IN places like China, Singapore and most European countries, the state invests in the long-term potential of a city regardless of its short-term profitability.
The Philippines is more like Brazil and South America, it’s private companies who invest in more immediate profitability at the expense of long term and viability end up being the ones shaping a cities’ landscape.
What we need is Competent command and control from the public sector and this is what Urban Plan envisions to do.
The first run of the UrbanPlan for Public Officials workshop in Manila hosted by the Urban Land Institute Philippines concluded on November 15 at the De La Salle University Rufino Campus, Taguig City. Held in partnership with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), over 25 city planning and development officers (CPDOs) from various local government units (LGUs) from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao participated in the program.
The UrbanPlan program is a realistic, engaging exercise in which participants learn about the fundamental forces that affect real-estate development in our communities. Participants experience the challenging issues, private and public sector roles, complex trade-offs, and fundamental economics in play when proposing realistic land-use solutions to vexing growth challenges. Launched in Asia Pacific this year in the following countries—Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines—UrbanPlan’s mission is to create a sophisticated level of discourse among local stakeholders involved in land-use decisions through the education of tomorrow’s voters, neighbors, community leaders, public officials and land-use professionals to create better communities.
In Manila the March 2018 pilot was targeted for university students, to resounding success. It is now currently offered in the university level at De La Salle University and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in their real-estate management courses.
“We have been concentrating on students and teaching real estate,” said Charlie Rufino, chairman of UrbanPlan for Philippines. “However, there is also program offered for public officials, which they piloted in Singapore.” Together with a group of volunteers, Rufino championed to have the first run of UrbanPlan for Public Officials in Manila. Sophie Lambert, Senior Director for UrbanPlan, flew in from Washington to facilitate the session, as part of the efforts to strengthen the growth of the program in Asia Pacific.
Participants included the CPDOs and other representatives from the cities of Baguio, Butuan, Calapan, Calbayog, Dagupan, Dipolog, Maasin, Malabon, Mati, Muntinlupa, Naga (Cebu), Parañaque, Puerto Princesa, Quezon, San Jose del Monte, San Pedro, Sipalay, Tabaco, Tacurong, Tarlac and Valenzuela.
The exercise provided the officials the opportunity to learn more about the build environment and economic trade-offs. “What is normally taken up in three weeks by students, they are doing it in six hours,” Rufino added.
The UrbanPlan workshop is one of the DBM’s initiatives to offer technical assistance to the local government units as they develop proposals for “Green, Green, Green,” a unique assistance program spearheaded by the DBM that aims to make the Philippines’s 145 cities more livable and sustainable through the establishment and improvement of urban public open spaces, such as parks, plazas and streets, among others.
“We had LGU planners from all across the Philippines, not just Metro Manila, representing different regions to come together and learn new skills, and also have a hands-on experience where they can practice development concepts, which they can take back to the cities where they work and implement them in the future,” said Julia Nebrija, program manager of Green, Green, Green project under the DBM. She was pleased for the opportunity to bring a globally recognized opportunity to local government officials, with plans to expand it further, hopefully to the rest of the Philippines’s cities.
Rufino noted that the exercise was a great reversal of roles. “You have the regulators, but now they are part of a fictitious development team,” he said. This provided the participants a better understanding of how the different factors work in a real-estate scenario.
UrbanPlan for Public Officials workshops are ideal for local decision makers who would like to learn more about the fundamental forces that shape and affect the built environment, and the important leadership roles that elected and appointed officials play in the real-estate development process.
The core of the workshop is an exercise to create a land-use proposal balancing factors, such as community interests, building types, and financial feasibility. The teams learned how to work with design and land-use guidelines to develop the site plan and a financial tool to develop the model to attract investors, among others.
The workshop will enable public officials to better understand the trade-offs and risk at play in the entitlement and negotiation process associated with land use, especially in public-private partnerships. The UrbanPlan case study is an example of a city-led redevelopment effort where compromise needs to be met between the locality, development team selected in the RFP, and the community.
“It’s critical that we offer programs like UrbanPlan, especially to the young generation, to inspire them to take on these roles,” Nebrija said. In the UrbanPlan workshop, participants take on roles in the team, either as a marketing director, a financial analyst, a site planner, a city liaison and a neighborhood liaison. “Even if they don’t become planners or designers, it’s important to educate citizens on how decisions are made in the places they live.” She continued that this allowed participants to realize that they could engage at a city level and help to enact a change in their own areas.”