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The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, particularly typhoons, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis, lying as it does astride the typhoon belt and in the active volcanic region known as the Pacific Ring of Fire,.

The Philippines also suffers major human-caused environmental degradation aggravated by a high annual population growth rate, including loss of agricultural lands, deforestation, soil erosion, air and water pollution, improper disposal of solid and toxic wastes, loss of coral reefs, mismanagement and abuse of coastal resources, and overfishing.

The country, as all other developing nations, is affected by technological advancements in communications and transportation. The state is also affected by social phenomena such as world trade, capitalism, and international laws. Needless to say, the implications of globalization to the country are virtually encompassing. Take for example the trading of oil in the world market. Every time the price of oil increases, the Philippines experiences turmoil: the private transportation sector reacts and the whole country gets disturbed.

There are also rapid advancements in telecommunications and information like the Internet but they come with a price tag. Ten years ago, the use of computers and cellular phones were reserved to corporations. Now, almost every Filipino uses these electronic devices. In addition, developments in land, water and aerial transportation have made countries virtually borderless.

My observations stated above affect planning in general and the people’s perception and use of space in particular. Globalization does not only affect a developing country economically but spatially as well. National and local planners and leaders must appreciate this fact and put into consideration.

Because planning is considered a regular government function, its existence is asserted in both the national and local bureaucracies. Powers like zoning, subdivision, and building regulation were devolved to the cities and municipalities from the National Government. Later, legislations like the Local Government Code (RA 7160) and the Housing and Urban Development Act (RA 7279) further developed the capabilities of the local government units (LGUs).

This is to address basic urban planning problems which are housing shortage and reclassification and conversion of land to other use. Housing shortage had led to squatting or the unlawful occupation of land duly owned by another person or organization. The government also provided guidelines to the procedure of land evaluation for conversion. For the past decades, legislators formulated and accumulated laws regarding these concerns.


Social Planning

Pre-colonial social planning of communities in the Philippines were dispersed, and as such, there was no real planning that is comparable in scale to Ancient Greece or Rome. Their small settlements were only knitted by family.

During the Spanish regime, some principles of European Planning were applied in laying out the Philippine cities. The purpose is to gather the dispersed communities. But in principle, the policy only aimed at putting the natives under the control of the Church. This is also true during the American Occupation with positive contributions such as sanitation and a better educational system.

After the Second World War, there was a population explosion in the urban areas. As a result, demand for housing rose. The city government, however, failed to provide decent and affordable housing for the workers. There were laws that addressed the issues of housing and urban planning, but they all fell short of providing real reforms in the physical as well as social structures of the city.

Recently with the continuous growth of the cities in the Philippines, other problems like environmental pollution, congestion, and garbage are faced by the planners in the national as well as the local level. Laws like the Clean Air Act, and others laws in the protection of our environment were passed to answer these problems, but there has been a lag in their implementation. It is a common observation that Filipinos are only good at presenting solutions on paper.

Physical Planning

It is indeed a tragedy that the cities across the Philippine archipelago developed in a random and haphazard fashion. Typical planning displayed by the government is not predictive but rather remedial in approach. If the opposite is true, problems like housing, traffic congestion, water supply, electrification, sanitation, sewerage, flooding, and urban dilapidation among others would have been addressed to punctually.

It is said the Manila bay was the best natural harbor and with the best location being in the center of Southeast Asia. Had the Filipino planners and leaders possessed and understood the same vision, the cities across the archipelago would have been developed into urban satellites enjoying commercially viable international ports thereby spreading the industrial development in the country side. In the cities of other countries, rivers and other bodies of water were an important element of the city. What is common with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other cities in Europe is their brilliant exploitation of the bodies of water in planning of their cities. What happened to a city like Iloilo is worth the historical review. It the first half of the 20th Century her port was second to Manila's in terms of earnings. Like Manila, the city was inhabited by a diverse population of foreign businessmen and merchants. The title of "Queen City of the South" was rather short-lived. The city experienced an economic decline after the industries of textile and muscovite died down. These developments transferred to Manila due to lack of economic diversity and economic planning.

However I believe that with the current economic revival that the country is experiencing, it is most important that Environmental planners and Architects should advise the government of investments that will assure sustained development in the future. As Metro Manila approaching the 8 million population threshold (the size of a mega city as defined by UN in 1980) these problems will become more and prevalent aggravated by climate change.

We are more prepared to tackle these problems compared to the past with the advent of modern technology and better education. Increasing government efficiency in the collection of taxes and cutting on corruption and bureaucracy had increased the national coffer recently. These will be a matter of political will and to what extents are we are willing to sacrifice for the future. We must remember that we are planning for the future two generation ahead. This means we will not are not the recipient of this development.