The Other Side of Taguig City People Don’t Know About – The Santa Anna River Festival of 2015

TAGUIG CITY, Metro Manila – The city was in a festive mood. Drums, trumpets, and lyre played island beats for hours, only taking a pause to switch musicians.This scene is way off the presumed grid patterned concrete blocks of the Bonifacio Global City. We were on the side of Taguig City that people barely know about. Both banks of the river where highlighted with bamboo poles, flagged with red or pink colors. Boats of all shapes, sizes and worthiness gathered at the foot of the Santa Anna bridge connecting Barangays Bambang and Sta Ana. This was the staging point for the pagoda. The procession starts from the more than 400 year old Church of Santa Anna then proceeds east towards the mouth of the river adjacent to Laguna de Bay; then back tracks as far as until the boats could no longer pass due to the mud, garbage, and low water line. Hundreds of people every year, especially for the parishioners of St. Anne celebrate the river festival or fiesta on July 26.

The Pagoda of Give and Take

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All geared up for the Santol Battle ahead.

Like other fiestas in the archipelago, this river festival was supposedly adapted from indigenous religious beliefs of the ancient Tagalogs (Taga Ilog or People of the River). I couldn’t find any verifiable source as to the origin of this belief. But if I could imagine as to how the ancients invented this celebration it would probably be based on the the tale of a long extinct fish that used to dominate the river called the Banak. It was said that the ancestors believed the abundance of their fish catch depended on the generosity and benevolence of the river spirits and gods. Gaining favor from these supernatural beings required offerings of fruit or other valuable goods by throwing them into the water. This probably preceded the modern day version of throwing or passing fruit, chocolates, bottled drinks, slippers, and other edible goods to revelers between boats and onshore. Sometimes it looked like a bronze age naval battle when dozens of Santol (the favorite choice for throwing) flies pass your head from all sides. One needs to be alert and swift to evade or catch these flying fists or else get a black eye or get splashed with polluted water in your face. Veteran participants of the fiesta are well prepared for these eventualities by wearing a hat, long sleeved shirt, face cover and a baseball glove or net. This was also a good day to practice your arm swing by testing the limits of your power and accuracy in throwing Santol. One could do this by throwing a Santol to someone standing on a balcony of his house at three floors high, 50 meters out. There were no written rules, only the essence of reciprocity. When someone gives you something, it is only becoming of a good neighbor to give something back in return. But most of the time, the people were more in a giving mood than in a taking one.

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A Day in the Life of a Cu Chi Guerrilla

History without war in its pages is incomplete. The human condition of violently expressing himself through the death of another is revealed through the many creative ways one can kill. This is the “travel treasure” I found in the people of Cu Chi. The Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam is a must visit for travelers who value history and culture in their itineraries. A two hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where you can book a half day group tour for USD$15 each from one of the many trusted travel agencies found near Ben Tham Ward (Market). Meanwhile, I found myself in the company of other curious minds from Australia and the Netherlands herded together by an articulate English speaking Vietnamese guide.

Our destination, one of the two tunnel complex opened for local and foreign tourists; Ben Duoc Tunnel which serves as a memorial park for the revolutionary forces of the Vietnamese people and Ben Dinh Tunnel which was the base of the Cu Chi District Party Committee during their guerrilla war with the Americans, we were heading for the latter. The history of the people in Cu Chi is as complex as the tunnels they built underground. While the air was dry and the heat index reached 40 degrees Celsius, we watched the propaganda documentary film as a precursor to our guided walk in the tunnel complex.

The first thing your guide will show you was how the guerrillas used their environment efficiently by disguising bunkers, sniper nests, observation posts, and air vents as termite mounds. Their concealment are like ghosts, you wouldn’t even see them from 3 meters away or on top of it, unless someone knows what to look for and point it at you. After learning how they dug those tunnels you can take memorable photos climbing out of a trap door the size of a shoe box concealed with dirt and dry leaves. I was surprised that I fit through that small hole considering my 80kg built. But what many find shocking were the many human traps with bamboo spikes showcased in a row like famous portraits by national artists. Finally, not for the faint of heart, the highlight of the Cu Chi Tunnels experience is crawling through the narrow and humid shafts down to three levels. Experiencing this brief journey into the depths of what could certainly be hell during the war, forms in you a perspective about the costs of one of the most inhumane acts man invented. In the end, this is how it should be, in the past, remembered but learned for the costs of war are too horrific to consider.

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Four Paws & a Tail – What an Aspin Taught me About Love, Life, Death & More

One more Holy Week for the books, the routine exodus of Manilenyos expending their annual vacation leaves in Boracay, Palawan or in any one of the seven thousand one-hundred (7,100) islands, meanwhile the prodigal families return home to their provinces and catch up on the newest gossip on their relatives, or the lucid staycations of many city borne families tired of the hustle, but for me; Easter will never be the same. It was another Black Saturday like no other except it never will be the same without him the next day. The bunny had no golden eggs in the basket.

That night the moon was blood red. It was an ominous sign for transformation, change that one cannot be prepared for. The time of new beginnings, of a new hope for bountiful harvests, of salvation from the sins of man for the Catholic faithful was a joyous occasion for millions, but on Sunday, April 5, 2015, the vivid memory of grief had hanged in the air like dust. Mourning was like fresh cut grass. And this man fed on it as fuel for the sadness of a lost friend, family, and companion. No tears were shed that night for my furry brother, only sweat and blood from the grave digger were due.

When man started domesticating wolves and breeding them as dogs for specific purposes and companionship, the bond between man and his canine were inseparable from that time on forward. And I shared this bond with the first four pawed and white tipped tail friend I had named Pooch. I wanted to give him a name inspired by 1990’s computer games and ninjas like Shadow, Black, Cage, etc. because of his nearly all black coat with distinguished white paws and chest, white tipped tail, and a white stripe that runs across from the center of his face down to the back of his neck. Alas a little brother hath no decision making power over an elder sister which dubbed him as Pooch. This was in reference to the name of one of her teenage celebrity crushes’ dog. The name does grow on you in time, and it did remind you of those sweet rubbery sugar snacks that sound the same when you start to get his attention from Pooch to Poochie.

Even before Pooch, growing up with a pack of dogs from an early age had given me the fondest of memories a child could ask for. As a small two or three year old boy, I was like a knight together with his noble Japanese Spitz riding forth in the wind in a quest for the nearest bottle of milk. It was a natural and joyous occasion to extend this compassion from dogs to other animals. But as a kid with nothing to worry about other than who will give him his bottle of milk or whatever adventures are conjured in his head, I never understood how deeply it hurt my family when these dogs returned to the earth until now.

The circumstances of how Pooch became part of our family were one of debt and the power of persistent begging of siblings to take him in. He was offered as payment for a debt owed to my aunt who lives across us; she accepted the puppy as fulfillment of the person’s obligations but she could not take care of him at the time. And so, one summer afternoon, learning about this new puppy that needs a new home and reminiscing of the time playing with my grandparent’s dogs, I wanted to see for myself and with a glint of hope to have fun with this dog before me named as Lucky.

Indeed, luck was on his side since my sister and I was able to convince, well—it was more like coerced with aggressive negotiations on our parents in keeping him. His date of birth was unknown to us, but we estimated that he could be between 3-6 months old at the time, and we assumed his birthday would be at the beginning of the dry season. It couldn’t have been simpler than Boy meets Dog, and Dog finds Home, and Home became Family. Looking back at the life he had, these are just ten of the many lessons he embarked upon me.

Lesson Number One – Sniff, Bark, Run, Sniff, Bark, Run

or Explore Until Tired

While travelling or moving into a new place, what does one should do instinctively? By his example, on the first moment he set his paw prints around the house; he started running across the living room and jumping up and over the sofa and the stairs like those dogs on an obstacle course shown on ESPN, exploring every inch of new territory that he could grasp his nose on. He wasn’t afraid that he had been transferred from one home to the next without any assurance that this would be his final stop for the next fifteen years of his life.

This fearless attitude can only come from a youthful wonder of a child. Taken from his first home, away from his second house, far away from his brothers and sisters; yet there was no shaking in him, only the gumption of wide eyed curiosity.

He came into my life when I was going through the changes and challenges of puberty. What twelve year old kid needs most during these times of sea change is a companion whose sense of exploration goes beyond the bridge of his nose.

Lesson Number Two – When in Doubt: It Could be Worms

The youthful vigor of a young pup every morning is like a good cup of green tea. You can never go wrong with green tea with honey and lemon. And that’s the way it was for the first year with Pooch. He simply never misses a morning howl while you slowly descend from the stairs and there he is sitting by the door with his white tipped wagging tail. Joy was written on that panting face of his. Until one day he just sunk his body at the back of a water drum. No morning barks, no wagging tails, no smiling pants, only a depressed crouch behind a blue water drum.

Something was amiss, and like any concerned parent or sibling the welfare of this new family member must be taken care of. It took us a couple of referrals from family friends on which veterinary clinics were highly recommendable. Alas we decided on one that was accessible by tricycle in less than 30 minutes.

This was the first time I carried him. His ailing body was whimpering with eyes drifting far away. One could see the fright in him while we brought him to the resident vet. He was diagnosed with some intestinal disease, most likely caused by worms. The vet wanted him to be confined for observation, but we could not in our hearts leave him there. In the end, we brought him back home with us with an I.V. One could not accurately describe the desperation and upsetting feeling that this Pooch injected with anti-biotics and a saline solution. How would you feel when the thought of death for someone you have grown to love in a short amount of time?

Hoping for the best, the morning next; we found him jolly enough to stand on four paws and already started nibbling on the tubes that saved his life twenty-four hours ago. I felt incredibly joyous that this new friend of mine, which I considered my little brother was up and about & doing his fun doggy ways.

Lesson Number Three – Bones, Rags, and Pillows All Simple Things

The plague of man is his inability to quench the thirst of the abyss in his spirit. Blessed be the Pooch that showed me that the simple things are more than enough.

A bone to chew on, a pillow to rest with, and a rag to toss about are all the material things he needs. No clothes, no bling-bling to flash around other dogs in the park. Only he is enough to be noticed. Soon, the Barangay folk, especially on our street came to know him as the big black dog with a white tipped tail and paw, greeting him as they pass.

People should be more like that, naked not in the physical sense, but in the deeper emotional and mental needs by man. Once we learn to satiate the appetites of our worldliness that we may yet to learn the contentment and fulfillment that only a dog knows. All you need are the simple things.

Lesson Number Four – Patience is a Virtuous Dog

Could there be a more laidback and patient living creature than the Askal? A sloth comes to mind, but Pooch was no sloth, although he knows how to be assimilate the indolence of the Filipino (which he probably learned from me or someone else in the family) when indulged by the hot humid dry months or by the breezy and cold wet season.

