The Rise of Home-Based Entrepreneurs during the Strict 3-month (Covid 19) Quarantine Period

If there is anything good that came out from the Pandemic, it is the increase of home-based businesses. The limited supplies, suspension of public transport and the strict quarantine policies made it hard for families to acquire/buy their needs in supermarkets. Housewives, teens, and families filled this gap (specially for food items) by preparing and selling home-made meals, snacks, fruits, vegetables and others. They started marketing their products using social media (mostly thru Facebook). They started selling in their subdivisions and communities.

On March 16, 2020, the President of the Philippines declared the whole Island of Luzon including Metro Manila under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to prevent the spread of COVID 19 infection. The ECQ is the highest form of quarantine. It was extended several times and up to May 30, 2020. The ECQ lasted for almost two and a half months. It was downgraded to general community quarantine (GCQ) and later last year to modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Quarantine Policies were implemented strictly in all communities.

People stuck in their homes are desperately looking for news specially about what is happening within their communities. Most people relied to Social Media for local news and activities. There is an increase in the formation of Facebook group chats wherein people in the community can interact with each other without the risk of being infected (physical face to face). These group chats served as a venue for marketing and selling home made products. Because people during the quarantine have the time and are active in social media, it became an effective medium, a great marketplace.

There are so many different products being sold in the group chats. Home-made local specialties like what your grandmother used to cook (local Philippine dishes and delicacies), barbeques, rice meals, pizzas, milkteas, snacks and nuts and even raw meats and vegetables are being delivered in your doorstep. The delivery decreases the risk of people getting infected by the virus specially if they go to crowded places like markets and grocery stores. It also gave motorcycle owners (riders) short-term livelihood by delivering different products (orders) in the community.

I will share a good and personal example of my observation. My wife and I are both working as city government employees. We are both full time employees and do not own a business. When the government declared the quarantine we were forced to work from home. Because of the scarcity of loaf breads that time, my wife thought of baking different type of breads for the family. She loves to bake but doesn’t have time before the quarantine. With the help of Youtube videos and the small oven I gave to her as a Christmas gift in 2013, she started baking different kind of pastries. Most of her baked goods turned out great and some are good (I cannot say “bad” because I might get into trouble when she reads this!). Sometimes we have excess baked pastries which we share with our friends. Our friends convinced her to sell the product and market it in the different group chats in our village.

Hence, Derek’s Delight Cakes and Pastries was born (named after our youngest son). People started ordering her products, specially her baked Soft and Fluffy Ensaymada. She also started getting cake orders. In a way, the side income modestly helped in our finances.

I saw many stories similar to her story. The Pandemic provided a short-term opportunity to small businesses to level the field with big corporations and capture their community market. Social media became a Free tool to market local home-based products. The local (community) economy adapted and developed in its unique way.

The economy and activities are now beginning to normalize. I observed a decrease in activities (marketing/selling) in the groupchats. Probably because the micro entrepreneurs are now back in their full-time jobs (employment) and don’t have the anymore time to prepare/sell their products. Probably the people grew tired of the group chats (instead of community news, the group chats are now full of product advertisements). After being forced to stay at home, people are also excited to go out of their houses to eat at restaurants or visit supermarkets. Another possible reason is that the big corporations are taking back their clients after a very long quarantine period.

As for Derek’s Delight, we got a lot of orders last Christmas and New Year. My wife that time didn’t sleep for 24-36 hours – baking! We do not know how the small business will perform this 2021. Nevertheless, we thank 2020 for the opportunity. I just hope and pray that we can sustain the gains we got from 2020.

I hope that more small businesses survive and apply their experience and learnings from 2020. I hope that many become big businesses with a good story to tell.

As an urban planner, I see this as a good thing. A thriving local (community) economy promotes social interaction, cohesion, and cooperation; job availability; and diverse and expanded product choices (quality and affordable) for the consumers; among others. As for big corporations, I hope they partner with the small businesses so they can sell their products in their establishments. Both of them will earn this way. Partnering instead of competition.

I always make it a point to order regularly from different sellers in the group chat. In my small way I support/encourage them to continue their businesses and in return I get access to their tasty and delicious local products (watch the diet!).

Everybody wins.

Five (5) Things I Learned from Attending the Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training

I was fortunate to be one of the participants in the “Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities” Online Training on December 7-11, 2020. The Training was organized and sponsored by UN-Habitat in partnership with the International Urban Training Centre (IUTC) and Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. The training should have been conducted face to face (in person) but because of the Covid 19 Pandemic the organizers decided to conduct it online (virtual).

