Letters to the Editor

Development snags at the LGU level

The Philippine Star

It’s good that the national government has keenly embarked on programs that would accelerate our country’s socioeconomic development. As contained in the Philippine Development Plan, 2017-2022, among the government’s main goals are enhancing disaster risk reduction and management mechanisms and creating more resilient communities. These goals have been translated by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) into guidelines to be followed by local government units (LGUs) in the formulation of their Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs) and related documents. These guidelines also implement the mandates of the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010 that provide for the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into CLUPs as a response to the growing threats posed by global warming and other natural disasters. Identifying local hazard exposures and vulnerabilities and pertinent adaptive capacities can greatly reduce the yearly losses from the effects of natural disasters which is conservatively valued by NEDA at P206 billion.

I have observed, however, that LGUs are having problems with regard to the formulation of their CLUPs along with the accompanying documents such as the zoning ordinance, local development investment program and comprehensive development plan. A major snag is their inability to mainstream the climate and disaster risk assessment process into local plans since many Municipal Planning and Development Coordinators (MPDCs) do not possess the necessary professional background. Indeed, the 261-odd pages of the HLURB disaster mainstreaming manual with its minutiae of technical instructions could prove daunting to many MPDCs even after attending workshops on the use of the manual. Also, even forcing them to pass the licensure examination for environmental planning as required by law does not help considering their lack of in-depth academic preparation.

The more affluent LGUs resort to hiring the services of trained planners or do it themselves if they have competent personnel. However, the feedback I get from my fieldwork is that, so far, only around one-third to one-half of the 1,634 LGUs in the country have either completed or are in the process of finishing their CLUPs. Compounding the problem is the lack of competent planners who can produce plans that will pass the scrutiny of approving bodies. Thus, the poorer LGUs cannot really go into serious development undertakings as they lack the implementing instruments of the updated CLUP. Instead, they simply resort to using their annual investment program that mainly deals with the usual yearly operations of the LGU and has no benefit of an in-depth study of the locality’s potentials and constraints. In the case of the town mayor, he merely resorts to a kind of governance that the planner Charles Lindbloom calls disjointed incrementalism, i.e., an approach that is characterized as simply “muddling through” or dealing with the problems as they come.

Amid its frenetic efforts to make the Philippines an upper-middle income country by 2022, how can the national government countenance the sluggish efforts of its poor communities? Doesn’t it go without saying that accelerated and inclusive national development is, to a great extent, the result of enhancing the development of the government’s constituent localities? Thus, the challenge is for the government to lose no time in providing funding assistance to poor LGUs for the updating of their old CLUPs so they can participate actively in the current development enterprise. And perhaps an executive order may be issued urging LGUs to complete their CLUPs within a given time frame.The fact that the plan formulation process takes five to seven months stresses this urgent need for support. Also, the approving entities such as the Sangguniang Bayan and the Provincial Land Use Committee can ease the way of poor LGUs by refraining from needless nitpicking when they evaluate the CLUP. The private sector must pitch in, too, in this planning endeavor. It’s never too late to adopt the Saemaul Undong mentality! – Meliton Juanico, licensed urban planner, UP Diliman professor (ret.)

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