He senses in the morning each time we were about to leave the house and entrust the kingdom into his care. Dutifully taking a pat on the back and a wiggle of the nose, we say our brief separation and take his post flat on the ground with droopy eyes patiently waiting our return.

Ecstatic joy is his springing up from the silent confinement of a day without us, his family. You can’t miss this reunion of sorts, since he was always there, waiting at the foot of our door with excitement in his breath. His greetings would be more intense when I or anyone from the family would return from work or vacation longer than a day or two. He taught me in these moments that the one of the most important things in life is to come back home to your family and embrace each moment that you can spend with them.

Lesson Number 5 – The Pack that Eats Together Stays Together

Remember what your grandma tells you about never missing a meal because one day a pot might come into your sleep and eat you instead? Well as long as Pooch was around, you will never have to fear the magical pot that eats kids at night. A happy tummy for a dog is a happy meal for you as well. I don’t know and could hardly explain this behavior of his. His internal clock seems to be in sync with that of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes with snacks in between.

He will not stop nudging everyone at home until all are seated at the table and with him while waiting for his meal. Maybe instinctively he is basically hungry or maybe intuitively he understands the importance of a family that seats and eats in one table. In a time of social media, and popular cable series; it is challenging to engage in meaningful conversations with your siblings, parents, friends, or love one that requires you to sit through between 30 minutes to an hour meal. But somehow when there is that one source of belongingness that pulls you to each other is what makes it more important to be whole in a meal.

Essentially knowing when the time is nigh to sit down and turn off distractions was one of his endearing qualities. I wished more humans could be like him. People need to take the time and surround themselves in thoughtful and sincere speak. Bombarded as we are with the nuisances of instant communications and the propaganda of what is not essential is adamant to learning to slow down and enjoy these short moments in life.

Lesson Number 6 – Exercise is Bark for Ya

Raising a life onto its own is no easy responsibility. Ask any parent or an animal companion on what it’s like to understand the temperaments and provide for the needs of something that you don’t know the language too.

One important aspect of this animal rearing is exercise. Fans of the Dog Whisperer know this too well that exercise is necessary to a disciplined and happy dog. And as responsible pack leaders to their dogs, one should not miss the opportunity for a walk out with their canine brother.

The initiative to exercise comes from him, when we got him his first collar he wasn’t hesitant but excited to go out there and see the world. Day in – Day out, he would like to walk in the early morning and in the late afternoon whenever someone is at home to take him out. An important trait he deliberately imprinted on us was his persistence on this daily routine. It’s time to take him out for a walk when he would bark and point out the door and impulsively look at you and the leash hanging by the gate, signaling ‘hey, human, yeah you; time to get your butt off the couch and move to enjoy the outdoors.’ One cannot forget moments of wonder in the intelligence of these paw walkers.

Lesson Number 7 – Happiness is a Cold Nose

There are no limits to the surprises of how dogs care and comfort their companions. There will be times that one is down and out from life. There will be moments of existential pondering on the meaning of life. When jobs become burdens instead of opportunities, or when love become lies instead of compassion, and when simply life seems nothing instead of everything; a cold nose by your side can instantly give you a shot of happiness.

Have you felt that comforting feeling from a dog that nudges their nose on to you? They seem to instinctively feel or see in you moments of vulnerability. Truly they are like friends of human kind that will be by your side in your trying times. Pooch was exceptional in his attempts at uplifting you out of a state of sadness. He can remind you that whatever happens in life is nothing like a cold nose could fix.

Lesson Number 8 – Fangs Up Yours

Protect the members of your pack, but your pack can be as small as a nuclear family or as big as all of the creatures on earth. Pooch was a true guard dog and throughout his life. A name not so intimidating like those of junkyard dog names in the likes of Butcher, Pain, or Slash, but with his bark a stranger would immediately feel his overbearing demeanor towards strangers.

Even days before his demise he still showed his fangs to the contractors fixing up our kitchen, that he had a difficulty in standing up but it did not deter him to check on these humans whose intentions were unknown to him. Until we vouch for the safety or the welcome entrance to our pack, only then will he stand down. Like what static could to your hair or when you just woke up and your hair is all fuzzy the back of his fur would usually rise up to warn those that his growl, bark is as sharp & strong as his fangs.

Shielding your family from the dangers of evil and the destructive acts of man is the duty of every responsible member of the pack, especially the alphas. Always on guard duty, not a single attempt of trespass or theft happened on his watch while neighbors reported theft and a murder couple of blocks down our home.

Lesson Number 9 – Color Blind to Race

They say dogs see no color, or they could simply see shades of black, white, and grey. No, this is not about that graphic and explicit novel turned to controversial movie about sado-masochism/ bondage-submission. This is about how one dog’s eternal compassion to life extends beyond his species.

I thought I have known everything about there is to know about him, but he seems to be full of surprises. He never runs out of qualities that would soften the heart of an incarcerated criminal.

When he was about six or seven years old, I brought home a white rabbit, not the edible candy kind, but the long eared fluffy red eyed kind out of sympathy to the street vendor who was insistent on needing cash for the day. I thought it would be a mess introducing a new creature to the fray. But to my amusement, his paternal instincts somehow kicked in. He would protect and cuddle the hopper, unimaginatively named by me as Bunny-Rabbit.

If he was capable of broadening the reach of his kindness to animals other than his own kind, I find hope that humans to be the most evolve into caring beyond our own selfish wants.

Lesson Number 10 – Midnights Offer Death and Togetherness

Writing this lesson is difficult to bear. Recalling his death is packed with emotions of grief that was felt like the loss of a close relative. How a person had be invested with emotions to a dog brother? At the beginning of this essay, it is true that I shed no tears for my fallen little brother, only shock with the automaton response of giving him the best funeral possible. At around 12 midnight, Easter Sunday; after gasping for breath for the last time, all movement stopped. Death came for him, he was at peace. I decided not to put on paper how his last moments were, for I do not want to remember him and those that have read how wonderful his life was; of struggle to keep a hold of life.

We were complete by his side at the time of his death. Remorse & guilt were the initial flow of thoughts on what happened and how his death could have been prevented. No tears were shed that night, only blood and sweat for the grave digger.

While my mother washed his body for one last time, I started digging his grave with my father in front of our home garden 3 feet deep, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet long. With every ground taken deeper by the shovel, memories of his younger self start flooding back. If it is true that at the moment of your death you see your whole life flash in front of you, I hoped that dogs do see the same, for in that moment I want to thank him for an amazing 15 years of life he blessed us. Longer than any relationship, longer than most careers, longer than friendships; 15 years to a farewell with one last farewell. A Filipino to his grave, we wrapped him with a base cloth and an old Barong Tagalog. For one last time, I carried him with my arms. Slowly taking my time, I clutched his body like a child; his head rested on my shoulders. I had forgotten how big he was and the thought that I will never hear his morning greetings, or a touch of his fur. As I laid him to his final resting place, I whispered farewell hoping that it will be taken into the afterlife.

Before I went to sleep the blood moon was looking back; and I wanted to shout to the man on the moon out of desperation in to questioning why? But only my heart could hear the scream of my spirit, & only the cold night knows of my grief.

The weeks were followed by a stream of condolences from relatives, neighbors, and everyone on my sister’s social media account that somehow knew or got to know Pooch. Each one recalled their fondest moment with him. It is strange that humans can show this kind of compassion. Even in his death, he still teaches a lesson.

As I came into terms with his death, I needed to know what had happened so I would know if I could have done something or warn other dog lovers about a similar incident. A quick input of keywords into the search engine: dog + choking + hard stomach + excessive salivating, showed the top search for related causes of death. Top on the list was ‘Cause of Death Gastric Volvulus or Bloat’. It was an informative read but terrible as it was, I recall the exact listed symptoms in his last moments. The condition was the rotating of the stomach out from its axis. It said that the condition was common to old dogs like him who like to eat fast and plenty. Surgery was the solution but it was no guarantee for his old age, and recurrence is almost 100%. I frowned but relieved at the same time, knowing that his journey had ended and that I could tell his story to other people so that they will know what to look out for their dogs as well.

Dogs like Pooch are rare. And maybe I won’t see or love the likes of him in my lifetime. He was special because he knows how to instruct man about his true nature like a mirror into his soul. Hopefully, one day I will pass on his teachings like a true disciple to children; and tell them the parable of how one dog whose unfortunate beginnings and a strange name became my best pal and teacher about life. I do not know how, when and where he was born, but I do know how his life taught me more about humanity than any other philosopher would.

Jungle Environment Survival Training (J.E.S.T.) Camp

Jungle Environment Survival Training (JEST) forces you to think out-of-the-box, because if you don’t; you will definitely suffer the consequences up to the point of death. During my recent training for JEST Camp, we were taught only for a few hours on how to manipulate bamboo into all the necessary utensils and materials we’ll need to survive for the next three days; from making camp fire, stoves, cups, spoons, water purifiers, and traps for birds, lizards, chickens, bats, and fish. Aside from bamboo cooking and trapping, we were also taught how to identify edible & medicinal herbs, roots, trees, and how to extract water from wild vines. This kind of experience challenges you to tap into a way of thinking that under normal circumstances wouldn’t be possible. For the entire training camp, we were primarily equipped to use a Bolo, a few meters of rope, and everything else we can find in our environment. The first task was to locate our water supply and create a shelter. Doing this after hiking for a couple of hours through the humid jungle can challenge your mental toughness and focus. Finally, reaching base camp, we had to start building our shelter. A normal mountaineer would be carrying his tadpole or dome tent for this kind of terrain, but we weren’t normal campers. We were training to develop the survival mindset that our ancestors perfected. And so we gathered branches, bamboo, dried leaves; and tied them all together using whatever we can use as rope like vines, paracords, and plastic ties to make our shelter. It was a crude construction but enough to shelter us from any precipitation. And rain at night it did. We struggled with the wet and cold brought about by the wind and rain. Next day, we looked around for materials that could increase the durability of our shelter. In the end, we had to maximize what we have by using our ground sheet and an old poncho as our fly sheet. We used the same thinking process of maximum efficiency from what the environment can provide us throughout our training camp. By the time we made it to our extraction point from the jungle, the survival mindset was finally activated within us; a thinking process that we can adapt to any situation by utilizing our creativity and our will to succeed in any environment.

Are you staying or going? – A reflection on our inevitable social inheritance.

Like many of the youth aged 18-35, we are asked if we’ll still be in this country five to ten years from now.  But the question has its roots in our Diasporas, at an estimated 8 to 10 million Filipinos, documented or undocumented; are working and living overseas as either professionals or skilled labourers, remitting precious dollars and fuelling the consumption driven economy of our nation. Almost anyone you ask has one form of connection to a relative or friend tagged as an OFW in one of the inhabited continents. Without any prospect for gainful employment, high costs of living, and unreasonable low salaries in our country, they opt out to sacrifice social bonds, face maltreatment, and isolation for the sake of giving one’s family a better quality of life.

