Monday, June 25, 2007

Some Interesting Statistics

1. An URBAN place in planning, is a distinct local unit described by its population size, land area, and income. The National Statistics Office determines which is urban and which is not.

2. The smallest urban unit is the barangay. In the Philippines, 52% of all barangays is considered urban by the NSO. Metro Manila is 100% urbanized.

3. The Social Weather Station, in its survey for hunger incidence in the country, asked only one question-- How many times did you get hungry in the last three months and had nothing to eat? Therefore, as per SWS standards, hunger is defined not by the number of times a person eats, but rather how many times a person needed to eat but could not.

4. On the May 11, 2006 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), NEDA declares that the population growth in the Philippines has gone down from 2.34% in 1995 to 1.95% in 2004. Various sectors reacted to this, as there is absolutely no scientific basis for the pronouncement. Actual population is determined by a census which happens every 10 years. The last time a census was conducted was in the year 2000, and the next census is not due until 2010. Population growth is determined between two periods of time, and with no census in 2004, there was no way that NEDA could have come up with an accurate figure. The next day, NEDA issues a correction. The announcement was only based on projections and not actual data.

5. A census requires an act of Congress and costs about 1 billion pesos to conduct.

6. The NSO administers the surveys, but it is the National Statistical Coordination Board that analyzes the data and makes the official statements.

7. As of 2000, the population of the Philippines is 76, 504, 077. It is estimated that the population has reached the 85 million mark.

8. The median age refers to the age that divides the population into half, while mean age is the average age of the whole population. The Philippines has a very young population-- our median age is 21 years old, about the same as Singapore and Malaysia. Germany's median is 35 years old, while Japan is currently the "oldest" country in the world with a median of nearly 43 years old.

9. In the Philippines, there are more males than there are females. The sex ratio is 101.43, or for every 100 females, there are 101.43 males. This is a global trend and there is no universally accepted scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

10. Overtime, the females oversurvive the males. Women live longer than men. The sex ration is less than 100 starting at the age of 55. At age 75 or older, there are only 76.25 males for every 100 females.

11. The Philippines' dependency ratio is 69%, meaning for every 100 workers, there are 69 dependents, 5 of which are old.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Three Folding Image of Society

The State, Private Sector, and the Civil Society are three stakeholders in planning and their roles interplay with one another. To understand the dynamics between the three, let us look first at their purposes.

The State is responsible for providing social welfare. Social welfare is usually defined as the basic needs of the people such as food, shelter, clothing, education, health, etc. The State should also promote peace and order. Ideally, only the State should have coercive influence. The rise of insurgency and banditry undoubtedly creates fear in the hearts of the people. Whether the threat is real or imagined, if people do not feel safe, the State has failed in its duty.

The State must also ensure democratic governance, that democratic ideals are upheld. A democratic society is a society where people are free-- free to speak out, free to vote, free to organize themselves, and free to live a happy and comfortable life. Using military power to uphold these freedoms is a sign of weak governance.

The State must also secure justice and equity for everybody. In an ideal world, justice is supposed to be blind. In reality however, not everyone has equal access to legal services in our country. Those who are rich and powerful have the resources to thwart the justice system. This is why the State must lean towards those who are marginalized, to help the disadvantaged have the same legal options afforded by the more privileged. It was Pres. Manuel L. Quezon who first said "Those who have less in life should have more in law." and it became a recurring theme for all the other presidencies most especially during Pres. Ramon Magsaysay's term. Which is not to say that justice must turn a blind eye on those who violate the law, but rather that its eyes must remain closed amidst all the glitter of gold. The State must provide a level playing field for everyone regardless of social and economic status.

The private sector produces and distributes goods and services for a profit. The driving force behind any business enterprise is monetary gain. Everything else is secondary. There is nothing wrong with getting profit from your investment. After all, that is what free enterprise and capitalism are all about. The issue being raised especially against Big Business is how much profit is permitted. With so many people suffering from poverty and there is a very wide disparity in income distribution, it is ethical to get so much wealth?

I am in a quandary over this, as I understand that business is a profit-oriented undertaking. There are so many risks involved. For me, it seems only fair that those who take chances should be rewarded, provided that profit is not gained at the expense of other people. The businesses must also ensure that their profit goes back to the State in some other way. The money should circulate INSIDE the country and not siphoned out. In that case, the rich only gets richer, and the poor is being sucked dry.

Take for example the case of big shopping malls like Henry Sy's SM. We all lionize (to use Prof. Serote's term) Henry Sy because of his "contribution" to our country's economy. Contribute how? Having the third biggest mall in the world does not necessarily translate to prosperity. Filipinos spend the hard-earned money of their OFW relatives on buying stuff that are made outside the country. We are contributing to the economy of that country, not ours. Most of the money that we pay to SM and deposit in its bank (Banco de Oro- EPCI) is invested by Mr. Sy in China, not in the Philippines (Prof. Serote read in a PAL in-flight magazine that the taipans have a contest among themselves on who invests the heaviest in China). We are enriching China, while draining our own pockets and only so little goes back.

