Issues in Comprehensive Land Use Planning

HLURB has made public the information on the status of Comprehensive Land Use Plans of localities in the country. This is good. But how come there are still many without one? Does this mean teacher will give the students who have not submitted the requirements the same grade as with those who performed well and complied with the requirements? This is another aspect of the issue and if I’m the decision-maker at headquarters, I’d only remit the budgets to the branches once they’ve complied and complied well.

Anyway. I’ve seen lots of land use plans at the town level and I thought I heard town planners screaming in their heads for the simplification of the process and requirement. Who wants to read a 100-page land use plan for goodness sake? This would be torture, more so if the first few pages are already blah. The plan can be reduced to 25 pages. In other words, use the most simple, concise, and practical language and illustration; the test should be that the reader or user should be able to understand what’s written and what action the plan asks of him or her. Land use plans don’t have to be exercises in academic writing.

Also, the thing about ‘comprehensive’ in land use planning in the country is it’s treated as if a garbage can into which everything that can be said of a piece of land – whether it makes sense or not, is connected or not to the development and investment plans and the higher-level plan or framework – is dumped. Since I’m an evaluator, the first thing I look for is the basis for this or that proposed configuration of local land or space, which is usually lacking. I mean, prior to the planning isn’t it a given that localities do first a scoping or assessment exercise (the lack of nationally-generated data shouldn’t keep localities from generating information and evidence for their planning needs)? There are also no assumptions made such as population pressure vis-à-vis resources for given periods of time; without one, I interpret it as planning on the assumption that resources of the locality are limitless.

In Baguio City, ‘comprehensive’ is confined to the City’s boundaries, which even to a student in land use planning will question given that the actual trend of growth and development in the City involves that of the surrounding towns. The updating of the City’s CLUP is useless if the unit of analysis is not Metro Baguio. Metropolitanization has already inched its way into the City, locals are living and affected by it, and denying it would lead to more sprawl and further chaos. It is high time then for public officials in Baguio and the towns around it to lay down whatever is keeping them from coming into a dialogue toward formalizing the arrangement. ‘Comprehensive’ is therefore also about having that maturity to communicate beyond ‘what is mine’ and ‘what is yours.’ This inability or immaturity should not hijack or stunt the growth and development of the area and quality of life for locals.

Land use plans supposedly contain prevention and mitigation measures in environmental management and disaster risk reduction, but you don’t see how these are made part of the plans. Usually, local leaders would say they’ve integrated disaster risk reduction into their plans and to validate (during evaluations), I ask them about how their land use plans link up with disaster risk reduction in their localities. Without looking at the plans, I can tell from their statements and explanations if there is indeed a connection. I mean, if I’m a local leader I wouldn’t sign my name on something I haven’t understood.

When land use planning begins on the wrong foot, land is potentially devalued and wasted.

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