There are many socio-economic reasons why Filipinos are leaving this country. Some would leave for societies that value fairness, and justice. Others would find ways to work in a place of peace, progress, modernity and tranquillity. Still for others, it’s a personal choice for the advancement of their careers and financial liberation. Yet, the underlying reason for this phenomenon is an undeveloped local economy that could not accommodate its own people for productive endeavours.

Referring to the official statistics of the NSO, “the unemployment rate rose to 7.1 percent in January 2013, from 6.8 percent in October of 2012.” In addition to that, we still have over 26 percent of our population living in poverty based on studies by the National Statistical Coordination Board. While taking note on the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, around 5.2 million households are identified as poor nationwide. To add Calamansi to our wounds is the latest Human Development Report of the United Nations where the Philippines was identified as lagging behind in reaching our millennium development goals by 2015.

We have fallen from grace, and the inferno we got ourselves into did not happen overnight. But how could this have happened? We proudly claim to be the best post World War 2 economy next only to Japan. We proudly profess the skills and professionalism of our people to the world. Yet, our socio-economic system based on free enterprise and democracy is supposed to level the playing field. Innovation and invention were the values of competition envisioned in the free market system. This idea that posits prosperity for all those who work hard and outsmart competition is supposed to create wealth and affluence for the masses. Eventually, it worked for those who were successful; but in its huge wake were social inequality, unfair distribution of wealth and power, and a tendency toward monopoly, oligopoly and oligarchy. All of these problems we see in our society today, the latter with a potent mix of political immaturity and entitled rent-seeking political dynasties.

Another reason why some of us probably consider packing their bags and leave is to escape the estimated 16 million unemployed youth by 2016 if the government could not produce job generating investments and growth of at least 1 million new jobs every year. So far, we are 100 million Filipinos among the diverse ethno-linguistic groups spread out across an archipelago of 7,100 islands. Imagine where 16 million restless youth, disappointed and angry without any outlook for a better tomorrow; this is the militant’s wet dream for a Battle Royale.

It’s probably still not too late to become a doomsday Prepper, because let’s not miss out on the good news of positive investor sentiments toward good governance and systematic reforms, a higher than expected GDP rate in 2012, a looming investment grade credit rating upgrade, and a bullish local stock market outperforming its counterparts in the region; I guess we have something to look forward to. But where are we going, really? The rich are buying luxury goods left and right, and living in more gated communities in highly developed real estate, while the poor are still there; waiting for opportunities to take them out of the poverty trap, hoping for their messiah while being supported by government social safety nets. And for those who are neither poor nor rich, the souls of purgatory, they are falling in line outside of embassies applying for immigration or work visas; patiently treading their way into Paradise.

And so here we are; the post-Edsa 1986 generation inheriting a democracy, a society and an economy fresh from a conjugal dictatorship through a series of colourful elected characters by a housewife, a coup general, an actor, an economist, and now a bachelor. Sounds like the cast for a bad joke with the punch line that ends in the ordinary folk getting pie in the face. But our state is no laughing matter when people are deprived of living in human dignity and social justice.  How could we pretend to see that the rose is not as pretty as it was sold to us? The thorns of reality prick us in a slow and deep recurring vice as we grip it out of necessity and ignorance.

Should we ignore the social ills that hound our people and live to each his own or should we stay and step up to the promise that our heroes dreamt for us?

I may or may not be living in Manila, diving in Cebu or climbing in Davao by 2023, but the fun thing about the future is that it’s supposed to be a mystery. And like the protagonist whose decisions affect the outcome let’s take ownership of our inheritance with all of its liabilities and do what we can now for it to grow, and see what happens. Who knows, maybe the ending is what we always thought it to be.

Danger Zoning Matters: City of Davao’s Hazard Sensitive Zoning Ordinance

Upon first look at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City for 2012-2021 one can notice the adherence to form, following the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board’s Model Zoning Ordinance. A textbook representation of how guidelines are followed in lieu of real world application. It follows form from the Title Page down to the Administration and Enforcement article. Few can be said to what is not to be found in the updated ordinance. However, one can comment on the additional features of the zoning ordinance which are related into the current advocacies of government in disaster risk reduction management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly in the identification of areas with high risk for natural hazards.

In Article IV – Zone Classification, Section 1.1 Land Slide Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the land slide prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City; the City identified areas which are susceptible to landslide, hence provided additional building restrictions or land use regulations in these areas. Further, Section 1.2 Flood Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the flood prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City also included additional restrictions for building settlements or structures in the area. The Zone Regulations for these danger areas were stipulated under Sections 1.2 and 1.3 of Article V. Section 1.2 Additional Provision on Areas with High Flood Susceptibility based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI and Section 1.3 Additional Provisions on Areas with Landslide Susceptibility Based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI, require new developments to secure clearances from the regional MGB and provide for applicable or approved mitigating measures for slope protection before Locational Clearances can be granted by the Local Government Unit. The restrictions are reasonable and within the jurisdiction of the executive agencies mandated to regulate land use on natural hazard identified areas.

The initiative of the Davao City government to restrict land use on danger zones is laudable, however; decades of inadequate regulation of land use in built up areas have exposed citizens to the natural hazards determined by the mines and geosciences bureau of DENR. At the end of the Marcos dictatorship in Post-EDSA 1 1986, the Duterte’s have ruled the southern city for more than two decades which saw the sleepy port town grow into a regional center for industry and commerce, but this growth is more private sector led than public sector planned. The consequences of weak planning regulation brought about by a political dynasty that espouses popular development planning, spending, and spatial strategy; reduced the capacity of the local government to enforce well thought out urban plans. Many of the residential zones are within the 2012 identified danger zones for flood and landslide susceptibility. It follows then the burden of residents within these areas, formal or informal, to comply with the additional restrictions/use regulations mentioned above. Now, many would appeal for a certificate of non-conformance due to financial restrictions of those who could not comply to invest in engineering solutions mitigating impacts of flood or landslides. But these remedies would become moot, if in the end when these hazards turn to disasters and loss of lives and properties are inevitable.

Land use restrictions such as those in areas of flood and land slide susceptibility would not be enforced without sufficient administrative and institutional support. Based on the documents provided by the City of Davao, a total of 3,246 personnel are working for the City Government. 27 are elected officials, while 2,892 or 89.09% with permanent appointment, 4 or .14 percent temporary and 323 personnel or 9.95% are co-terminus. The City Planning and Development Office have 69 positions in charge to monitor the implementation of the city’s land use pattern. With a small office to regulate 244,000 hectares of land, the office might not be able to fulfill its mandate efficiently and effectively.

In lieu of the administrative/institutional challenges of implementing the zoning ordinance, the City has done what it can with it has. This observation is based on studying the general zoning map, and the proposed urban zoning map of the city. Several factors that facilitate zoning is the adaptation of a spatial strategy that the city called Barangay Urban Centers, and District Urban Centers, as first and second level of service providers respectively. With a vast territorial boundary, with a rural north, and urban south; the spatial strategy to develop basic services delivery platforms can be said to augment the lack of personnel from the City Government. However, even with a popular political dynasty at the helm of Davao City; it is this same circumstance that impedes land use planning implementation. By not wanting to get into the wrong side of the family, it is possible that civil servants in the planning office would bend to the call and haw of the local chief executive, and in the process disregarding the rule of law and exposing people to unnecessary risks.

The recourses one can recommend to strengthen zoning implementation is to improve the capacity of the planning office, increase its staff complement with qualified personnel, and to improve local governance by leveling the playing field to other competent politically astute individuals. By improving the capacity and increasing the staff complement of the planning office, individuals in the office can increase their efficiency with new knowledge and skills that would benefit the City. Also by improving local governance, transparency and accountability would be take the forefront of basic service delivery in the tune of proper land use zoning administration; where to build not and where to build  with gold.

References:

Updated Zoning Ordinance of Davao City 2012-2021. City of Davao. Republic of the Philippines

HLRB Guidelines. Model Zoning Ordinance Volume X. 1996

Misty Sunrise: The City of Davao’s Vision Reality Gap

Waking up in the hour before the sun rises, when the stars in the black sky illuminate the world around you, and the first ray of that yellow globe intersects the horizon is a misty morning to look forward to in the thick forests of Mt. Apo overlooking the City of Davao. This is the first impression an academic observer on what about the City’s Vision and Mission statement. The bland prose that generally proclaims the vision of a people could be improved more. The vision statement to quote, “We envision Davao City as the Premier Socio-economic and tourism center in Mindanao, East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) and the Asia-Pacific Region propelled by enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry and committed to sustainable growth and development under the guidance of Divine Providence.” It generally put forward a clear and precise picture of what the City wants but without a clear time frame. Digging deeper on the VM Statement document, there were no clear success indicators identified that could strengthen the foundation of the Comprehensive Development Plan, although there specific goals, objectives in their respective documents (which will be looked into later in the article); a definite success indicator would allow the future picture of the City grounded in quantifiable reality.

The City of Davao is committed to sustainable growth and development. This said the vision statement is aligned with the nation’s sustainable development agenda. Sustainable Development as defined in the PA 21 (1996) –the ‘harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsible governance, social cohesion and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life-sustaining process’. Although not explicitly mentioned in the City’s vision statement, the City upon declaring a future of sustainability would like to achieve the following five goal elements declared in the Philippine Agenda (PA) 21: Poverty Reduction, Social Equity, Empowerment and Good Governance, Peace and Solidarity, & Ecological Integrity. However implied, the City’s vision statement would have had more teeth and clarity if it included these sustainable development goals.

Peering through the misty eyes of the City of Davao’s future, one needs to look at the vertical integration of the City’s vision to the National Framework for Physical Planning (NFPP 2001-2030) and the current administration’s midterm development plan (MTDP 2011-2016) as essential in understanding the bigger picture at the integration of national and local plans. Let us breakdown the City’s main and sectoral vision statement to see how there is or isn’t a clear integration especially on the environmental development sector.