I also applied and was accepted in the previous training offered by the organizers on “Urban Transportation” International Training Course on April 24 to May 3, 2019 in IUTC, Gangwon Province, Republic of Korea. However, I was not able to attend because of conflict of schedule. When I learned that IUWM training was offered, I immediately applied and was again accepted.

Let’s first learn more about the Organizers.

UN Habitat. “UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. It works in over 90 countries to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action.” 1

International Urban Training Centre (IUTC). IUTC “aims to contribute to the global community by providing a wide range of capacity building programs for central and regional government officials and policy makers as well as non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders of developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, the center focuses on issues related to sustainable urban and regional development.” 2

Gangwon Province. Gangwon Province of the Republic of Korea in collaboration with UN-HABITAT established IUTC in 2007. The center has trained thousands of policy makers and leaders from 54 countries in the Asia-Pacific region since its establishment. 2

The IUWM for Better Resilience in Cities online training course objective is to provide participants a deeper understanding of the principles of IUWM and how these principles can be equitably applied in cities. The training also aims to help and further understand and achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on improving access to water and sanitation for all and at the same time address higher resilience and sanitation services in the cities, especially in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. We learned to understand and analyse the different water actors that participate in the implementation of water services. We were expected to initiate the process of developing and applying IUWM action plan in our home cities. The course also gave us the tools to analyse our urban and institutional environments in order to select the best possible choice opportunities for implementing IUWM. 3

The course is comprised of four modules: Introduction and technical aspects of water management; Sanitation and Disease Prevention, including COVID-19 pandemic response; Climate Change and Disaster risk prevention in relation to IUWM; and Institutional development and action-planning for IUWM.3
By the way, SDG 6 is one of the 17 SDGs adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

After downloading the requirements and forms, I filled-out the application form for the training. The application form is comprised of your basic information, career experience, job description, English as a Language background, motivational essay, and the official nomination of your agency to attend the training. I also submitted my IUWM Case Study. My proposed Case Study is about Integrated Urban Water Management: The Case of the City of Santa Rosa.

I emailed both filled-out application form and IUWH Case Study and was duly acknowledged by the organizers. After a few days, I received an email that I have been accepted.

Our batch is diverse. It is comprised of 31 participants coming from different countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. My co-participant from my country (Philippines) is the City Planning Director (City Planning and Development Coordinator) of Olongapo City. The online training was from 2pm – 7pm, Monday up to Friday.

Below are the topics and some of the lessons I gained from the lectures:

1st Day. Integrated Urban Water Management for Sustainable Water Security in Korea, Smart Water Grid of Water Supply Systems, Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province.
I like how water issues and management in South Korea presented were aligned with the history of the nation. I remember urban planning lectures that water defines civilization and development. Thus, water at present will influence present, future, and sustainability of cities and nation. Integrated Water Management of Gangwon Province is a good example of sustainable water management.

2nd Day. Cities for the Post Covid-19 Pandemic Recovery, Untact Climate Smart, Resilient and Resource Wise, Water Security in a Climate Crisis Area, Water Management from a Livelihood Perspective.
The COVID 19 pandemic highlighted the current situation of global water access. There are communities that still don’t have access to clean water, toilet, and sanitation. One of the best practice / weapon to combat COVID 19 is frequent handwashing with soap. How can we address COVID 19 if not all households have access to clean water? If you have access to water while your neighbour doesn’t and you happened to made contact in public places (supermarkets, restaurants, churches, parks, etc.), aren’t you still at high risk of acquiring the virus? Everyone regardless of socio-economic status should have access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).

3rd Day. Water Engineering for Sustainable Urban Water Cycle, Initial Reaction of Waterborne Disease, Pollution Prevention, and Citywide Inclusive Sanitation System.
Sometimes as Planners and water advocates, we stop our efforts when we already ensured community access to water or providing them latrines and toilets. However, equally important to water access is sanitation. Sanitation is the treatment and disposal of human waste and sewage (waste water and excrement conveyed in sewers). It is also important to ensure proper management of latrines and toilets. When we pollute our ground water, we not only endanger the source of our clean water but also invite diseases and increase the cost of water due to water treatment. There are different methods of Sewerage systems (refers to the facilities through which sewage flows). It may be a centralized sewerage system (developed countries) or an individual septic tank (enclosed) system (developing countries). We need to be equally conscious and demanding about water access and wastewater treatment.

