Philippines vs Singapore Urban Development Planning Process

In class, we were asked to compare and contrast urban development planning process of the Philippines with another country’s and to indicate which one is better.


At the municipal and city level, the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) is the plan document which embodies specific proposals for guiding, regulating growth and/or development. Its main components are the sector plans, such as the socio-economic, infrastructure, local administration and land use plan. (Actually, there are several definitions for CDP. This is by the Joint DAR, DA, DILG and HLURB Memorandum Circular Prescribing Guidelines to Implement MC 54).

Source: UP SURP Position Paper on the Improvement of the Local Planning Process. 2005.


The planning process starts with the 40-50-year Concept Plan. The Plan maps out the country’s development vision. From the Concept Plan are the Master Plans which translate the long-term vision for Singapore’s development into carefully detailed blueprints implemented within 10 to 15 years. In the Master Plan are Special and Detailed Control Plans: Parks and Waterbodies Plan, Landed Housing Areas Plan, Building Height Plan, Activity Generating Uses Plan, and Street Block, Urban Design Area, Conservation and Monuments Plan. Also, in support of the Master Plan a Sustainable Development Blueprint for a Sustainable – Lively and Liveable City – Singapore.The latest Master Plan was released in 2011. The Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is in charge of these Plans. Within URA’s Physical Planning Group, there are six separate departments, each overseeing a different geographical area, allowing planners to monitor developments within each region and ensure that the region is planned in a cohesive manner. Architects in the Urban Design Group are tasked to master-plan new areas.

Which one is better?

Overall, the Philippines CDP documents as they are actually planned and written (by LGUs) remind one of a grocery list, of generic strategies that are paired one-is-to-one with identified problems. They try to cover everything and understandably end up wanting to solve all the problems of the world – in this they lose their strategic purpose and meaning. I get lost reading them and I end up asking so what are the key strategic issues and strategies that this LGU has set itself toward? (I’m not sure if the originators themselves have the answer.) It lacks analysis of how one issue is interrelated with another to form a coherent complete holistic picture of the city or municipality. Also, it lacks focus on urban development and management (as distinct from rural development) such that given a municipality that has both urban and rural areas how does the LGU treat one from the other? The process is too long and heavy such that (if there is at all) initial enthusiasm, this is lost somewhere along the process (which perhaps explains why there are several cities and municipalities which can’t seem to finish up their CDPs). It also lacks wide community involvement in terms of defining in community what is the pareto optimum (win win scenario) agreed by all. If there is “involvement” it is normally just for compliance and there is no attempt to put in place a mechanism for larger citizen attendance and real feedback from citizens/residents.

In contrast, Singapore’s plan and process are better, for these reasons:

1. Simple (without being simplistic), straightforward, and focused.
2. Communicable (easy for all citizens to understand even those without professional planning background).
3. The Concept Plan takes into account in its situation analysis lifestyle issues of Singaporeans as a determinant of urban growth. Also, it clearly identifies transportation as a prime mover of urban growth and development hence planning takes this into account.
4. The government planning authority (URA) has manpower and departments to oversee alignment of local (regional) developments with the Master Plan.
5. The government planning authority (URA) is in charge of master-planning new urban areas. The private sector (interested in investing in these areas) are called in but estate development is done within the master plan framework.
6. Midterm reviews are conducted for the Concept Plan (because after all plans are not cast in stone) to take into account relevant changes in the planning environment. Changes are reflected in the new Plan.
7. Citizen participation is wide, as the Draft Master Plan is exhibited for public comments and the edited document gazetted for public information/verification.


One thought on “Philippines vs Singapore Urban Development Planning Process

  1. Overall, the Philippines CDP documents as they are actually planned and written (by LGUs) remind one of a grocery list, of generic strategies that are paired one-is-to-one with identified problems–LOL. So true. Urban Planning in the country is just so frustrating!


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