The NFPP promotes principles consistent with the national direction of limited resources to physical planning and development. First, food security is an essential element of the NFPP wherein stated in the Economic sectoral mission statement said, Davao City aims to be the growth center in Mindanao. To attain this, it is going to engage the “the players” in the local economy to engage in propulsive industries, in industries with export potentials and in light, medium and heavy industries such as in agri-based industries[bold font emphasis made by the author]. As agri-based industries are well suited in developing the food security of the City, it is also important to look at the most efficient cost beneficial alternative to local production for food security since the Davao of City is also at a strategic location for food imports in the South East Asian region. Second, environmental stability and ecological integrity is also part of the framework which fortunately forms part of the City’s vision when it stated that it is committed to sustainable growth and development; more so found in the social vision statement, “Make Davao City and its people, free from cold, hunger and disease, unburdened by ignorance secure in their persons and domicile, enjoying the blessing of growth and development without sacrificing the quality of the environment.”The sectoral social vision statement had imbibed the essence of the NFPP with regards to Environmental stability and ecological integrity. Third, the NFPP recognizes the rights of indigenous people which the City of Davao has a diverse population of different ethno-linguistic affiliation. Part of its social vision statement manifested “Recognize the right of the Muslim People and Tribal Filipinos to self-determination and to give due respect to their ancestral domain and their culture. In any and all circumstances, the city shall adopt a policy on addressing their welfare and well-being.” Fourth, regional urban development is one of the core principles of the NFPP that was used by the City in its vision to guide its Land Use Sector vision statement; “Our mission is to transform Davao City into a modern and a well planned investment center in Mindanao and the Asia-Pacific region, propelled by socially enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry, spiritually committed to attain sustainable growth and optimum development within the context of balance ecology.” Following this statement, it shows the direction of the City towards a balanced built up area with the conservation of the protected areas and the sustainable management of production areas.

Continuing the assessment of the City of Davao’s vision statement under the lens of the MTDP or Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 follows an alignment of principles explicitly stated or implied. First, in pursuit of inclusive growth is the priority agenda of the PDP which includes poverty reduction, social mobility, and a stable political economy; factors on which were found in the economic sectoral mission statement “Davao City to become a major growth pole in the international market by engaging its empowered and participate citizenry in resource based and market-driven economic activities within the context of balanced ecology, sustainable growth and equity-led development.” The same can be said with the second agenda which is Macroeconomic Policy where in fiscal and institutional incentives are used to encourage investment in a location. Third, the competitive industry and service sectors have a sure footing in Davao City since these service sector industries like BPOs are located in the downtown area of Davao City. Fourth, which is in particular interest to the environmental development sector is the conservation, protection & rehabilitation of the Environment and Natural Resources. The line in the vision statement that said committed to sustainable growth and development is paramount. And this is where vision takes off to the specific goals and objectives under Air Quality, Watershed, Waste Management, Water Quality, and Climate Change/Disaster Risk. Although the goals for each subsector of the environment development sector, there were no clear targets for the strategic objectives in the plan, it is in this regard that the City should develop in its review clear measurable indicators to facilitate the movement of the plan from a document to action points.

However, despite the good intentions encapsulated by the vision and mission statement of the City, especially for its environmental sector, there remains a discrepancy on the real situation. Namely the situation on air quality wherein it is reported the following: 1) total suspended particle levels have remained virtually at the same level in 3 years and can only go up 2) the ideal target for PM10 emissions is set by WHO at 20 (Davao is at 61), the level that is considered acceptable for healthy air 3) 65% of pollutants come from mobile sources, which is expected to rise reaching 12,800 tons in 2015 and 16,020 in 2021 4) Not all areas are covered and monitored for air pollutants 5) Use of fossil fuel will probably increase if alternative sources are not developed. Also, the same concerns were noted in the same report for the watershed subsector which reported: 1) There are still 63,580 Has of brushlands within Timberland areas that can still be developed 2) There are CADTs that are within Timberland areas which pose management concerns. 3) There is unchecked encroachment in conservation areas 4) there are improper agricultural practices. Furthermore, solid waste as part of ecological balance and sustainable development has noted the situation that 1) if the current rate of disposal is maintained, the Sanitary Landfill will be filled to capacity by 2018 2) there are not enough composting facilities 3) there are not enough materials recovery facilities 4) the city is collecting 46% of waste generated instead of only 20%. Water quality is another problem area wherein the reality for rivers & creeks was noted the following 1) from 1994-2008, there was a 206% increase in residential areas, 311% in commercial areas and 124% in industrial areas 2) there is currently no wastewater treatment facility in Davao City 3) Less than 1% of the population area served by existing sewerage systems. In addition, coastal waters also do not fare much better despite the vision of the City to preserve the water quality in its jurisdiction. 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal Barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of our coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe. Groundwater situation also has its share of reported problems, namely; 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe.

The vision mission statement and the underlying plans of the environmental development sector follows the principles espoused on the NFPP and MTDP. Even with this alignment there are still factors that seem to hinder the successful realization of such classic visions into reality. However not explored deeper in this paper, it is imperative to understand that vision statements are the blank canvass on which the City’s spatial and comprehensive future of their land and their people are written, which is why the importance of conducting vision reality gaps at timely intervals to ensure course corrections of plans when necessary.

References:

City of Davao, Republic of the Philippines. 2012. Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan.

HLURB Guidelines. 2013. Volume 1.

Medium Term Development Plans. 2011. National Economic Development Authority.

Housing the Landless in Davao City: A Land Conflict Resolution Issue

The growing urbanization in Davao City is both an opportunity and a threat to its sustainable development. A growing urban population is a potential source of human productivity in industrial and commercial sectors due to the rural – urban migration of people. However, on the other side of the economic gains of urban growth; is the challenge of providing affordable housing for these migrants. Without proper planning for human settlements, people decide for themselves outside of any government regulator or authority in building their own homes; anywhere-anyhow. These makeshift communities often politically correct termed as informal settlements are located in danger zones and in violation of the 3m buffer zone along urban river systems as legal easements.   In an article by Roger Balanza of balita.ph, “In highly urbanized LGUs like Davao City, the number of informal settlers grows annually due to migration by people seeking better opportunities…while anti-squatting laws are in place to prevent illegal occupation of private and government lands by informal settlers, the spirit of humanity, sometimes, bind LGU hands from enforcing an iron-fisted policy.”

The role of conflict resolution for new housing settlements is essential in the sustainable development planning of highly urbanized cities. But before we dwell on this issue, it is paramount we are grounded on the proper framework of where informal settlement fits in the land conflict cycle paradigm (UN-HABITAT). Essentially, conflict is “a dispute or incompatibility caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests”. Looking through the problem of informal settlements we find that the Davao City LGU has waded through the different stages of conflict.  First the Local Government Unit of Davao City affirmed the grievances of many residents that don’t own permanent residential houses and lots. And this, according to the existing conflict between the public, private and civil society sectors revolve around one of these social development issues. Providing decent housing opportunities for the thousands of rural migrant households is at the core of the dialogue between these sectors involved in this conflict since according to the article written by Arianne Casas of Sun Star “4.1 percent (13,715) occupy lots which are rent-free, but without consent of the owner.” Second, when these informal settlements organize into housing associations, the households of these communities already had formalized their Insecurities regarding the need for proper housing opportunities. Third, conflict happens when forced evictions of these people in private and public lands as documented during the previous Mayor Sara Duterte’s involvement in assaulting a Court Sheriff implementing the scheduled demolition of a shanty town in the Poblacion (Down Town) area of the city. Fortunately, the next part of the cycle is negotiation and peace-making which is part of the institutional mechanism that resolves the conflict trough the planning process. “There are several dozens more homeowners association existing as informal settlers as negotiations are underway for the city government to provide funding for land purchases.” Jody Quiros reported in an article in 2012. Lastly, post-conflict in this regard is the final resettlement or redevelopment of informal settlements.

Creating the institutional solution to the problem of informal settlements is found in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of Davao City. The planning process that formulated the policy framework in addressing the issue of land conflict is reflected in the planning documents approved by the people’s elected representatives in the Sanggunian. “Davao City’s response to this is the Urban Land Reform Program (ULRP) which has been purposely implemented to undertake a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program in order to make available at an affordable cost, decent housing and basic services to the underprivileged and homeless citizens of the City. It has adopted socialized housing as a continuing program since 1986.” The 3 schemes incorporated in the CDP would address these issues namely, Land Acquisition for relocation sites of informal settlers, Loan grants to qualified Community Associations, and Community Mortgage Programs.

Scheme 1 refers to the purchase or parcels of land intended for the socialized housing and lot allocation for the informal settlers and/or underprivileged and homeless persons in the city. To date, the city government has acquired a total of nine (9) relocation sites covering seven hundred twelve thousand nine hundred eighty-one (712,981) square meters. These are located in Davao City’s three political districts, generating a total of five thousand two hundred fifty six (5,256) residential lots of which four thousand eight hundred ninety six (4,896) lots were already awarded and occupied by qualified beneficiaries. (p. 143, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 2 refers to the granting of financial assistance in terms of loan to qualified Community Associations for the purpose of acquiring relocation sites for its members. It has been implemented since 1994. Recently, from 2001 to 2010, the program had assisted eighteen (18) community associations from Districts 1, 2 and 3. District 1 with only one community association had acquired a 10,000 square meters site amounting to Php 1,350,000 and 95 residential lots were generated. District 2 got a loan amount of Php 49,854,727 for the 222,758 total square meters of relocation sites availed by 14 community associations with 2002 residential lots generated. The third district was able to acquire a total land area of 72,426 square meters for the Php 12,213,540 loan amount. It generated a total of 445 residential lots availed by three community associations. (p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 3 also known as the Community Mortgage Program refers to a mortgage financing program which assists legally organized associations of underprivileged and homeless citizens to purchase and develop a tract of land under the concept of community ownership. (p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Despite the 3 schemes of the local government of Davao City in addressing the needs of the homeless and underprivileged there remains a housing backlog due to the annual growth of the urban population. 8 challenges were identified by the city regarding human settlements which are the following: acute housing shortage, inadequate housing program to address the poorest of the poor, affordability of the underprivileged homeless population of the City, spiraling cost of raw land and construction materials, unoccupied lots at ULRP sites and relocation sites, low efficiency collection of loans granted, rampant squatting, and lack of proper data banking, multiple registration of beneficiaries of housing program.

In conclusion, looking at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City 2012-2021 in this review highlights a notable improvement of identified Socialized Housing sites throughout the city. It is in this regard that the planning process following a framework of conflict resolution has allowed the homeless and underprivileged a spatial future for their permanent resettlement.

References:

Balanza, Roger M. 2010. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://balita.ph/2010/03/08/all-lgus-have-one-common-problem-informal-settlers-features/

BLGD-DILG. 2008. Rationalizing the Local Planning System. A Source book.

City of Davao, Republic of the Philippines. 2012. Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan.

Casas, Arianne Caryl N. 2013. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2013/11/14/13000-informal-settlers-not-alarming-313822

Quiros, Judy. 2012. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/148997/davao-city-to-develop-20-hectares-as-relocation-site-for-urban-poor

Republic Act no. 7160. Local Government Code of 1991.

UN HABITAT. 2012. Land and Conflict: Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict. Date Retrieved 13 February 2015. http://www.un.org/en/events/environmentconflicttoday/pdf/GN_Land_Consultation.pdf

A Case Study Critical Review on the Environment Development Sector of Davao City’s Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan 2012-2021 Using HLURB Guidelines.