4th Day. Institutional Issues in Urban Water Management, Development of an IUWM Action Planning for Cities.
Water supplies (source), waste water treatment (sewerage), and water related issues transcend political (city) boundaries. Thus, it is important that neighboring cities coordinate and cooperate among themselves on how to manage this important resource. Central / National government should have clear and just policies on water management and inter-city coordination. It is expected that conflicts may arise from IUWM but what is important is that these conflicts are addressed and resolved by involved parties.

5th Day. IUWM Action Plan Presentations. Closing Ceremony.
I enjoyed and learned a lot from the group presentations. Though, we come from different countries, there are similarities in terms of water-issues. Not all (100%) of countries/cities presented have access to clean water and sanitation. Every country/city has its underprivileged community that needed support. The first step is analysing and understanding the present issues. This will help the leaders develop the right strategy to the right issue. One important thing is partnering with the community in defining the problem and developing solutions to the problems.

My lessons / Takeaways:

  1. Wherever you are in the world, when it comes to water, the issues are somewhat similar. The issues include sustainability of the water source and access of the poorest communities. It is the duty of planners, policy-makers, and the high-interest / high-influence stakeholders to ensure sustainability of water source and equal access of everybody to this precious resource.
  2. Equally important in ensuring sustainable water source is waste water management. Do not stop by providing latrines / toilets. Make sure that these toilets are managed in a way that the community (benefits) uses it well and the wastewater doesn’t add to water pollution.
  3. Understand the Price of Doing Nothing (Status Quo). Doing nothing is not only inhumane (poor communities who doesn’t have access to water and sanitation) but posts danger to the community / city as a whole. Viruses and diseases don’t choose between those who have and those who do not have access to WASH. It is important that everyone have access to WASH to manage present and future diseases.
  4. Importance of Stakeholders. Plan with stakeholders. Define problems, assess situations, shortlist solutions, and choose best solutions together with stakeholders. Involved them. This will build trust among key stakeholders. This will promote commitment and support. This will define success of projects and future endeavours.
  5. Water is an important precursor to development. It influences development, sustainability of that development, and decline of cities. Failure to Integrate Urban Water Management (IUWM) may result to decline (development).

Special thanks to Ms. Trang Nguyen (UN-Habitat) and Mr. Yeonghoon Kim (IUTC) for facilitating the course well despite the challenges of distance seminar and internet connection.

I hope that more policy-makers, planners, and stakeholders attend/participate in the UN-Habitat / IUTC/ Gangwon Province’s courses. I personally hope that after the Pandemic I can personally attend one of their courses.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this years’ Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) for Better Resilience in Cities Training.

1 https://unhabitat.org/about-us
2 https://iutc.gwd.go.kr/user/aboutUs/intro.do
3 https://uni.unhabitat.org/international-training-course-on-integrated-urban-water-management/

5 Tips on How to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam


Ermin Lucino, PMP®. I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam on April 17, 2019.

In my previous Blog, I discussed the steps and provided some tips on how to apply for the PMP® exam. This time, I’ll tell you the things I did that helped me passed the test.

First, download the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). You do not need any other book to pass the exam. You can download the PMBOK® Guide Download for free when you sign-up and become a member of Project Management Institute (PMI). You may also purchase it directly but it is more economical to sign-up as a member and download the guide for free as one of its benefits. The thickness of the book is daunting!

Second, browse Youtube and Google for PMP® exam tips and reviewer. I downloaded many videos on Youtube, some are very helpful in memorizing the Project Knowledge Areas and Management Process Groups. It helped me quickly memorize the process using different codes and mnemonics. I also tried filling-out templates to ensure that I memorize them quickly. However, I realized that even though Youtube and Google helped me memorize the basics, it is not enough to help me pass the exam.

Third, look for review materials from credible institutions. These institutions require you to pay for their review resources. Nevertheless, the cost of paying is really worth it. They will give (recommend) you a structured review schedule. Lecture videos are available. I usually watch them before I go to sleep and early morning because I need to work from 8am-5pm in our City Hall.

Fourth, answer practice tests repetitively. The practice tests really helped me prepare for the exam. I think there are more than 6 practice simulation (mock) tests available in my paid review. Due to lack of time, I only managed to answer four practice tests. Practice test quickly provides feedback reflecting topics you may already mastered (strong knowledge areas) and topics you still need to further study (weak areas). It boosts your confidence when you get a high score and challenges you when you get a low score. Practice Test allows you to assess your knowledge over an immense amount of topics represented by random important questions. It also provides you the opportunity to retain answers in your brain to test questions when you check your answers especially when you didn’t get it right. So, you learn more when you get it wrong during mock exams.

