Discourse on City Planning

The Office

Who knows about the Planning Profession than someone who has been in it since 1981? A civil engineer by profession,  Mr. Ferdinand O. Flordeliza is that person. He has worked for the City Government in Planning since 1981. Meanwhile waiting for our scheduled appointment with him, we noticed that the office of the Taguig City Planning and Development Office is adorned with zoning maps, topographical maps, remote sensing images, satellite maps of the City and its premiere business district, the Bonifacio Global City. We came to the right place.

The civil servants working in the office were very accommodating amidst their work to a couple of grad students asking questions about something they could have found unreliably on-line. Nonetheless, when the time came for us to understand what the City Planning and Development Office is all about, we were treated to a 45 minute discussion on the history and development of local planning in the Philippines, the functions of the City Planning office, primary issues and concerns or challenges affecting the office and the profession, & the next steps of development in Taguig City.

Throwback Thursday

Appropriate for throwback Thursdays at the time of this writing, the Planning profession in the 70’s – 80’s in Metro Manila was a centralized bureaucracy headed by no other than the other half of the Conjugal Dictatorship, Mrs. Imelda Marcos; the Gov. of Metro Manila.The defunct Metro Manila Commission – predecessor of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – was the primary arm of urban renewal and development of the country’s premiere urban center. Back then, planning was dictated from the Top by the National Government Agencies with the inputs of Imeldific philosophies of grand infrastructures to the receiving Buttocks of cities and municipalities at the National Capital Region and to other provinces as well.

Many infrastructure and transportation plans and investments were developed and implemented during this time at the behest from indebting the country to many international banks from which we are still paying for today.

Fast forward to the 1990’s after the EDSA People Power event and the transition from the Dictatorship to the restoration of elective presidential democracy of Cory Aquino to Fidel V. Ramos’ vision of Philippines 2000; Planning was now devolved to the Cities, Municipalities, and Provinces care of the Local Government Code. From the Top to Bottom approach, planning was now a grassroots development tool taking into account a Bottom-Up approach wherein development plans are aligned from the needs of the local government to the national development goals of the country.

The Cogs in a Family

The City Planning and Development Office of Taguig City are staffed by 29 personnel with 6 additional proposed positions in different divisions. Of the total number of positions that are tasked to lead in the development, implementation, and monitoring of the five books of planning documents for the city, only 8 are regular plantilla positions, 4 casual, 2 consultant posts, and the majority of 17 job order or JO positions.

The office is tasked to review and update the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), Annual Investment Plan (AIP), Zoning Ordinances, Short Term & Mid-Term Development Plans by taking the lead as facilitator for other departments involved in crafting the development agenda for the City, like the Engineering Department, Local Building Office, etc. The challenging part as mentioned by the CPD Officer is getting together the different interests of multiple stakeholders from the public, private, and civil society sectors. If the job is not hard enough as it may sound, they are given only 18 months from the usual 3 year time frame to accomplish this activity. The office is buzzing like a beehive with activity preparing all the necessary documents.

At the helm of this office acting as Father to the Family is the City Planning and Development Officer, Mr. Ferdinand O. Flordeliza, with a consultant serving as Technical Secretariat that reviews the legal documents that passes through his office. And a Techincal & Monitoring Group separate from the regular division acts as an internal evaluator for on-site checks and balances of the office.

Three divisions, namely the Land Use and Zoning Division also known as the Clearance and Permit section (Locator Clearances are acquired in this office), the Urban Planning Division, and the Management Information System Division. The Land Use and Zoning Division is in charge of providing clearances and inspecting land use and zonal compliance. Complementary to the functions of the LUZ Division is the Urban Planning Division which functions as the Monitoring and Evaluation arm for Physical Development and Special Projects concerning urban development in the city. They undertake reviews for which infrastructure should be results oriented as noted by Mr. Floderliza during our interview. While the MIS Division or Management Information System Division is responsible for providing timely and accurate data that determines the Plans, Activities, and Programs related to the office. They also give a factual determination in terms of population growth, identifying Central Business Districts, Location for Government Infrastructure and Services; for decision makers on which the Master Plan of the city would be based on.

In support of the three divisions under the CPD Officer is the Administrative Section with 1 regular position as Clerical II, in addition to this section are seven (7) JO positions, which are the following: 2 encoders or document filers, 1 utility man, and four (4) drivers. However defined the functions maybe for each, it was stressed by its head that staff also perform other functions from the other divisions intermittently. This was to create redundancy in times of high work load and professional growth for the staff. Taking pride by Mr. Flordeliza that anyone that comes from his unit and transfers to another office or employer are highly skilled professionals, sharing stories of former supervisees that became successful overseas but would visit him when they comeback in thanks for the leadership and mentorship he provided them.

No City is Perfect

Unfortunately, any organization that has experienced success, it has its share of challenges to contend with. The main concern for the local planning office and with any other office in the local government is staffing. With not enough people performing the necessary functions of the office, many are JO; positions prone to nepotism and political appointees without the necessary skills and qualifications to perform the duties and responsibilities attached to it. The staffing question is always a touchy moment for those with regular appointments in the civil service because there is no guarantee for the other positions in the bureaucracy some staff underperform. It is due to this factor that the head of the office sometimes transfer out underperforming or negligent staff, if he could not fire them; he could transfer them to another office.

Another concern that has been in the minds of many people was the constant floods brought about by heavy rains. However, another reason for the flooding was also attributed to the medium rise and high rise developments in the City. After finding out that several developers have caused heavy stress on the drainage system or sewer lines of the City by their developments, the office advocated for the upgrading of these systems by the private developers since there was a direct causation of their structure to the flooding in the peripheral territories.

Aside from dealing with the compliance of private developers on zoning ordinances, the City Planning and Development Office has also faced issues on Urban Renewal since the “old town” Taguig City as referred to by Mr. Florderliza have small roads and could no longer accommodate the growing population and urban development of the city. Affirming that road widening for the “old town” would be too costly and disadvantageous to the local government, it could only wait until the completion of new roads from the national government in the likes of C-6 connecting the Cities of Pasig, Taguig, Paranaque, Muntinlupa, and the Province of Laguna along the western coast of the Laguna Lake to spur new growth and ease congestion on the old roads. Further, by identifying growth centers for economic and social activities the Planning Office envisions quality mobility for the residents of Taguig City through the efficient use of land wherein one would no longer have to travel long distances for their needs.

Where to next?

The new roads are only the beginning and in combination with the efficient handling of private developers to providing mix-used compounds like the Bonifacio Global City by the Ayala led consortium, a new similar concept will soon rise at the former Food Terminal Inc. Complex or FTI called Arca South. Not only will this new development provide commercial and residential units fueled by the strong demand of Business Process Outsourcing firms and investment minded Overseas Filipino Workers. It will also house the proposed South Common Bus Terminal that would link all Cities and Municipalities south of Taguig City to the rest of the Megalopolis through an organized transport system.

Yet, these developments won’t happen overnight but patience to understand the complexities of turning simple concepts into feasible plans and concrete actions was one lesson imparted to us by a veteran City Planner.

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