Title

A Case Study Critical Review on the Environment Development Sector of Davao City’s Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan 2012-2021 Using HLURB Guidelines.

Background of the Study

The study is the critical case review of the City of Davao’s Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan 2012-2021 using HLURB guidelines. The case study is a critical review of the planning process and output that the City’s Planning Development Office prepared. A critical review of the processes and documents & the people involved in making this essential document is an important scholarly activity that would provide an external observers view and possibly the provision of enhanced recommendations to the planning documents for future reference of the local government in their own review.

Figure 1City of Davao Road Map 2012-2021

The beginnings of Davao City’s boom in urban growth have always been attributed to its geographic location and land characteristics. Since late 1898, during the time of the Americans, Davao’s potential was recognized by investors and was gaining its importance for the South in terms of trading. Consequently, this made Davao a distinctive growth center (Corcino 1997). Migrants not just from neighboring rural areas but also from all over the country has chosen to invest in this city hence making it a melting pot of economy & local culture. There is a strong patriotism found in the general public of Davao City and this has contributed a lot to the city’s progress. The population growth has been averaging at 2.83% from 1995 to 2000 and 2.44% from 2000 to 2007 (Davao City CDP 2012).  At par with this growth are the increase of demands for basic necessities such as food and shelter.

In hindsight the subject of this study, Davao City Figure 1, is a highly urbanized city in the province of Davao del Sur, posted a total population of 1,363,337 persons as of 2007 population census, an increase of 219,037 persons over its total population of 1,147,116 persons in 2000. Understanding the diverse culture and people of Davao City is going back into the written history of what was once a domain of early Malay inhabitants in the region. “The beginnings of Davao as a distinct geopolitical entity started during the last fifty years of Spanish rule in the country. While Spanish sovereignty had been established along the northeastern coasts of Mindanao down to Bislig as early as 1620, it was not until the conquest of Davao Gulf area in 1848 that Spanish sway in these parts became de facto, and Davao’s history began to be recorded…One interesting feature of Davao is the composition of its inhabitants— a mix that would make a visitor or newcomer readily feel “at home”. That mixture— of indigenous “natives” and practically all the ethnic groups representing the different parts of the country from the Ilocos region, the Mountain Provinces of Luzon, the Capampangans and Tagalogs of Central Luzon, the Caviteños, Batangueños and Bicolanos have blended into a new breed of Filipinos as they came in contact with the Visayas—Ilongos, Negrenses, Cebuanos, Boholanos and Leyteños— in their search for new homes and opportunities for advancement in life. They have come to the welcoming and helpful arms of inhabitants preceding them in Davao.” (Davao: A Brief History, CLUDP Chap. 1.1)Davao City has an area of 244,000 hectares, or 8 per cent of the land area of Southern Mindanao Region or Region XI. It is divided into 3 congressional districts and furthermore divided into 11 administrative districts. Poblacion and Talomo Districts comprises District I, meanwhile District II is composed of the Agdao, Buhangin, Bunawan and Paquibato, District III includes Toril, Tugbok, Calinan, Baguio and Marilog. (CLUDP Chap. 1.3.2)

Conflicts in the City

Davao City being the largest city in the world in terms of land area. Census data shows good standing of the city when it comes to density.  With Metro Manila at 19, 0000/km2 and Metro Cebu at 2,200/km2, Davao City out performs at 552/km2. One has to see the urban geographic characteristics of Metro Davao in order to further understand that this statistic needs reconsideration, especially when it comes to planning. In the Zoning Map of Davao City territory shown below (Figure 1) exhibits the highly urbanized area as oppose to the total land area of the city. This zoning map highlights the density of population in the CBD area and inner city portion (towards the gulf). Davao City urban area is approximately at 3,600/km.2, more concise from the initial density population produced (552/km2). This then proves that land is becoming scarce especially with urban growth the city is anticipating. One of the Comprehensive Development Plan’s thrust is for a more stable Food Security and Climate Change resilience. One important strategy was to maintain agricultural & ancestral land and avoid further conversion.

The growing urbanization in Davao City is both an opportunity and a threat to its sustainable development. A growing urban population is a potential source of human productivity in industrial and commercial sectors due to the rural – urban migration of people. However, on the other side of the economic gains of urban growth; is the challenge of providing affordable housing for these migrants. Without proper planning for human settlements, people decide for themselves outside of any government regulator or authority in building their own homes; anywhere-anyhow. These makeshift communities often politically correct termed as informal settlements are located in danger zones and in violation of the 3m buffer zone along urban river systems as legal easements.   In an article by Roger Balanza of balita.ph, “In highly urbanized LGUs like Davao City, the number of informal settlers grows annually due to migration by people seeking better opportunities…while anti-squatting laws are in place to prevent illegal occupation of private and government lands by informal settlers, the spirit of humanity, sometimes, bind LGU hands from enforcing an iron-fisted policy.”

The role of conflict resolution for new housing settlements is essential in the sustainable development planning of highly urbanized cities. But before we dwell on this issue, it is paramount we are grounded on the proper framework of where informal settlement fits in the land conflict cycle paradigm (UN-HABITAT). Essentially, conflict is “a dispute or incompatibility caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests”. Looking through the problem of informal settlements we find that the Davao City LGU has waded through the different stages of conflict.  First the Local Government Unit of Davao City affirmed the grievances of many residents that don’t own permanent residential houses and lots. And this, according to the existing conflict between the public, private and civil society sectors revolve around one of these social development issues. Providing decent housing opportunities for the thousands of rural migrant households is at the core of the dialogue between these sectors involved in this conflict since according to the article written by Arianne Casas of Sun Star “4.1 percent (13,715) occupy lots which are rent-free, but without consent of the owner.” Second, when these informal settlements organize into housing associations, the households of these communities already had formalized their Insecurities regarding the need for proper housing opportunities. Third, conflict happens when forced evictions of these people in private and public lands as documented during the previous Mayor Sara Duterte’s involvement in assaulting a Court Sheriff implementing the scheduled demolition of a shanty town in the Poblacion (Down Town) area of the city. Fortunately, the next part of the cycle is negotiation and peace-making which is part of the institutional mechanism that resolves the conflict trough the planning process. “There are several dozens more homeowners association existing as informal settlers as negotiations are underway for the city government to provide funding for land purchases.” Jody Quiros reported in an article in 2012. Lastly, post-conflict in this regard is the final resettlement or redevelopment of informal settlements.

Creating the institutional solution to the problem of informal settlements is found in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of Davao City. The planning process that formulated the policy framework in addressing the issue of land conflict is reflected in the planning documents approved by the people’s elected representatives in the Sanggunian. “Davao City’s response to this is the Urban Land Reform Program (ULRP) which has been purposely implemented to undertake a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program in order to make available at an affordable cost, decent housing and basic services to the underprivileged and homeless citizens of the City. It has adopted socialized housing as a continuing program since 1986.” The 3 schemes incorporated in the CDP would address these issues namely, Land Acquisition for relocation sites of informal settlers, Loan grants to qualified Community Associations, and Community Mortgage Programs.

Scheme 1 refers to the purchase or parcels of land intended for the socialized housing and lot allocation for the informal settlers and/or underprivileged and homeless persons in the city. To date, the city government has acquired a total of nine (9) relocation sites covering seven hundred twelve thousand nine hundred eighty-one (712,981) square meters. These are located in Davao City’s three political districts, generating a total of five thousand two hundred fifty six (5,256) residential lots of which four thousand eight hundred ninety six (4,896) lots were already awarded and occupied by qualified beneficiaries. (p. 143, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 2 refers to the granting of financial assistance in terms of loan to qualified Community Associations for the purpose of acquiring relocation sites for its members. It has been implemented since 1994. Recently, from 2001 to 2010, the program had assisted eighteen (18) community associations from Districts 1, 2 and 3. District 1 with only one community association had acquired a 10,000 square meters site amounting to Php 1,350,000 and 95 residential lots were generated. District 2 got a loan amount of Php 49,854,727 for the 222,758 total square meters of relocation sites availed by 14 community associations with 2002 residential lots generated. The third district was able to acquire a total land area of 72,426 square meters for the Php 12,213,540 loan amount. It generated a total of 445 residential lots availed by three community associations. (p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 3 also known as the Community Mortgage Program refers to a mortgage financing program which assists legally organized associations of underprivileged and homeless citizens to purchase and develop a tract of land under the concept of community ownership.(p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Despite the 3 schemes of the local government of Davao City in addressing the needs of the homeless and underprivileged there remains a housing backlog due to the annual growth of the urban population. 8 challenges were identified by the city regarding human settlements which are the following: acute housing shortage, inadequate housing program to address the poorest of the poor, affordability of the underprivileged homeless population of the City, spiraling cost of raw land and construction materials, unoccupied lots at ULRP sites and relocation sites, low efficiency collection of loans granted, rampant squatting, and lack of proper data banking, multiple registration of beneficiaries of housing program.

In conclusion, looking at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City 2012-2021 in this review highlights a notable improvement of identified Socialized Housing sites throughout the city. It is in this regard that the planning process following a framework of conflict resolution has allowed the homeless and underprivileged a spatial future for their permanent resettlement. However, additional improvements to the land use planning are still possible which the study aims to do.

Land use planning refers to the rational and judicious approach of allocating available land resources to different land using activities, (e.g. agricultural, residential, industrial) and for different functions consistent with the overall development vision/goal of a particular locality. It entails the detailed process of determining the location and area of land required for the implementation of social and economic development, policies, plans, programs and projects. It is based on consideration of physical planning standards, development vision, goals and objective, analysis of actual and potential physical conditions of land and development constraints and opportunities (CLUP Guidebook, Vol. 1)

There is a distinct spatial shift which is commonly a characteristic of urbanization.  As countryside urbanized, land use conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses become uncontrollable. This change was more apparent in the Philippines during eighties, when the government developed industrial zones in unproductive agricultural areas as both an employment generation strategy and an urban development policy. With this aggressive industrialization program, the government attempted to make domestic industries more globally competitive.

Concurrent with the changes was also the movement of people from rural to urban for employment purposes. Because the government jump-started the decentralization by building industrial centers in different regions of the country, the working age people from rural areas flocked to urban centers in the region. The agricultural sector suffered so much, since not just the agricultural land converted to industrial and commercial zones but also those poor who are also landless forced to abandon their rural areas.

The effect of urbanization has been lopsided. Urbanization has seen poorest agricultural regions falling behind cities in socio-economic development. Only the urban areas received serious attention in terms of infrastructure development.