I have a system when I answer mock exams. By the way, I also passed the Urban Planning Board exam in the Philippines (Environmental Planning) administered by the Philippine Regulatory Commission and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam administered by the American Planning Association. In my younger life, I also failed so many subjects and tests. I am just glad that I failed early and had the chance to learn from my experience. Anyway, I call my system the 90% system:

When I answer mock questions, my goal is to get 90% correct answers and move on the next set of mock questions. However, when I do not reach my 90% target, I do not move to the next set but rather analyze the wrong answers and then try to forget the test questions. I immerse myself reading, studying, watching videos of other topics with the goal of forgetting the answers of the mock questions. After 2-3 days, I go back to the mock exam and try to get 90% correct answers. I am not sure if this will work for you but it works for me. I do not feel that I just memorize the correct answers because I let myself forget when I checked and analyzed it 2-3 days ago. When I answer it again, it seems that the answers just pop out from the computer. Maybe there is a term in psychology for this, but I will not dwell on it. The more I get 90% from the exams, the easier I answer the succeeding mock exams. I hope this strategy will help you in any exams that you will take in your lifetime.

I never felt scared or experienced anxiety during the actual exam because I have been answering mock exams. This really helps. A lot!

Fifth, get excited to take the test. When I was in high school up to college, I was always worried when I take exams. I understand it now. My anxiety is a result of my level of preparation (which is really very low). However, when it comes to taking my College Removal Exams (it means you failed the subject and this is your last chance to pass it by passing the test) wherein the topics covers the whole semester, miraculously I managed to pass it all and get a barely passing grade. That is nothing to be proud of but I could have done better if only I put more effort and understand my priorities back then. Anyway, because you are prepared, you are excited. You want the exam to be over and excited to know your score or get the certification.

Some are asking about the review I took. I took the PM Prepcast1 and its Exam Simulator when I reviewed for the exam. I am not paid to promote them nor have the knowledge/expertise to compare their review package with review packages of other organizations. I didn’t take any other course. This helped me pass my exam. I hope it will help you too and please also check other review packages out there if you want.

I believe you’ve read this blog because you are planning to take the PMP® exam. Hope this helped and best of luck to you.

1 https://www.project-management-prepcast.com/pmp-exam/the-pm-prepcast

To learn more about PMP®, you may visit: https://www.pmi.org/

To know how to Apply for the PMP® exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/12/18/how-to-apply-to-the-project-management-professional-pmp-exam/

How to Apply to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam

A lot of my friends and colleagues are asking me about the PMP® abbreviation I put after my name. You see, I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam on April 17, 2019. It gave me the permission to put the said 3 letters after my name. You might be wondering about the PMP®. How will you qualify for the exam? What is in it for you to pass and acquire this certification?

According to Project Management Institute (PMI), PMP® is the gold standard of project management certification. PMI also said that the PMP® certification is recognized and required by organizations worldwide. It validates the competence of the person to perform in the role of a project manager, leading and directing projects and teams. PMI is a global not-for-profit organization of project, program or portfolio managers. It has a worldwide advocacy for project management. It promotes globally recognized standards, certification program, extensive academic and market research programs, chapters, and volunteer and professional development opportunities.

It is advisable to sign-up and become a member of PMI if you are really committed to take the PMP® exam. Aside from the other benefits of becoming a member, the most valuable advantages for me are the free The Standard for Project Management and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge PMBOK® Download and discounts to PMI products (test registrations, reviewers, resources, etc.). The cost of membership is US$129/year and a one-time US$10 application fee. If you are not that sure if you will take the exam, you may create a free PMI online account and try to learn more if the credential fits your life’s objectives.

Aside from the PMP®, PMI also facilitates other certifications as follows: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®; Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®; Program Management Professional (PgMP)®; Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)®; PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®; PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)®; and PMI Project Management Ready™. If you are new to Project Management or still in high school or college you may try CAPM® (Entry-Level Certification) or PMI Project Management Ready (high school and post-secondary students)

If you are really interested to take the exam, first thing you need to do is learn about it. You may download the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Handbook for free at the PMI Website even if you are still not a member of the PMI. The Handbook discusses the overview of the certification, timeline of the certification process, application and payments, audit process (application), examination information, policies and procedures, and certification policies and procedures.

You do not need to finish College to qualify to take the exam. However, you need to fulfill the required 5 years of experience of leading projects and 35 hours of related trainings or CAPM® Certification. The qualification requirement is based on the applicant’s Educational Background, Project Management Experience and Project Management Education.

