YSEALI Urban Planning and Smart Growth – Singapore (Part 3 of 3)

This is a re-share of my experience in a YSEALI Regional Workshop experience in Singapore, and this was originally posted at Rappler X, June 18, 2017. 

Valuing the planning profession

Philippine planning future is looking into the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Whenever I read the news, legislators talk about housing backlog. And for good reason. But housing is just one component; urbanization deals with so much more. What is the understanding of our policy-makers on the scope of urban planning? Churning out houses, plan compliance, and a ticklist of tables and maps are not solutions. To what extent do we truly understand the damage that housing without consultation and integration to transport and socio-economic development can bring? When will public space, nature, and citizen rights be the forefront of our planning policies?

We have brilliant minds in the profession, from my professors in the School of Urban and Regional Planning to my friends and classmates who have been travelling and studying around the world to gain more knowledge and better understanding of urbanization. But we are not yet a mature profession. In the Philippines, we have 2,433 licensed environmental planners to date. This is not enough to fulfil the multifarious tasks that burden our local planning offices. This is not enough to bring multi-disciplinary expertise to each local government. And we’re not yet even talking about provincial, regional, and national planning agencies.

Perhaps we should start listening to urban planners a little bit more than politicians. Perhaps, we, urban planners should speak out more, educate more, and do more, and at the same time, mind our ethics in accepting projects and collaborating with developers. While I encourage the growth of the industry in our country, those wanting to take the licensure exam should also be mindful of the massive responsibility that comes with the profession. The same way we trust architects with design, and the same way we trust engineers with structural integrity, is the same way we should trust urban planners with how a city grows, and how human settlements emerge.

In the Urban Redevelopment Authority, master planners of various disciplines—geography, social sciences, engineering, architecture, economics—come together to collaborate for planning. This exhibit shows the fruits of their work.


You, me, and the future of our cities

I asked my Singaporean groupmate how a developing country could improve. How a young planner could make a difference. Her answer was simple: Start small. It doesn’t have to be an entire, flashy masterplan that your city would never have the means to finance. It can start by conversing with neighbors you’ve lived with in the same small area, but never got acquainted with. During your jogging time. Or dog walk time. It can start by you visiting the park in the community, and observing if it has people doing activities in it, or if it looks like it came out of a horror movie (Our subdivision has one). You can start by telling your parents not to park on the sidewalk. Or by not stopping the car on top of pedestrian lanes.

We learned from the humbly great Jack Sim: You don’t have to spend, you just have to utilize what others have, and put it to effect. Create that ripple, share the advocacy, and let’s help each other to improve urban planning in the Philippines.

Someone said, “When you love your city, you can start to imagine the best for it.” I love the Philippines, and I love Metropolitan Manila because it is my home, no matter how painstaking it is to embrace its state of urbanization today. I imagine it to be clean, to have avenues lined with blossoming trees, no smoke, and with people living at ease, proud of their own cities.

Here’s to sharing that vision, and making it happen in our lifetime.

Here are two awesome YSEALI TV episodes from our regional workshop:


They interviewed me for Episode 2. 🙂


End of 3 parts.

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