The absence of employment and source of income in rural villages forced their families to send their young adults to the towns and cities for work. Only those children in school age and old population are left in the villages. There is marked decline in the number of men and women of both working age and reproductive age in the coastal sites were the study was conducted.

The sudden move of the government to shift to industrialization without consultation horizontally and vertically resorted to a more serious condition. There was participation of different government agencies after the implementation of zoning. There were lack of public consultation and seemingly lack of creation of planning committee from indifferent sectors and government agencies which resorted to massive out-migration of young adult from rural to urban areas. Opportunities for livelihood were not successful as it was not tested nor practiced in the area.

HLURB Guidelines

The review will look into the structure and contents of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan as presented by the City of Davao and the processes prescribed by the guidelines namely; the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Zoning Ordinance, Sectoral Studies, and the 12 step process with Emphasis on the Environment Development Sector.

Rationale

The researchers selected Davao City as the subject of the case study because of its significant role as one of the emerging centers of growth in Southern Mindanao. The current spatial development of the biggest Highly Urbanized City in the country presents an opportunity for not only the researchers but also to future scholarly inquiries.

Objectives

  1. To critically review the current Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan of the City of Davao using HLURB Guidelines in the Environment Development Sector
    1. Vision Reality Gaps
    2. Planning Implementation Tools
  2. To determine the adherence of the planning process stipulated under the HLURB guidelines in the Environment Development Sector
  3. To recommend feasible improvements in the CLUDP of Davao City under the HLURB Guidelines
  4. To establish the level of development of Forest/Watershed co-management plans between the Local Government Unit and the Regional Office of the DENR.

Assumptions

The researches have the following assumptions regarding the subject: the planning team of the City of Davao followed the 2007 CLUP guidebook in preparing the City’s CLUP, the planning team had prepared the CLUP accordingly to the needs of the five development sectors: social, economic, physical, infrastructure, and institutional, the planning team coordinated with the DENR in developing their Forest/Watershed management plans.

Scope, Delimitation, Limitations of the Study

The researchers are limited to reviewing only the participation and implementation of the planning process within the context of the LGU planning office. The time for the completion of this study does not allow the researchers to explore the possibility of conducting Focus Group Discussions among representatives of the sectoral committees of the Local Development Council.

Conceptual Framework

Ridge – to – Reef Integrated Watershed Ecosystems Management Framework (HLURB CLUP Guidebook Vol. 1, 2013)

4.1 Watershed as platform for land use planning

The watershed covering the ridge-to-reef features of the land shall serve as the common strategic physical planning (vertical) platform for the formulation and preparation of all land uses and physical plans. It shall be the unifying and integrating (horizontal) framework in the identification of both public and private land use management strategies and policies including disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

The increasing threat and impact of climate change and natural disaster and calamities arising from extreme weather occurrences further highlights the need to analyze local physical planning and development initiatives using an area’s bio-physical condition as critical focal point. This is particularly significant at the provincial level where watersheds and sub-watershed are more clearly defined and interrelated. The integrated watershed or ecosystems management framework shall also be the physical reference for the formulation of specific sectoral and development plans by national and local government agencies.

In the determination of specific land uses and development controls, the analysis and assessment of the watershed or its sub-watershed area, either within the territorial jurisdiction of an LGU and/or its adjacent LGUs, shall start from the uplands to the lowland areas down to the coastal areas, including municipal waters, as defined under RA 8550 or the Revised Fisheries Code. A prioritization of critical watershed areas, including its impact and affected communities and Barangay, shall be ascertained based on the use values—economic, social, ecological, cultural, historical, institutional or infrastructural, at the community and LGU levels.
Figure 2 Horizontal Transect (institutional and administrative jurisdiction) of the Ridge – to – Reef Integrated Ecosystems Management Framework (HLURB 2013 CLUP Preparation Vol. 1)

4.3 Co-management principle

Section 3 (i) of the Local Government Code provides that “local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction.” Local governments and the national government are therefore mandated by RA 7160 to act as co-managers of the national territory and patrimony.

The case study scrutinized under this conceptual framework by investigating the existence and interrelationships of local plans vertically and horizontally especially on the environment development sector.

Review of Related Literature

Port City Development

The City of Davao has spatially developed from a small port community to the region’s biggest and highly urbanized city. Planning this city has many land use implications if not planned strategically and sustainably. Other port city developments studied by researchers in different parts of the world have discussed and concluded that the sustainability of old or decaying port cities-like our subject- has the potential of redeveloping itself into significance. “Nowadays, port areas-even in a state of decay- often constitutes the entry point and core area for the sustainable development of the entire urban system. Port areas offer an unprecedented heritage of a political, architectural, logistic, economic, social and artistic nature, with a great future potential…A prerequisite for a promising revitalization policy is that port cities should be able to develop highly innovative strategic approaches to urban planning, conservation and management that really integrate harbor development with urban development. Indeed, both the organizational and economic innovation of the urban space is a key to improving the resilience of a port city system, and thus its overall sustainability.” (Kourtit&Nijkamp)

In a study by Luigi Girard, Toward a Smart Sustainable Development of Port Cities/Areas: The Role of the “Historic Urban Landscape” Approach; mentioned that port cities in the likes of Davao City are symbiotic from the circular process that integrate port operations to the urban core and the peripheral agricultural areas. The review of Davao City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan would benefit from the lessons from the circularization process which can be summarized as follows:

  • Industrial symbiosis has been a driver for new sustainable eco-industrial developments and low carbon industrial systems
  • Waste management systems have played a crucial role in supporting circular business
  • Urban symbiosis and a regional clustering network may provide more business opportunities

As a historic port city, the City of Davao is ripe for adapting the circular processes in a heritage economic system. (Girard) “Port areas can be considered as the departure for a new economic city organization that reduces material inputs, waste, energy consumption and carbon emissions, connects port areas to the whole city circular design.” This is essentially what the Historic Urban Landscape approach proposes. It would be interesting to explore this concept and determine the current CLUP in its readiness for adapting this alternative sustainable approach.

Participatory Planning

It is empirical for an institution to have a successful impact to have a process that involves as much constituents and stakeholders as possible. In the context of planning, participation, although complex, is almost a requirement to produce good and comprehensive outcomes. Laurian (2009) justifies that one crucial factor in Participatory Planning that is necessary for it to succeed as envisioned is trust of the stakeholders to the state, specifically the agencies responsible in formulating community plans and policies like the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Zoning Ordinances, etc. Trust must also be essentially present from the stakeholders to the plans and policies itself. According to Laurian, plans, planners, all participants and their intentions are playing an important role in the future of communities and societies. Their identity might as well be a basis for involvement. According to the literature of Fung (2006), public participation is a process that encourages collective decision making and is therefore followed by actions with ownership. It is acknowledged in his study that public participation is a challenging process putting together major plans. To look further into this challenge, Fung formulated his framework in a Democracy Cube (fig. 2) showing three (3) dimensions of measurable to gauge participants. His first (1st) dimension is the Participant Selection Methods. The intention and purpose of the representation is of the participant is measured in this dimension. One participant may be representing the state as an expert administrator or an elected representative. Participants with a purpose may belong under the Minipublics where intentions could vary from professional affiliation to advocacy. The second (2nd) dimension he formulated was the Communication and Decision. This gauges the capacity of the participant to communicate his ideas and knowledge to the table, preferably strongly relevant to the matters at hand. Third (3rd) dimension is the Extent of Authority and Power. Aside from the intentions and capacity to communicate, since policies and plans are the final output of the planning activity, the gravity of authority a participant has and significance of his representation is also highly considered. Davao City being a multi-sector society, it is but ideal to practice participatory planning in its CDP and CLUP Revision process. Understanding that there could be myriad of representation in this activity, application of Fung’s theory of participant selection relevance should be considered to have a more concise and substantial planning process.

Figure 3 Fung Democracy Cube

Vulnerability to Environmental Changes

Watersheds are most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental changes, “The fast deterioration of the condition of watershed has significant impacts on people living within the area, as well as the integrity of the watershed. If coping mechanisms will not be institutionalized to reduce these impacts, these problems may arise…There is an urgent need for community education and information awareness about the social, economic, and physical consequences on the impacts of environmental changes (e.g. forest degradation, pollution, and rampant cutting of small trees for charcoal making fuel wood, among others) The community development adaptation strategies should be in accordance to the needs felt by the people in reducing environmental changes.” (Jose & Cardenas, 2010)Understanding the roles of watersheds into the total integrated ecological management to land use is vital to the understanding of the development of Comprehensive Land Use Plans at the local level. If the environmental perspective is not taken into account, the sustainability of growth among growing communities will not be properly factored in thus aid in the perennial destruction of the ecological balance that human settlements depend on for their recharge or aquifer areas.

In line with the importance of having proper development controls for the sustainability of the environment, another study in 2011 reported that (Phoumphon, et.al) regulators must conduct land use planning to be implementing in the reservoir. Further a specific legal framework in forest resources use in this area should be formulated…the community-based forest management should be promoted to control the resources use and reduce the influx of migration from outsiders. Cooperation among state organizations that have stakes in the watershed should be improved. The roles and responsibilities of each organization in watershed management should be clear. The regular monitoring and evaluation must be imposed. Further the conceptual framework agrees with this observation that there should be a clear co management role among stakeholders to assure accountability from everyone. The case study will look into these relationships through the identification of any plans developed or implemented by both the local government of Davao City and the Regional DENR office.

Methodology

Case Study – Primary KIA, Secondary Document Review

The research will use the Case Study method in answering the research problem and objectives. The method is appropriate for this inquiry because of the nature of the variables in determining the compliance of the Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan of Davao City in following HLURB guidelines. The study requires an in depth qualitative analysis that can be grounded on primary sources from key-informant interviews, focus group discussions, and review of secondary sources like the current CLUP.

Furthermore, the case study approach is appropriate for this endeavor since it will allow the researchers a highly focused study in the details of planning processes undertaken or not taken by the subject of this study. By dwelling on the step by step compliance to procedure the researchers were able to assist the LGU indirectly in the strengthening of their plans. The critical review of its outputs is in line with the regular review of the CLUP every 3 years coinciding with the term of the mayor and other locally elected officials.

The primary source of data for this review was taken from Key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions with the planning office or team that prepared or provided the necessary technical services in developing the CLUP of the local government unit. An interview guide and a facilitators guide questions were prepared to assist the researchers in their data gathering. The review of the planning documents vis-à-vis the HLURB guidelines will form part of the triangulation of the case study by comparing the required processes in the guidelines to the actual process and output the LGU did. The research output was presented on a per sector basis in comparison to the requirements of the guidebook and the actual document for convenience of the reader. Lastly, the data was treated under the conceptual framework of Institutional Development Planning.

