-chapter. It further motivates us. For us, this numerous small wins greatly contribute to our objective of formulating our city’s CDP.

9. Decide which part of the Table of Contents should remain and which should be deleted

Some of our puzzle pieces or data and information are not available. However, the data that we have already provided us a more than clear picture of the situation of our city, what needs to be done, how the other plans (national, other LGUs, other local plans and elected officials) align, and how plans should be implemented. We then decide to cut part of the table of contents that we do not have enough data or not in the priority areas. It is not practical to put a sub-sector which does not have any data or impact to the city.

10. Finalize the draft

For me, this is the fun part, putting all the things together. Finalizing the draft is not a one-time step. It is actually reiterative. However, it always felt good to check on what your team accomplished in a short span of time.

We managed to formulate a draft CDP when we went back to our office. We then presented the outputs to the concerned departments for their additional comments, inputs, recommended changes, and validation. It took us around 2 months in conducting series of coordination and editing with the departments to finally finalize the CDP.

The DILG guidebook served as our main reference in the formulation of the CDP. However, I suggest treating it only as a guide and not aiming for its strict adherence. You’ll be frustrated. It is your plan, it is your city’s plan, and your city knows best what should be included in your plan.

As a practicing city government planner, I am planning to make a blog entry in the future introducing modified steps in the CDP guidebook to make it simpler and practical without straying away from the said guidebook.

Yes, you can formulate your CDP with your team without hiring a planning consultant. It is hard, challenging and painstaking but it is not impossible. Yes, we got the CDP approved by our Mayor and City Development Council; and adopted by our city council. It got the support of our elected officials. Finally, yes, our city qualified and got the Seal of Good and Local Governance (SGLG) award.

How about you? What challenges did you overcome as planner?

Vertical and horizontal plan alignment https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2021/05/25/urban-planning-from-national-to-local-governments-alignment-and-relationship-of-plans/

You might also want to check my other Urban Planning Blog entries:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

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

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

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

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

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

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

Levels of Government

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

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

Levels of Government and Corresponding Plans

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

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

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

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

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

Classification of Government Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Budget component

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vertical Alignment of Plans: Physical Framework Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horizontal Plan Alignment at the Level of the City and Municipality

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

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

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

This is the whole picture.

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

Related Topics:

Urban Planning in Local Government Units (LGUs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are LGUs slides:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other related topics:

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

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


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

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

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

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

Environmental Planning Board Exam Roadmap


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloxhub participants

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

My 3 Major Takeaways from attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School

1st Takeaway – Importance of Systems Thinking / Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3rd Takeaway – Heart of Resiliency – Vulnerable Sectors

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

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

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

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

Is your City / Community Resilient?

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