Workshop on climate-resilient urban plans and designs with national government agencies brings “Aha!” moments

Quezon City, Philippines

Despite the suspension of work and classes on October 17 due to a public transport strike affecting all of Metro Manila, about 40 representatives from five Philippine national government agencies showed up for the first training workshop on Building Climate Resiliency through Urban Plans & Designs (BCRUPD), a German-government-funded project with UN-Habitat Philippines as lead implementor in partnership with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

The five participating agencies were HLURB,  the Climate Change Commission (CCC), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), and the National Economic Development and Authority (NEDA).

BCRUPD aims to support the Philippine government in improving policies, regulations, and capacities to adapt to climate change through the promotion of climate-responsive sustainable urban development plans and designs. In support of existing national legislation, action plans and frameworks on climate change, the project supplements existing urban planning guidelines and enhances knowledge through policy inputs, capacity development, and demonstrations. Demonstration of innovative approaches in five partner cities—Angeles, Cagayan de Oro, Legazpi, Ormoc, and Tagum—will showcase context-specific processes in building resilience while considering balanced economic and ecological sustainability.

The four-day workshop featured technical input from Thomas Stellmach, international expert on urban planning and design from UN-Habitat; Laids Mias-Cea, regional coordinator for Climate Change Initiative in Asia-Pacific, also from UN-Habitat; and Diane Legge, Vice President, CallisonRTKL, a subsidiary of Arcadis.

Presentations showcased concepts, processes, and best practices in the areas of risk-reduction planning, mitigation and co-benefits,  geospatial mapping, density and its implications on liveability and infrastructure cost, urban typology and resilient densities, urban adaptation, adaptation processes and approaches for decision making, planning instruments, safe and attractive waterproofing of cities, examples of national and local interventions to address urban flooding, integrated approach to waterfronts, and strategic consolidation of urban flood protection, urban development plans, and urban resilience plans.

Alternating between presentations were breakout sessions where participants, grouped most of the time by national government agency, were tasked with exercises and specific outputs that entailed applying the concepts, practices, and processes that were discussed.

Serving as an occasional reprieve from the technical sessions was the Urban Fair, a small area in the workshop venue where participants could enjoy memory games, puzzles, and other recreational activities during coffee breaks. To test the agencies’ retention of the tenchincal input, an online quiz among the agencies using Kahoot, a game-based learning platform which was a big hit for the groups, was held towards the end of each day. Serving the same purpose, each morning the second day onward began with an exercise where participants made an alphabetical list of topics from the previous day’s discussions, one topic correspinding to one letter.  

“The online quiz format showed that the things we learned here validates the systems-thinking approach,” said Anna Mendoza Abalahin, Technical Adviser at LCP. “And because of that, it strengthens the alignment of the different agencies and other stakeholders whenever we engage in workshops, planning, and design.”

The workshop, first in a series to be conducted under the project, met the anticipated turnout and enjoyed active engagement, with certain parts of the  technical input having resonated strongly with the participants.

Project examples such as floodable parks, an elaboration on urban heat island effects, and cost-benefit analysis as a tool for decision making on adaptation options were a few of these major takeaways.

“We’ve been concentrating so much on preventing hazards,” remarked Angelina Mamuyac of DILG, “but the segment on floodable parks showed that we can learn to ‘embrace’ and live with hazards.”

Neil Warren Patag of HLURB added, “Some of the concepts we already had a general knowledge of, but not extensively. So all the things presented were very useful in our work, especially the technical  discussions on walkability and mobility. A lot of the project examples that were shown can be introduced to local governments.”

“For us it was the crash course on cost-benefit analysis,” said Soleil Manzano of LCP, “because it enriched our initial knowledge about it and how it enhances the viability of projects.”

Ayesha Sarapuddin  of CCC became especially interested to know how urban heat islands and their effects can be included in adaptation plans: “The workshop content does impact the small decisions I now have to make at work and my everyday tasks.”

Murffy Gopez, speaking for the entire NEDA team in attendance,  shared, “We had a lot of ‘Aha!’ moments during the entire workshop. One of them was learning the distinction between urban planning and urban design. In the Philippines, the academe is focused more on urban planning. But we saw urban design as a crucial integrative tool. We also found that a lot of the project examples could be real-life applications of urban planning and urban design. Here in the Philippines, the first line of intervention against flooding in coastal areas is to build dikes, but we now know there are a lot of other options. We’ve also come to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of contributions that can be made at any scale to urban planning. The presentations do make a difference in our everyday work, especially in reviewing policies and regulations.”

Shortly after the training with national government agencies, the workshop series rolled out in the five project partner cities.

The Building Climate Resiliency through Urban Plans & Designs  project is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety under the International Climate Initiative.
Download the project brief here.
For regular activity updates, follow BCRUPD online on Twitter and Facebook.

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