Research Questions – Objectives Variables to Be Studied Data Gathering Tool/Technique Source of Data
1. To critically review the current Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan of the City of

Davao using HLURB Guidelines in the Environment Development Sector

Vision Reality Gaps Document Review CLUDP
Planning Implementation Tools Document Review CLUDP
2. To determine the adherence of the planning process stipulated under the HLURB guidelines in

the Environment Development Sector

Planning Process (Draft CLUDP on Environment Only) KII CPDC/ Planning Team
–          Were the 12 steps followed?

–          Which step was not fully implemented or satisfactorily met

3. To recommend feasible improvements in the CLUDP of Davao City under the HLURB Guidelines CLUDP Environment Sector = data needs assessment, environment committee members Document Review CLUDP
4. To determine the integration of Forest/Watershed co-management plans between the

Local Government Unit and the Regional Office of the DENR.

Integration of Environmental Related Plans (were the following plans integrated in the revised CLUDP, why/why not?: Forest Land Use Plan FLUP, Integrated Resource Management Plan, Integrated Ecosystem Management Plan, Coastal Fisheries Resource Management Plan DENR/ Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan DA) KII/  Document Review Environmental Sector Committee

CPDC

CENRO

RENRO-DENR

Variables Questions Source
Vision Reality Gaps Why is there no specific descriptor for the environment sector in the Vision Statement?

Why the mission statement on the land use sector is mentioned only ‘balanced ecology’ as the descriptor? & Why was this not elevated to the Vision of the city?

Why were there no specific indicators in line with the “balanced ecology” descriptor in the mission statement of the city? How are they to be in coherence with the strategic frameworks for the environmental sector?

*apply vision – reality gap analysis on the environment sector

AIR

WATERSHED

SOLIDWASTE

WATERQUALITY

GROUNDWATER

CPDC/CLUDP
Planning Implementation Tools Review Zoning Ordinance

Form (HLURB Model ZO)

Substance (Context/Depth)

ZO
Planning Process (Draft CLUDP on Environment Sector Only) Who were the members of the committee that prepared the CLUDP for the environment sector?

What data requirements were not satisfied? Why?

What areas for improvement of the CLUDP are identified? Why?

CLUDP
CLUDP Environment Sector = data needs assessment, environment committee members
Integration of Environmental Related Plans were the following plans integrated in the revised CLUDP, why/why not?: Forest Land Use Plan FLUP, Integrated Resource Management Plan, Integrated Ecosystem Management Plan, Coastal Fisheries Resource Management Plan DENR/ Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan DA)

 

Results of the Study

Misty Sunrise: the City of Davao’s Vision Reality Gap

Waking up in the hour before the sun rises, when the stars in the black sky illuminate the world around you, and the first ray of that yellow globe intersects the horizon is a misty morning to look forward to in the thick forests of Mt. Apo overlooking the City of Davao. This is the first impression an academic observer on what about the City’s Vision and Mission statement. The bland prose that generally proclaims the vision of a people could be improved more. The vision statement to quote, “We envision Davao City as the Premier Socio-economic and tourism center in Mindanao, East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) and the Asia-Pacific Region propelled by enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry and committed to sustainable growth and development under the guidance of Divine Providence.” It generally put forward a clear and precise picture of what the City wants but without a clear time frame. Digging deeper on the VM Statement document, there were no clear success indicators identified that could strengthen the foundation of the Comprehensive Development Plan, although there specific goals, objectives in their respective documents (which  looked into later in the article); a definite success indicator would allow the future picture of the City grounded in quantifiable reality.

The City of Davao is committed to sustainable growth and development. This said the vision statement is aligned with the nation’s sustainable development agenda. Sustainable Development as defined in the PA 21 (1996) –the ‘harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsible governance, social cohesion and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life-sustaining process’. Although not explicitly mentioned in the City’s vision statement, the City upon declaring a future of sustainability would like to achieve the following five goal elements declared in the Philippine Agenda (PA) 21: Poverty Reduction, Social Equity, Empowerment and Good Governance, Peace and Solidarity, & Ecological Integrity. However implied, the City’s vision statement would have had more teeth and clarity if it included these sustainable development goals.

Peering through the misty eyes of the City of Davao’s future, one needs to look at the vertical integration of the City’s vision to the National Framework for Physical Planning (NFPP 2001-2030) and the current administration’s midterm development plan (MTDP 2011-2016) as essential in understanding the bigger picture at the integration of national and local plans. Let us breakdown the City’s main and sectoral vision statement to see how there is or isn’t a clear integration especially on the environmental development sector.

The NFPP promotes principles consistent with the national direction of limited resources to physical planning and development. First, food security is an essential element of the NFPP wherein stated in the Economic sectoral mission statement said, Davao City aims to be the growth center in Mindanao. To attain this, it is going to engage the “the players” in the local economy to engage in propulsive industries, in industries with export potentials and in light, medium and heavy industries such as in agri-based industries[Bold font emphasis made by the author]. As agri-based industries are well suited in developing the food security of the City, it is also important to look at the most efficient cost beneficial alternative to local production for food security since the Davao of City is also at a strategic location for food imports in the South East Asian region. Second, environmental stability and ecological integrity is also part of the framework which fortunately forms part of the City’s vision when it stated that it is committed to sustainable growth and development; more so found in the social vision statement, “Make Davao City and its people, free from cold, hunger and disease, unburdened by ignorance secure in their persons and domicile, enjoying the blessing of growth and development without sacrificing the quality of the environment.”The sectoral social vision statement had imbibed the essence of the NFPP with regards to Environmental stability and ecological integrity. Third, the NFPP recognizes the rights of indigenous people which the City of Davao has a diverse population of different ethno-linguistic affiliation. Part of its social vision statement manifested “Recognize the right of the Muslim People and Tribal Filipinos to self-determination and to give due respect to their ancestral domain and their culture. In any and all circumstances, the city shall adopt a policy on addressing their welfare and well-being.” Fourth, regional urban development is one of the core principles of the NFPP that was used by the City in its vision to guide its Land Use Sector vision statement; “Our mission is to transform Davao City into a modern and a well planned investment center in Mindanao and the Asia-Pacific region, propelled by socially enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry, spiritually committed to attain sustainable growth and optimum development within the context of balance ecology.” Following this statement, it shows the direction of the City towards a balanced built up area with the conservation of the protected areas and the sustainable management of production areas.

Continuing the assessment of the City of Davao’s vision statement under the lens of the MTDP or Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 follows an alignment of principles explicitly stated or implied. First, in pursuit of inclusive growth is the priority agenda of the PDP which includes poverty reduction, social mobility, and a stable political economy; factors on which were found in the economic sectoral mission statement “Davao City to become a major growth pole in the international market by engaging its empowered and participate citizenry in resource based and market-driven economic activities within the context of balanced ecology, sustainable growth and equity-led development.” The same can be said with the second agenda which is Macroeconomic Policy where in fiscal and institutional incentives are used to encourage investment in a location. Third, the competitive industry and service sectors have a sure footing in Davao City since these service sector industries like BPOs are located in the downtown area of Davao City. Fourth, which is in particular interest to the environmental development sector are the conservation, protection & rehabilitation of the Environment and Natural Resources. The line in the vision statement that said committed to sustainable growth and development is paramount. And this is where vision takes off to the specific goals and objectives under Air Quality, Watershed, Waste Management, Water Quality, and Climate Change/Disaster Risk. Although the goals for each subsector of the environment development sector, there were no clear targets for the strategic objectives in the plan, it is in this regard that the City should develop in its review clear measurable indicators to facilitate the movement of the plan from a document to action points.

However, despite the good intentions encapsulated by the vision and mission statement of the City, especially for its environmental sector, there remains a discrepancy on the real situation. Namely the situation on air quality wherein it is reported the following: 1) total suspended particle levels have remained virtually at the same level in 3 years and can only go up 2) the ideal target for PM10 emissions is set by WHO at 20 (Davao is at 61), the level that is considered acceptable for healthy air 3) 65% of pollutants come from mobile sources, which is expected to rise reaching 12,800 tons in 2015 and 16,020 in 2021 4) Not all areas are covered and monitored for air pollutants 5) Use of fossil fuel will probably increase if alternative sources are not developed. Also, the same concerns were noted in the same report for the watershed subsector which reported: 1) There are still 63,580 Has of brush lands within Timberland areas that can still be developed 2) There are CADTs that are within Timberland areas which pose management concerns. 3) There is unchecked encroachment in conservation areas 4) there are improper agricultural practices. Furthermore, solid waste as part of ecological balance and sustainable development has noted the situation that 1) if the current rate of disposal is maintained, the Sanitary Landfill filled to capacity by 2018 2) there are not enough composting facilities 3) there are not enough materials recovery facilities 4) the city is collecting 46% of waste generated instead of only 20%. Water quality is another problem area wherein the reality for rivers & creeks was noted the following 1) from 1994-2008, there was a 206% increase in residential areas, 311% in commercial areas and 124% in industrial areas 2) there is currently no wastewater treatment facility in Davao City 3) Less than 1% of the population area served by existing sewerage systems. In addition, coastal waters also do not fare much better despite the vision of the City to preserve the water quality in its jurisdiction. 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal Barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of our coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe. Groundwater situation also has its share of reported problems, namely; 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe. Unfortunately, there were no clear descriptors and measurable indicators of Davao City’s vision. The limitation of this circumstance hampered the vision – reality gap analysis of this section.

The vision mission statement and the underlying plans of the environmental development sector follows the principles espoused on the NFPP and MTDP. Even with this alignment there are still factors that seem to hinder the successful realization of such classic visions into reality. However not explored deeper in this paper, it is imperative to understand that vision statements are the blank canvass on which the City’s spatial and comprehensive future of their land and their people are written, which is why the importance of conducting vision reality gaps at timely intervals to ensure course corrections of plans when necessary.

Danger Zoning Matters: City of Davao’s Hazard Sensitive Zoning Ordinance

Upon first look at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City for 2012-2021 one can notice the adherence to form, following the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board’s Model Zoning Ordinance. A textbook representation of how guidelines are followed in lieu of real world application. It follows form from the Title Page down to the Administration and Enforcement article. Few can be said to what is not to be found in the updated ordinance. However, one can comment on the additional features of the zoning ordinance which are related into the current advocacies of government in disaster risk reduction management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly in the identification of areas with high risk for natural hazards.

In Article IV – Zone Classification, Section 1.1 Land Slide Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the land slide prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City; the City identified areas which are susceptible to landslide, hence provided additional building restrictions or land use regulations in these areas. Further, Section 1.2 Flood Susceptible Zones. Areas located within the flood prone based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City also included additional restrictions for building settlements or structures in the area. The Zone Regulations for these danger areas were stipulated under Sections 1.2 and 1.3 of Article V. Section 1.2 Additional Provision on Areas with High Flood Susceptibility based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI and Section 1.3 Additional Provisions on Areas with Landslide Susceptibility Based on the Terrain Analysis of Davao City Watersheds Conducted by DENR-MINES and Geosciences Bureau R-XI, require new developments to secure clearances from the regional MGB and provide for applicable or approved mitigating measures for slope protection before Locational Clearances can be granted by the Local Government Unit. The restrictions are reasonable and within the jurisdiction of the executive agencies mandated to regulate land use on natural hazard identified areas.