One of the application requirements is the number of months of project management experience. This is quite tricky if at this time you do not know the definition and components of project management (Learn it Early!). The application states to submit your experience leading and directing the project. It is not required that it is paid work. However the project management experience should be in a professional setting. School projects or planning personal events are not considered as professional experience. I started working in the City Planning Department since 2008. It is quite easy for me to justify my years of project management experience because of the nature of my work. I described my job responsibilities and projects handled in the past when I applied for the exam.

Another application requirement is your 35 hours Project Management Education / Seminars / Trainings. 35 hours is around 5 days (1 working week) of 8 hours/day of training. I am fortunate that I have been attending project management seminars here in my country. I submitted my certificates as part of my requirement. If you do not have the required training, just look online, there are many seminars providers that will qualify you for the 35 hours requirement.

Make sure to fill-out your application honestly. There is a step in the application called as Random Audit. Your application may be chosen for audit and you will be asked to provide detailed information and submit supporting documentation such as: Copies of your diploma/global equivalent Signatures from your supervisor(s) or manager(s) from the project(s) recorded in the experience verification section of the application Copies of certificates and/or letters from the training institute(s) for each course recorded on the application to meet the required contact hours of project management education. I was not chosen to undergo audit, however, all my supporting documents are readily prepared during my application. You’ll never know. If chosen for audit, you need to comply first with the audit requirements before the certification process starts. Once you successfully comply with the audit, your one-year examination eligibility period starts.

I received an email after a few days of submission informing me that my PMP® application has been accepted. I have one year to sit for and pass the exam. My next step is to pay for the exam. I applied for PMI membership early and this made my payment for the exam less than non-members ($405 for members while $555 for non-members – present rate). I paid through the PMI Webpage and chose the center-based testing (CBT). CBT allows me to take the exam here in my country (Philippines).

After payment, I received my eligibility ID. I logged-in again at the PMI Webpage and viewed my nearest Test Center Location in the Prometric’s site. I chose my test center location (Makati) and the date of exam.
I now need a plan to pass the exam. I’ll discuss how I prepared for my PMP® exam on my next blog.

Are you qualified to take the exam?

To learn more about PMP®, you may visit: https://www.pmi.org/

To know how I prepared and passed the PMP® exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/2020/12/18/5-tips-on-how-to-pass-the-project-management-professional-pmp-exam/

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/

2020 Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) and COVID 19: City of Santa Rosa, Philippines

For several consecutive years, the City of Santa Rosa has always been a Finalist in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class). I’ve attended several Awarding Ceremonies watching other cities receive the award. This year, the City finally bagged the award! – 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category!!

As the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Director) of the City of Santa Rosa, I am trying to reflect and explain in my own lens why the City won the award this year and only became finalists in the previous years.

The PCCI is a non-government business organization in the Philippines. It is composed of small, medium, and large enterprises, local chambers and industry associations representing various sectors of business. The objective of PCCI is to foster a healthier Philippine economy and improve the viability of business in the community. According to their webpage “PCCI is recognized as the “sole official representative and voice of entire private business community” by virtue of Letter of Instruction No. 780 signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos”. Part of their programs is their Yearly Search and Recognition of Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU). There are three levels for the competition: Provinces, Cities, and Municipalities. City of Santa Rosa belongs to the City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class Cities).

In the past years, the PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria is consists of four parts as follows:
LGU Profile and Fund Source (Internal Revenue Allotment and Locally Sourced Income)
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as number of registered enterprises, new businesses registered and renewals, total investment generated by new business registrants, Real Property units classified as commercial units, commercial building permits issued, LGU Employees, banks, and micro financing institutions. Other KPIs like Power rate per kilowatt, unemployment and underemployment rate, poverty and crime rate incidence, and presence of local chamber/other business organizations were also included.
Qualifying Indicators such as presence of previous year’s Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), appointment of Local Economic Investments Promotions Officer (LEIPO), local ecological profile, incentive code, Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) code or ordinance.
Essential Indicators are for me the most important part of the four criteria. These are series of qualitative questions. The questions are: What are the challenges that affect local economic development in your city / municipality that impedes your ability to achieve the Vision and Mission of your LGU? What are you doing to address these challenges and what are the positive impact of these initiatives?; What are your initiatives to make it easy to do business in your LGU? What are your efforts to comply with the provisions of Ease of Doing Business (EODB)? Are you using the simplified registration form?; How does the LGU attract local and foreign investors to the city / municipality?; and How can the LGU promote competitiveness? What are your programs and the positive result/s of these initiatives?

