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

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


Only Registered Urban (Environmental) Planners are allowed by law to practice the Urban Planning profession in the Philippines. According to Republic Act No. 10587 (RA 10587) an “Environmental Planner refers to a person who is registered and licensed to practice environmental planning and who holds a valid Certificate of Registration and a valid Professional Identification Card from the Board of Environmental Planning and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).” Thus, to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines, you must be eligible to take and pass the exam. What are these Eligibility Criteria required from test applicants?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


These are the Eligibility Requirements for a person to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam. You need to plan your life first (to be eligible for the exam) before you can actually plan your community. You may need two to five years (2-5 years) preparation to qualify for the exam depending on your experience and academic background.


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!


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


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


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

What Does an Urban Planner Do?

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


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

There are many sectoral plans but there is one major plan that incorporates all of these: Comprehensive Development Plan. As a City Planner, I am often asked if the City have plans. I always answer in the affirmative and ask back if the person asking has a specific sector in mind when he/she asked me the question. Oftentimes, I ended discussing the different sectors. After the discussion and most of time, the person I am talking to appreciates the challenges, complexity, and comprehensiveness of the responsibilities of an Urban Planner.
There is a Philippine Law that governs the Practice of Urban Planning profession in the country. The law is Republic Act No. 10587 also known as “Environmental Planning Act of 2013”. The Law also defines the Scope of Practice of Urban Planners in the country.


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


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


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


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


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


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!


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


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

What is Urban (Environmental) Planning?

Do you want to be an Urban Planner? Do you think you have the skills and knowledge to become one? Do you want to provide solutions to housing issues, traffic congestion, pollution, flooding, poverty, and other systemic problems? Do you think you have the heart and grit to plan communities, municipalities, and cities? Do you want to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines?


Similar to other professions like doctors, engineers, architects, nurses, teachers, etc.; to become an Urban Planner requires a person to pass a licensure government examination. The Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) conducts the examination once a year. Passing the examination would mean a person can practice the profession for the duration of three years (renewable every three years). The person will be a registered professional and may now accept work related to urban planning.


What is Urban Planning? Is it different from an Environmental Planner? Is it different from Town Planning or City Planning in other countries?


There is a Philippine Law that governs the Practice of Urban Planning profession in the country. The law is Republic Act No. 10587 also known as “Environmental Planning Act of 2013”. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/05/27/republic-act-no-10587/

Urban Planning is synonymous with Environmental Planning. It means they are the same in the Philippines alongside regional planning, city planning, town and country planning, and/or human settlements planning. However, Environmental Planning is the term used in Republic Act No. 10587.


“Environmental planning, also known as urban and regional planning, city planning, town and country planning, and/or human settlements planning, refers to the multi-disciplinary art and science of analyzing, specifying, clarifying, harmonizing, managing and regulating the use and development of land and water resources, in relation to their environs, for the development of sustainable communities and ecosystems.” – RA 10587 SEC. 4. (a)


The definition is quite complex and intriguing. I will try to explain the parts of the definition as best as I can as follows:


Multi-disciplinary – This means that there are numerous fields of study, discipline, and professions that make up Urban Planning. Urban Planners come from various professions such as Architecture, Engineering, Public Administration and other Social Sciences, etc. This also means that Urban Planners work in teams. Though in the news, we may hear famous urban planners planning important sites/projects, it doesn’t mean that he/she planned it alone. A reliable team is behind a good masterplan. Issues like pollution, traffic congestion, flooding, etc. need a multi-disciplinary team composed of members from different discipline to analyze and provide viable solutions to these challenges.


Art and Science – Science is a system or collection of knowledge related to Urban Planning. The knowledge is comprised of multi-disciplinary fields of study and discipline. Art is application of this knowledge (Science) in real situations usually providing intervention to current issues, and challenges. Sometimes, a very good plan is shelved because stakeholders does not support or commit to the plan. A good project is sometimes rejected due to political implications. Art and Science in Urban Planning should go hand in hand.


Analyzing, specifying, clarifying, harmonizing, managing and regulating – This shows that Urban Planning is a process. This starts from identifying the issues (present and future) important to stakeholders. This also shows that the team does not provide ready solutions or projects to address an issue. Urban Planners need to analyze the local context or situation and work with stakeholders (support/commitment) in all of the steps of the process. The Planning process should be implemented with, by, and for the stakeholders.


Use and development of land and water resources – Land and water are finite resources. It means that these resources are limited. Land in the countryside is usually used for agriculture (food production) while land in the city is so scarce that buildings (vertical development) are made to accommodate users (residents, commercial, etc.). Land may be used as landfill of solid wastes, housing units, recreational centers, schools and government buildings, factories, etc. Different stakeholders have different ideas (conflicts) on how they will use their land. The Urban Planner make sure that these lands are used judiciously thru the formulation of a Land Use Plan enforced through a Local Zoning Ordinance (Law). Clean Drinking water is also an issue specially in cities wherein they have a remote water source. Over-consumption or wasting of clean water leading to problem in supply affects the health, sanitation, and activities of residents. The Urban Planner should plan carefully on how to secure a sustainable safe water source and ensure pragmatic use of these water resources.


Relation to their environs – Environs are the areas around the site (ex. city) that is being planned. This may be neighboring cities or municipalities, mountainous regions, water bodies, ports, heritage sites, dumpsite, watersheds, etc. The environs provide natural resources and services that affect the planning area. A city beside a denuded mountain will put the city at risk of landslide and flooding. A Barangay beside an ocean is at risk of storm surge during typhoon season. A subdivision project beside a penitentiary will require additional security. An over-extracted or contaminated watershed will affect the water supply of its neighboring towns and cities. Urban Planners plan not only their planning areas but also plans in relation to its environment.


Development of sustainable communities and ecosystems – Sustainable Development in the Brundtland Report is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are expected conflicts between the needs of the community at present and the needs of the ecosystem (environment). Natural resources serve as source of livelihood, provide protection and other environmental benefits. Some examples are mangroves, forests, watershed, mountains with mineral deposits or infrastructure raw materials, etc.

Extraction of these resources provide livelihood and development to communities. Over-extraction would usually result in increase risk of danger in communities (specially the indigent communities). The role of the Urban Planner is to make sure that communities extract these resources without endangering their lives and properties as well as ensuring that the future generations will also enjoy these resources.


According to Republic Act No. 10587 an “Environmental planner refers to a person who is registered and licensed to practice environmental planning and who holds a valid Certificate of Registration and a valid Professional Identification Card from the Board of Environmental Planning and the Professional Regulation Commission.” Thus, to become an Urban Planner in the Philippines, you must be eligible to take and pass the exam.


I will discuss about the Eligibility Requirements for a person to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam on my next blog. You need to plan your life first (to be eligible for the exam) before you actually plan your community. You may need two to five years (2-5 years) preparation to qualify for the exam depending on your experience and academic background.


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!


If you are interested to know more about the job / responsibilities of an Urban Planner Click this link – https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=269

If you want to Know more about the Eligibility Requirement to Qualify to take the Urban Planning Licensure Exam click this link: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=286

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloxhub participants

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

My 3 Major Takeaways from attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School

1st Takeaway – Importance of Systems Thinking / Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3rd Takeaway – Heart of Resiliency – Vulnerable Sectors

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

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

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

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

Is your City / Community Resilient?

107001989_330483181693679_593193230287442980_n

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