OPINION: Urban planning for dummies 1

OPINION: Urban planning for dummies

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Aug 30 2020 02:40 AM | Updated as of Aug 30 2020 02:41 AM

“For Dummies” books have been a popular series on seemingly esoteric subjects, stepping down as simplified instructional reading material for the likes of uninitiated ”dummies” such as politicians. I will attempt to approximate such approach, hopefully, for general edification and amusement. So, today let us talk “Urban Planning.”

First, let us agree that the principal objective of urban planning is public welfare. And, such is an alien concept to ‘dummy’ politicians!

If the community and the environment you live in does not concern you at all, this little bit of tutorial sharing is not for you. On the other hand, if citizen involvement in shaping the environment is a path you wish to tread upon, even if occasionally, let us take a pause for a touch of additional learning.

Consciousness can lead to concern, you know. I am certain that you have at one time or another considered yourself “a concerned citizen.” So, here goes.

The essence of urban planning enjoys constitutional recognition and mandate. I bet you did not know that! Well, our Constitution’s Article II – Declaration of Principles and State Policies states in Section 16: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” The environment!

In its textbook definition, Urban Planning encompasses “considerations of efficiency, sanitation, protection and use of the environment, as well as effects on social and economic activities.”

The encyclopedia further describes the discipline as “a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks. Urban planning deals with physical layout of human settlements.

Personally, for me, it has become obvious that elements of Urban Planning form a concept of life that ought to be wired into our beings, albeit subconsciously, as second nature. Thus, we become truly "concerned citizens,” responsible contributing participants in the nation’s polity. Environmental consciousness contributes to political maturity.

Many of my friends, as well as readers who follow this ABS-CBN Opinion section are aware of my decades long apostolate, my advocacy for decongesting Metro Manila by way of its concomitant population redistribution. My commitment is, of course, borne of a sincere concern as a Manila-born stakeholder, of personal experience and continuing internalization. Not having any academic nor professional credentials in Urban Planning has not deterred me from being a staunch critic of Metro Manila’s self-suffocation and a proponent of severely needed redemptive action. Always, however, I am conscious that superior counsel and new intelligence are always available.

Weeks ago, the internet presented me with an opportunity to meet (in cyberspace) a real academic, professional planner. In fact, a Doctor of Philosophy in Urban and Regional Planning! Of course, we do have undergraduates, as well as Masters in that particular discipline. But Doctorates? A rarity! There are less than twenty of them in the entire Philippines, I believe. And this one, we can claim as our own.

You must pardon my “our own” bias. It is a hometown thing. Dario G. Pampanga, PhD., Urban and Regional Planner, is of and from Calbayog City, Samar, my hometown. He is now a Professor at the University of Mindanao in Davao City, after serving government as a functionary in various capacities and postings for more than twenty years. He earned his Master’s degree at the University of the Philippines, Mindanao. He attended the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, (UTM) State of Johor in Malaysia for his PhD. His Doctoral thesis was: “Urban Livability Indicators for Secondary Cities in Southeast Asia.’

I sought from him a critique and validation of my “imagineering” peregrinations as carried in my ABS-CBN News think pieces. I passed on to him some of my published commentaries. Let me share with you a few of his remarks:

“Ideally, politics should go hand in hand with urban planning towards a livable urban environment. Unfortunately that’s not the case in our country. Professional planners are shunned by politicians which makes urban planning susceptible and vulnerable to the whims and caprices of the powers that be, not to mention the influence peddlers. That makes ‘urban planning’ virtually dead in this country. Such that the new generation of urban planners is not the conventional planning professionals, rather they are the powerful real property developers, and local politicians acting as urban planners.”

“We have a building code that is already archaic…..we don’t have a comprehensive national urban planning mechanism that would guide cities in terms of urban renewal, guidelines for the location and space management of new civic center for new cities……. Usually, aesthetics, space planning, and traffic planning are conspicuously absent.”

In an earlier communication, Dr. Pampanga bemoaned the “scarcity (or the absence) of reading materials on the historical development of town and country planning or urban and regional planning in the country.” He also shared the knowledge that in the Philippines’s case, “physical planning actually began during the Spanish Era with its church-plaza complex.” Also, that “planned communities” have had pre-Roman Era antecedents.

Most probably as a consequence of this sentiment, Dr. Pampanga was motivated to write a book, centered upon a historical narrative of what led to “shaping the physical planning” as it is now, in the country. He has shared with me the title of his forthcoming book: “ Urbanization and Planning, 1573-1985: The Evolution of Urban and Regional Planning in the Philippines.” I understand it is nearing publication. When that happens, I will seek his permission to write a review.

It is not a textbook, he assured me. It is not only for general reading but for students and professionals as well. And if I might add, for the genuinely “Dummy.” The politicians, precisely!


Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.