It is already an accomplishment to belong as one of the Finalists in the PCCI program. However, as a Progressive City with a Progressive Mayor, we do not only want to become a finalist, we want to win and bring pride and honor to our City.

2020 is different. COVID 19 and the Pandemic happened. Everybody was affected. Governments, Businesses, Communities, and down to households and individuals were impacted by the Pandemic. Quarantines and Lockdowns were implemented. People stayed at home and waited for the support from the Government. Public Transport System was suspended. Public Health and Livelihood were at risk. Children stopped schooling early. Majority of Businesses and Companies halted their operation.

This is where the Leaders of the City of Santa Rosa stepped up. When the National Government declared a State of Emergency, the City Mayor – Arlene B. Arcillas called for an immediate Strategic Planning activity. Department heads and component Barangay Captains (lower LGUs) were consulted and a set of activities were drafted as an output. While other LGUs are immediately taking aggressive actions, the City first checked its resources and developed an implementable and sustainable plan of actions and activities as well as local resolutions and ordinances that are needed in this time of crisis. This resulted to a more impactful, effective, and sustainable support to its constituents.

The 2020 PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria includes the previous year’s criteria with additional questions about the City’s response to Covid 19. There are two major questions included in the nomination this year as follows: What are the three (3) current major challenges affecting the recovery, maintenance and promotion of businesses in your LGU/area of responsibility?; and What are the response of the LGU to these Challenges?

The Planning Office with the inputs of several City Departments prepared the nomination and organized the many COVID 19 challenges into three categories: 1. Decrease in Economic Activities / Workforce Concerns and Suspended Operation of Businesses due to Quarantine (For Non-essentials); 2. Operations and Supply Chain during Quarantine; and 3. Crisis Management and General Public Health Issue.

The City Business Processing and Licenses Office (BPLO) led by Ms. Olivia Laurel developed an online registration system using current available and open technologies to ensure efficient and safe (health) transaction in business registration and renewal as a response to the Pandemic. The City did not pay for expensive software and system to implement the Business Quick Registration (QR) project of the City.

The City submitted its nomination on September 15, 2020. On September 22, 2020, the City was chosen to advance to the Final Judging on September 29, 2020. The Final Judging was conducted on-line platform. The LGU presented a 5-minute audio-visual presentation and a 10-minute Questions and Answer with the panel. On September 29, 2020, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas along with the City Planning team waited for the city’s panel interview turn in the City Mayor’s Office. Mayor Arcillas answered all the questions excellently specially the Covid-related programs questions.

On October 8, 2020, in the second day of the 46th Philippine Business Conference & Expo, the City of Santa Rosa was awarded the 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category.

So what’s in it for the city? Aside from the bragging rights of the city, it proved that the cities and local government units are frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 and in bouncing back better (forward) toward a resilient future. It showed the importance of the role of the LGUs in maintaining security and promoting public health in the business sector. It showed the interdependency of city programs and why it is important to businesses. It displayed the risk of businesses and the general population to crisis such as the pandemic. The City also exemplified the strong partnership between the business sector and the city government in managing this crisis. It means that it is safe and wise to put your investment and businesses in the City of Santa Rosa.

Congratulations City of Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines!

*picture courtesy of City Government of Santa Rosa, Laguna FB Page

To Learn more about PCCI check this link: https://www.philippinechamber.com/

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

( Put Your Name Here ) , AICP

One of the perks or benefits of passing the AICP exam is you can put the letters “AICP” after your name. People in the planning community will immediately know that you endured the preparation and passed the actual exam. People outside the planning community will ask about the meaning of AICP and it is still cool to tell them about the AICP exam and why it is important.

Having an AICP distinguishes yourself from other planners without AICP. It is not a license but a certification. It certifies that you passed and met the planning standards of the American Planning Association. There are jobs in the United States that prefer to hire AICP certified applicants than non-AICP passers. It is also said that AICP passers get higher income than non-passer.

That is if you are living or working in the US. I am not. I am living and working here in the Philippines.

I am already a licensed Urban (Environmental) Planner in the Philippines. I am working as the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Planning Director / Head) in my City. What is in it for me to have an AICP?

First is the (modestly) bragging rights. Whenever I am invited as speaker in meetings, conferences, or conventions; it is nice to hear the word US Certified Planner (AICP) in my introduction. It looks good as part of my credentials in my resume. It is a good topic of conversation with colleagues. Hence, the reason I wrote this 3-part blog.