And what of the dollar remittances of OFWs? These are being used to pay off our international debts.

Determining allowable profit margin also depends on the nature of business. If the business involves public services like water supply and electricity generation and distribution, or basic needs like food and education, a ceiling must be set. On one hand, the private sector has means for a more efficient delivery of these services. However, it can be heartless. It has to get something in return. The services that you get is commensurate to your ability to pay. Certain restrictions must be set in place such that businesses do not cheat the people out of the services that they are entitled to anyway. But then again, we go back to the question of whether or not the performance of public services is handed over to the private sector, or is it solely a public/ State exercise.

Another role of the private sector that overlaps with the State is employment generation. This should be done in tandem with the government, as providing jobs is not a purely economic concern. Having a good job, and not just any other job, affects the psyche of a person. It brings dignity and a sense of achievement, something that is more in line with personal well-being, a part of the thrust of social welfare-- the responsibility of the State.

It is this overlapping of the roles of both private sector and State in promoting social welfare that gave birth to a new trend in business today-- corporate social responsibility, or the concept of giving back to the people. However, the private sector only gives a small percentage of what if earns. For example, the Philippine Business for Social Progress is an NGO sustained financially by big corporations (belonging to the Top 500 companies). While it may seem to be a noble undertaking, the contribution of these companies is only 1% of their net profits. Imagine a pie cut into 100 pieces. Take one piece. It didn't affect much of the appearance of the pie. You barely notice a piece missing. One percent is loose change compared to what those companies are keeping in their pockets. It seems that corporate social responsibility is just a PR tool, a marketing strategy used by business to sell itself, which again, is a self-serving act.

The third player in the field of urban planning is the civil society. It is concerned with individual development, upholding the coherence of moral values, and promoting public interest. The latter, once again, is the responsibility of the State under the Constitution.

So what is the Civil Society? And perhaps more importantly, WHO is the Civil Society?

* taken from slides and discussions of the lecture of Prof. Serote.

Introduction to Land Control Mechanisms and the Dynamics of Politics

In order to understand what a zoning ordinance is, we must look at the different land control mechanisms.

I've written a paper on Planned Unit Development for my Plan 201 class last semester. I have inserted a portion from that paper below:

"Land uses in a parcel of land are regulated by a land control system. It is hinged on the principle that gives the State the authority to monitor and impose restrictions upon private rights of its citizens. Police power is exercised by the State to promote order and safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the public. It is “reasonable control over persons and property”[1].

Mechanisms used for control over land developments are the Master Plan, Zoning Ordinances, and Subdivision Regulations. The Master Plan is a policy framework of the physical development of the subject area. It depicts physical characteristics and socio-economic profile, and gives recommendations to address the needs of that community. The Master Plan is a useful tool used by administrators and policy makers in deciding how an area is to be developed, affording them a broad picture of the present situations as well as projections in a given span of time.

The Master Plan serves as a guide from which two other control mechanisms are based—the zoning ordinance and the subdivision regulations. Zoning ordinances govern land use and placement of buildings. Different parts of the community are segregated and land use is prescribed to the resulting sub-areas. The type of land use of a given property is determined by its location and relative to the land use of the adjacent properties.

Zoning ordinances are imposed to ensure the compatibility of land uses within an area. Incongruities may result to negative effects such as depreciation of market value, traffic congestion, and hazardous living conditions. Setting up bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks near academic institutions, locating cemeteries beside sources of drinking water, and residences within a volcano’s danger zone are some examples of incompatible land uses that zoning ordinances aim to prevent.

Subdivision regulations, on the other hand, controls “the way in which land is divided and subsequently made ready for building development.”[2] The provisions set are promulgated by a regulatory board, such the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board in the Philippines. These set minimum design standards, procedures for application, and requirements for the registration of different residential developments."

[1] Online Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

[2] page 24, Planned Unit Development by Robert W. Burchell


We will be discussing more about zoning ordinances in our class in our next meetings, and as our lessons progress I will also be sharing them with you.

For now, we will be defining a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) as a set of policies describing a local government unit's (LGU) strategies of how physical development in their jurisdiction will take place. But a CLUP is just a plan and as all plans go, they are just guidelines. A CLUP has no real teeth unless a Zoning Ordinance is enacted. A Zoning Ordinance is a legal instrument that ensures the enforceability of the CLUP.

A CLUP is composed of technical, political, and social guidelines. The technical component is always the foundation upon which all CLUPs are built. Why? The political component is self-serving and the social component might serve only a specific group. Math and science, on the other hand, are unbiased and do not lean to a particular sector.

The way land is utilized is an arbitrary choice, depends on who makes the decisions, and on what end the stakeholders aim to accomplish. The best land use isn't always the highest land use. The converse is true.

What is the difference between highest use of a land and its best use. For example, the planning board determines that a certain land is more suitable for residential development. However, the mayor insists that he/ she intends to use the land for commercial development. More buildings and more businesses, more taxes for the town. Best use is what is more politically and socially viable, while highest use is geared towards maximizing land for more profitable ends.

More on the dynamics of political and economic entities in land use planning coming in the next meetings.