FOR every project we do, we always put people, or social equity, first.
The terms public involvement and public participation have often been used interchangeably; however, the Royal Town of Planning Institute (RTPI) differentiates the two in terms of operations. Public participation or involvement refers to effective interactions between planners, decision-makers, individual and representative stakeholders to identify issues and exchange views on a continuous basis (RTPI, 2005). On the other hand, public consultation refers to the dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views, and normally with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programs of action (RTPI, 2005).
Despite this, it is evident that public involvement plays a key role in successful planning. It allows the planning team to have a clear idea of the actual context of the place. Urban planning processes usually include public consultations to ensure that all stakeholders—the local government units (LGUs), national agencies, the private sectors, the businessmen, the local employees, students, the academes, and planners among others—are represented and are able to voice out their side. This public consultation makes way for a partnership to be established between the private and public sector, which would forge a harmonious community. Public participation is well-appreciated since the people will be the ones to greatly benefit from the planning. Moreover, participation of the younger generations ensures that the plans, the knowledge, skill sets, and the visions for the area are understood and are passed on.
At Palafox, we engage the public in our workshops where we ask them for their vision for the place five, 10, 50, and a hundred years after. They also give important insights for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. Results from the workshops will be reviewed and documented by the team. These workshops give way for interactions among all these sectors, allowing the public to have a better understanding of how decisions are made, how each sector affect each other, and what kind of plans would work in the diverse community. In doing so, they will have a better appreciation of the plan, instilling into them a sense of ownership, thus driving their motivation to have the plan properly and thoroughly executed. This would later translate to the smooth implementation of the plan, since there will be less resistance and conflicts.
The quality of the decisions also improves when the opinions of the different stakeholders are taken into consideration, since these locals are the ones who best understand the social environment. Also, being the end-users, the plan created should meet their needs. Not only would the non-technical sector have a grasp of the planning process, but it would also allow the local government to have a clear image of how their decisions are translated into reality. It would also greatly ease the process in creating the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). The CDP and CLUP are both required from the LGU by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The CLUP identifies the boundaries, the allocated land use of the city/municipality, and the proposed future land use. This may also serve as a reference for budgeting and prioritizing future developments. The CDP, on the other hand, acts as the action plan of the LGU covering different sectors (i.e. economic, social, environmental, disaster risk reduction management, education, demography, and institution, among others). Both of the CLUP and CDP require conducting public consultations to ensure that the programs, proposed projects and plans, and vision are relevant to the current and future needs of the locals.
Allowing the public to participate in such decision-making would also help avoid creating one-sided plans and policies. Encouraging active public involvement would create a sense of community responsibility among the stakeholders, which would help plan for a sustainable community. There should be regular public consultations in order to evaluate and monitor the planning process. This will allow the planners and the stakeholders to monitor whether the planning is still heading in the direction that they want to achieve. It also helps the planners to stay updated with the current needs of the community. The overall interaction between the public and private sectors allows for a pro-active and reactive planning process, which is an ideal approach in urban planning.
Metro Davao first public consultation
Last Monday, November 20, we conducted the first public consultation for the planning of the Metro Davao urban master plan. We were targeting 150 participants, but more than 300 came, which shows how eager the locals are to be part of this project. Different people from different sectors participated in the discussions; even architecture and economic students participated in the workshops. All municipalities and cities were also represented. We conducted three workshops; first, envisioning Metro Davao as a whole, then envisioning their respective city/municipality’s role with regard to Metro Davao, and lastly, the SWOT analysis. Understanding the sentiments of different sectors will allow us to obtain a multifaceted perspective on the current situation of Metro Davao. The participation of the locals of Metro Davao shows a promising partnership between the planners, the public, and the private sectors, in creating a Metro Davao that is inclusive, well-connected, and crosses all borders.
All in all, planning should always put people first. Next is the planet, then the economy; and whenever applicable, we also prioritize humanity, culture, tradition and spirituality.