Second is the Planning updates that can be accessed in the APA website. There are numerous interesting topics that can be accessed in the website. It gives you a glimpse on how developed countries tackle problems through urban planning. It also gives you an idea that somehow there is commonality of challenges between developing and developed countries. The difference is how each country approach these challenges. There is a treasure of knowledge and ideas from the website.

Third and last is the access to the Certification Maintenance (CM) topics. These are up to date Planning topics and challenges discussion which has several themes. As an AICP passer, you are now required to earn CM to maintain your AICP. There are free CM on-line seminars, however most of them requires payment.

I am a City (Urban) Planner in a Developing Country earning a very modest income. I am a father of three kids and has limited financial capability. I cannot prioritize paying the CM on-line seminars with my existing salary.

On June 24, 2020, I received an email that my AICP membership has lapsed. I can no longer use the letters “AICP” after my name. I am saddened that I am in this situation. I am now in the process on reinstating my AICP membership with the least cost possible. Aside from financial issue, I also neglect to monitor my CM seminars and explore other ways to earn credits. Perhaps I’ll write a Blog Entry in the future on How I Reinstated my AICP.

Having an AICP is great if you are planning to work and live in the United States. Having an AICP gives you a lot of advantages if you are in the US. If you are outside the US, it gives you recognition and prestige that your skills and capabilities are at par with planners in other countries.

I took the exam as a personal challenge. I worked hard for it. I am planning to get it back.

The most important benefit for me is that I learned and proved that I can pass the AICP. I accomplished it even if I am not from the US.

If I can do it, So can you.

To Learn on How to Apply for the AICP exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=325

To learn more on How I prepared and passed the AICP exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=332

To Learn more about AICP Specific Benefits: https://www.planning.org/aicp/why/

How I Prepared and Passed the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam even if I am not from the United States

I am from the Philippines. I haven’t worked or lived in the US. Yet, I passed the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in 2017.

I usually encounter questions on how to apply, pass, and what are the benefits of passing the AICP exam. This blog is my second blog entry from a series of three entries.

I initially planned to take the exam on November 2016 but due to lack of preparation, I postponed my exam to May 2017. I believe I can pass the exam if I am given an ample preparation time (5 months). The first thing I did is learn all about the procedure, content and context of the exam.

I took the exam in a Prometric Testing Center in our Country which is in Makati City. Makati City is around one and a half hours travel time from my City. I checked the place before the exam day and looked for a hotel nearby where I can spend the night before my exam. This is to really make myself focus and address small stress triggers that may arise before and during my exam.

The content of the exam specifically the Exam Outline and Recommended Readings are sent via email through links to the American Planning Association AICP website. The exam is composed of 170 multiple choice questions wherein there are 20 unidentified questions-in-development that do not count toward the final score. It is basically a 150 items exam.

There are five major topic areas along with the percentage of exam questions pertaining to each major topic as follows:

The exam coverage is overwhelming. I am fortunate that most of the topics are also the same topics I studied when I took and passed the Philippine Environmental (Urban) Planning exam in June 2015. However, the coverage is still overwhelming and I need review materials specific to the AICP exam.

The planning principles and policies are similar (if not the same) in the US and the Philippines. The context of the exam is Planning in the US setting. There are US Constitutional Laws and Court Decisions specific to the US. These are the things I knew nothing about. It took me a longer period of time to learn this aspect of the exam. I concluded that I really need specific review materials for this exam.

On December 2016, I purchased the AICP Exam Prep 3.0 in the American Planning Association Website. I paid $249.00 for the review materials. The lectures are in video form and there are mock exams. I listened and watch the videos whenever I have time. I took the mock exams in the reviewer several times.

Three months before my exam, I listened to the lectures almost everyday before I go to bed, and answered the mock exams weekly. I answered the mock exams repetitively until I reached my target grade which is around 90% correct answers. A week before the exam, I stopped listening to the videos/lectures and focused on answering the mock exams daily until exam day.

I checked-in to the nearest hotel from the testing center a day before the exam. I prepared the requirements and just browsed some mock questions before I slept that night. I was in the test venue one hour ahead of my schedule. I took several bathroom trips to make sure I am really focused for the exam.
I took the exam and felt good after the exam. I believe I gave my best and I look forward to the results.

On July 31, 2017, the result of the exam was released. 376 members of the American Planning Association passed the AICP Certification Exam held in May 2017. I passed the test and one of the seven International AICP Passers, probably the only Filipino.

