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:

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


Welcome to the World of Urban Planning!

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

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

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

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

What 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