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

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

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

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

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

Arnstein’s Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Participation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application of the Eight Rungs of Participation in Local Government Units

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

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

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

DILG MC No. 2019-72

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

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

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

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

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

People’s Participation during the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I then partnered it with this quote:

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

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

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

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??

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