The result link is https://www.planning.org/blog/blogpost/9131392/?fbclid=IwAR27-3jW7OaiOHHhPmElWBUQawemp1eCZ1qlbZmBzKgoSw_kQh1WFTU5iSg

The Certification came letter thru email and regular mail. I am now AICP certified and can now use the AICP suffix after my name.


I did it!! So what now?

Follow my Next Blog on to learn about the Benefits of passing the AICP: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=340

To Learn on How to Apply for the AICP exam:https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=325

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

I am working and living in the Philippines. I took and passed the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in 2017. Let me tell you how….

I usually encounter questions on how to apply, prepare and pass the AICP exam. I decided to make this blog entry to answer all those questions. This blog entry on AICP is composed of three parts. The first part is “How to Apply for the AICP exam”, the second part is “How I passed the AICP exam”, and the third part is “What are the benefits of passing the AICP exam”.

First step is to sign-up to be a member of the American Planning Association (APA) (https://www.planning.org/membership/). Membership to the APA is one of the requirements of the AICP exam. You may apply as a Planner, Student, Commissioner, Academic, a Person Outside the U.S. and as an Allied Professional and Citizen. Because I am from the Philippines and outside the United States, I clicked the Membership from Outside the U.S. A list of Foreign Dues Chart was sent to me through email. On October 13, 2015, I paid $45 through my credit card and became a member of the American Planning Association (APA). I renew my membership every year with the APA.

Second Step is to learn all about the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam. You may check it in this link – https://www.planning.org/aicp/. The difficult part in this process is submitting the requirements. The requirements are as follows:

  1. Membership to the American Planning Association (APA).
    I became a member by applying and paying the dues.
  2. Should be engaged in professional planning (as defined by AICP), either currently or in the past.
    I applied for the exam in July 2016. My experience in professional planning at that time includes five years as a staff in the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator in our City and three years as the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Planning Head).
  3. Combinations of education and corresponding years of professional planning experience.

To Check Eligibility Requirements : https://www.planning.org/certification/eligible/

In July 2016, I already finished my Post-Graduate Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning, Master in Public Management and an undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy.

I am quite confident that I am qualified to take the exam. I sent documents verifying my Educational History, documents describing and verifying my Employment History, and three essays demonstrating my work experience meets APA’s definition of professional planning experience.

On July 30, 2016, I received an email that my application did not meet all of the requirements to qualify for the AICP exam. I learned that my Criterion 2 Essay (Evaluate Multiple Impacts to a Community When Implementing Professional Planning Tasks) did not meet the requirement. I was offered the AICP Candidate Pilot Program to meet the requirements in the future.

I personally think that one of the issues I failed to communicate is that I am the head of the City Planning Department of my City. In the US, the head of the City Planning is called the Planning Director while in the Philippines, the position is called the City Planning and Development Coordinator. If you look at it, the word “Director” is not the same as “Coordinator”. However, they are the same in terms of organizational structure and they are just called differently in different countries. It is the applicant’s duty to explain this in their essays.

I emailed and asked if I can revise my criterion 2 essay. I was given reconsideration and on August 6, 2016, I submitted my revised essay. On September 13, 2016 my November 2016 AICP Exam application was approved.

The third step is registering for the AICP exam. The instruction in the email and the website are really helpful. At this stage, the only thing to do is register and pay in the website. I didn’t immediately register and pay.

On September 15, 2016, upon personal assessment and due to lack of time to prepare for the exam; I asked AICP if I can take the exam on May 2017 instead of November 2016. We had a change of City Mayor and as a City Planner, I need to adjust to the new programs and projects that the new Mayor wants me to assess and implement. AICP informed me that since I haven’t registered for the exam, I can take the next scheduled test.

AICP informed me that my exam application is approved through the May 2019 exam cycle (3 years cycle). I do not have to go through the formal application process which includes the criteria essays and verification documents to take the test on May 2017.

On December 2016, I paid $425 exam fee for the exam. I received a confirmation email with my Eligibility ID. The Eligibility ID allowed me to register the date and venue of my exam in the Prometric website. I chose the only Prometric testing center in the Philippines which is located in Makati City.

There is no turning back, I am registered to take the exam.

Check my next blog on How I prepared and passed the AICP exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=332

You may also want to check my blog on the Benefits of passing the AICP exam: https://cityplanningcoordinator.blog/?p=340

To learn more about How to Apply for the AICP exam: https://planning-org-uploaded-media.s3.amazonaws.com/document/AICP-Guide-Part-1-Certification-Application.pdf#page=24

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