The initiative of the Davao City government to restrict land use on danger zones is laudable, however; decades of inadequate regulation of land use in built up areas have exposed citizens to the natural hazards determined by the mines and geosciences bureau of DENR. At the end of the Marcos dictatorship in Post-EDSA 1 1986, the Duterte’s have ruled the southern city for more than two decades which saw the sleepy port town grow into a regional center for industry and commerce, but this growth is more private sector led than public sector planned. The consequences of weak planning regulation brought about by a political dynasty that espouses popular development planning, spending, and spatial strategy; reduced the capacity of the local government to enforce well thought out urban plans. Many of the residential zones are within the 2012 identified danger zones for flood and landslide susceptibility. It follows then the burden of residents within these areas, formal or informal, to comply with the additional restrictions/use regulations mentioned above. Now, many would appeal for a certificate of non-conformance due to financial restrictions of those who could not comply to invest in engineering solutions mitigating impacts of flood or landslides. But these remedies would become moot, if in the end when these hazards turn to disasters and loss of lives and properties are inevitable.

Land use restrictions such as those in areas of flood and land slide susceptibility would not be enforced without sufficient administrative and institutional support. Based on the documents provided by the City of Davao, a total of 3,246 personnel are working for the City Government. 27 are elected officials, while 2,892 or 89.09% with permanent appointment, 4 or .14 percent temporary and 323 personnel or 9.95% are co-terminus. The City Planning and Development Office have 69 positions in charge to monitor the implementation of the city’s land use pattern. With a small office to regulate 244,000 hectares of land, the office might not be able to fulfill its mandate efficiently and effectively.

In lieu of the administrative/institutional challenges of implementing the zoning ordinance, the City has done what it can with what it has. This observation is based on studying the general zoning map, and the proposed urban zoning map of the city. Several factors that facilitate zoning is the adaptation of a spatial strategy that the city called Barangay Urban Centers, and District Urban Centers, as first and second level of service providers respectively. With a vast territorial boundary, with a rural north, and urban south; the spatial strategy to develop basic services delivery platforms can be said to augment the lack of personnel from the City Government. However, even with a popular political dynasty at the helm of Davao City; it is this same circumstance that impedes land use planning implementation. By not wanting to get into the wrong side of the family, it is possible that civil servants in the planning office would bend to the call and haw of the local chief executive, and in the process disregarding the rule of law and exposing people to unnecessary risks.

The recourses one can recommend to strengthen zoning implementation is to improve the capacity of the planning office, increase its staff complement with qualified personnel, and to improve local governance by leveling the playing field to other competent politically astute individuals. By improving the capacity and increasing the staff complement of the planning office, individuals in the office can increase their efficiency with new knowledge and skills that would benefit the City. Also by improving local governance, transparency and accountability would be take the forefront of basic service delivery in the tune of proper land use zoning administration; where to build not and where to build  with gold.

SUMMARY

  • The growing urbanization in Davao City is both an opportunity and a threat to its sustainable development
  • The current spatial development of the biggest Highly Urbanized City in the country presents an opportunity for not only the researchers but also to future planners.
  • There were no clear targets for the strategic objectives of the plan
  • There were no measurable indicators found in the Vision statement.
  • There was no Forest Land Use Plan prepared by the LGU.

CONCLUSION & RECOMMENDATION

  • There is a strong priority given to Environments but just not reflected in the CLUP.
  • The planning capacity of Davao City in developing its environmental plans is weak in terms of technical competence and manpower.
  • Highly recommended that the CPDC and CENRO of Davao City seek technical assistance from the Regional DENR in preparing their environmental sector plans.

References:

Balanza, Roger M. 2010. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://balita.ph/2010/03/08/all-lgus-have-one-common-problem-informal-settlers-features/

BLGD-DILG. 2008. Rationalizing the Local Planning System. A Source book.

City of Davao, Republic of the Philippines. 2012. Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan 2012-2021.

“City of Davao and IBM Collaborate to Build a Smarter City: Philippine City will implement IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center to improve public safety” U.S. Newswire [Washington] 27 June 2012.

Casas, Arianne Caryl N. 2013.http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2013/11/14/13000-informal-settlers-not-alarming-313822

Fung, Archon. 2006. Varieties of Participation in Complex Governance. Public Administration Review.66 (December)

Fusco Girard, Luigi. 2013. “Toward a Smart Sustainable Development of Port Cities/Areas: The Role of the “Historic Urban Landscape” Approach.”Sustainability 5, no. 10: 4329-4348.

Jose, Aurora S.; and Cardenas, Virginia R. 2010. Assessing Vulnerability to Environmental Changes of Caliraya Watershed Areas in Laguna, Philippines. Journal of Environmental Science and Management 13(2): 53-65. (December)

Kourtit, Karima; Nijkamp, Peter. 2013. “The Use of Visual Decision Support Tools in an Interactive Stakeholder Analysis—Old Ports as New Magnets for Creative Urban Development.” Sustainability 5, no. 10: 4379-4405.

Laurian, Lucie. 2009. “Trust in Planning: Theoretical and Practical Considerations for Participatory and Deliberative Planning.” Planning Theory & Practice, Vol. 10, no.3, 369-391 (September)

Phoumphon, Keopheth; Espaldon, Ma.Victoria, O; Rebancos, Carmelita M., and Dorado, Moises A. 2011. Dynamics of Land Use in Namhoum Watershed, Nasaythong District, Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR. Journal of Environmental Science and Management 14(1):40-51. (June)

Quiros, Judy. 2012. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/148997/davao-city-to-develop-20-hectares-as-relocation-site-for-urban-poor

Republic Act no. 7160.Local Government Code of 1991.

UN HABITAT. 2012. Land and Conflict: Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict. Date Retrieved 13 February 2015. http://www.un.org/en/events/environmentconflicttoday/pdf/GN_Land_Consultation.pdf

THOUGHT PAPER: REPUBLIC ACT – 8749 PHILIPPINE CLEAN AIR ACT OF 1999

The Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 was signed into law by former President Joseph Estrada in July 27, 1999. Republic Act 8749 is an act providing for a comprehensive air pollution control policy and for other purposes was landmark legislation in Philippine environmental protection. The law has 56 Sections and divided into 7 chapters namely, General Provisions; Air Quality Management System; Fuels, Additives, Substances and Pollutants; Institutional Mechanism; Actions; Fines and Penalties; and Final Provisions.

The principle behind the creation of the law is where the state recognizes its responsibility in protecting the rights of people in living in a balanced ecology where the quality of air is adequate. The state also acknowledges that social-justice is primary concern when this principal right is violated by developing mechanisms for preventing, managing, restricting, and penalizing air pollution. Importantly, the recognition of these rights were stipulated in Section 4 which the state shall seek to guarantee the following enjoyment of these rights. The right to breathe clean air is one of those rights. The fact that breathing clean air has to be a fundamental right tells us that the society we have built has undermined the importance of ecological balance in living a sustainable life. It is frowning that reality has to be as grim as the laws that are written to promote quality of life.

Technical definitions of scientific concepts in environmental science were included in the legislation as operative terms used in the act. One of the terms that is important to note for future environmental planners is on Chapter 1, Article 2, Section 5, Item g). Eco-profile – means the geographical –based instrument for planners and decision-makers which present an evaluation of the environmental quality and carrying capacity of an area. It is the result of the integration of primary and secondary data and information on natural resources and anthropogenic activities on the land which are evaluated by various environmental risk assessment and forecasting methodologies that enable the Department to anticipate the type of development control necessary in the planning area. The definition beforehand speaks true to the importance of the planning discipline in the assurance of sustainable development with regards to the Philippine Clean Air Act.

Gathering the data needed to plan for the effects of air pollution in human settlements was recognized in a pivotal role for Air Quality Monitoring and Information Network. Reporting the findings of these monitoring activities and research guides the decision maker and planner in making decisions that would affect the quality of life of the population. Implementing this under the Integrated Air Quality Improvement Framework would be challenging, since it seeks to prescribe the emission reduction goals using permissible standards, control strategies and control measures to be undertaken within a specified time period, including cost-effective use of economic incentives, management strategies, collective action, and environmental education and information. The monitoring and information network seeks to understand and implement the air quality standards based not only on the World Health Organization Standards but also not less as stringent than other internationally accepted standards.

The air quality standards followed by the Environmental Management Bureau which was assigned by law to take on the responsibility of air quality management was defined under Section 12 or the Ambient Air Quality Guideline Values and Standards. The standards are well articulated in following international safety standards of acceptable particulate matter overtime from different pollutants.

As a regulatory government body, the DENR-EMB provides Air Pollution clearances and Permits for Stationary Sources or industries that inadvertently produce air pollution. These permits are the control mechanisms in managing pollutants that are released into the air. Permits, emission quota and financial liability for environmental rehabilitation are prerequisites before any business that degrades air quality can be allowed. In example, under Section 18 of RA 8749; financial liability instruments may be in the form of a trsut fund, environmental insurance, surety bonds, letters of credit , as well as self-insurance are instruments that business proponents can look into.

Quality control follows into the realm of burning garbage or incineration. Section 20 of the law clearly states a ban on incineration that defined the municipal, bio0medical and hazardous wastes burning. Yet traditional methods of burining or siga are still allowed, as is with kaingin as a traditional agricultural practice. This part of the law does not seem to jive well with internationally recognized practices that also ban small pit fire burning or bush burning. This part of the law showcases the weakness of policy in pandering to the harmful practices of past just to make way for public acceptance.

In article 4 of chapter 2 of this act gave the responsibility and jurisdiction of implementing air quality controls to the Department of Transportation and Communication on monitoring and processing of permits for emission standards of pollution from motor vehicles. Any observer in EDSA could easily conclude that there is a failure of implementation in this regard. Public transport vehicles are number one in terms of violators of this law due to the alleged collusion of private testing centers in passing unworthy vehicles for a fixer’s fee. The standards are there, but as with any bureaucracy, implementation of rules and regulations is a different matter.

The law is a sound piece of legislation although it is weak in institutional support. The EMB or Environmental Management Bureau is a small office that monitors not only air quality but water and other resources as well. With a bureau sized staff, operations for implementing the law is inefficient. The resolution for this good law is to upgrade the Bureau to a separate Department of Environmental Protection with its own Cabinet level secretary to oversee its functions and mandate.