“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.”

– Dr. Jose P. Rizal, National Hero


Within three (3) months after being accepted to be a staff in the Office of Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon, the entire legislative staff attended the Seminar–Workshop on the Rudiments on Urban and Regional Planning. It was held on October 28, 1998 in one of the Committee Rooms at the 5th floor of the Senate of the Philippines, GSIS Building, CCP Complex, Pasay City.

The basics and fundamentals of urban and regional planning became a topic of interest to me from that day forward. Imagine my surprise and elation when sometime in November 1999, my then Chief of Staff (now Representative of the Lone District of Muntinlupa City, Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon) assigned me to be the Technical Committee Staff to coordinate with the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement. Sen. Biazon was then the Chairman of the said Senate Committee.

I was excited to learn in depth the myriad issues, concerns and goings-on regarding the housing industry, in general – which includes the national shelter program, shelter financing, resettlement activities of both national and local government units, as well as increase my understanding about the principles of urban planning in the Philippines.

In preparation to take on the challenge of a major and important Senate Committee, I read numerous newspaper articles, academic studies, government reports and existing laws, rules and regulations on the housing industry. However, apart from my notes from the said Seminar-Workshop on the Rudiments on Urban and Regional Planning, I could not find a good reference material on Urban Planning in the Senate Library back then.

As I progressed in my career in the real estate industry, the same lack of a good reference material on urban and regional planning has prevailed… but not anymore.

The History of Urban and Regional Planning in the Philippines” is a 395-page new book authored by Prof. Roque Arrieta Magno. Prof. “Popoy” Magno is a professor at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning (UP-SURP) for more than 40 years. He is also a licensed Geodetic Engineer, Real Estate Broker and Environmental Planner.

In my opinion, he is one of the foremost authorities on urban and regional planning that I have had the privilege of working with. We are both members of the Board of Directors of 9 Keys Professional Development Institute, Inc., an organization dedicated to the growth, progress and improvement of real estate service professionals.

The study and understanding of the precepts of urban and regional planning has never been important to our country at this present time. The destruction of Marawi City, the development of the Clark City in Pampanga and the other regional centers outside of the National Capital Region (NCR) are some of the current realities in the Philippines.

The importance of this major reference material is that it gives a full history lesson to the readers on how the earliest settlers in the various islands of our country have tried to organize their localities to create a semblance of order and harmonious living. We learn about the first settlements during the Pre-Colonial Period and the Spanish Colonial Period. In fact, the rise of the Walled-City of Intramuros is the first recorded urban planning activity in our archipelagic state.

The American Colonial Period introduced Daniel Burnham to the Philippines who prepared the physical development of the cities of Manila and Baguio. During this critical period, planning became an active tool for development and administration of the burgeoning colony of the United States of America.

The Post-War Period saw the establishment of the National Urban Planning Commission (NUPC) whose primary purpose was to prepare plans for cities and other urban areas affected by the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War. The NUPC was mandated to cooperate with the People’s Homesite Corporation (PHC) and the National Housing Commission (NHC) to put into effect the housing program of the national government.

The “Ferdinand Marcos Period” (as coined by Prof. Magno) saw the exponential increase in the population of the Philippines. Along with this phenomenon, the challenge of rapid urbanization, informal settlers and the depreciation of the peso exchange rate became front and center.

A full reading of Chapter 5 of the book gave me an impression that our country experienced its first “BUILD, BUILD, BUILD” program courtesy of former President Marcos. In this Chapter, the challenge Prof. Magno said:

The first initiative to comprehensive planning was made under the administration of President Marcos. Marcos created a national urban planning program, which aimed to broaden town or city planning to include the entire range of land use management and development. The program consisted of radical policies such as an urban and agrarian land reform program, land use and zoning laws, a development control system involving permits and licenses, and anti-squatting laws.

The Marcos regime saw the creation of the Ministry of Human Settlements (the “grandfather” of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council [HUDCC]). Landmark legislations that are bedrocks of the real estate industry today were passed during the Marcos era – Presidential Decree No. 957,[1] Batas Pambansa Blg. 220,[2] Presidential Decree No. 1096,[3] Presidential Decree No. 1151,[4] Presidential Decree No. 1586,[5]

The “Corazon Aquino Period” saw the passage of the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act No. 7160. [6] According to Prof. Magno, the Cory Aquino Administration eliminated most, if not, “all of the positive improvements to metropolitan planning and management that had been earlier introduced” during the Marcos Regime.

The Ramos and Estrada Administrations continued the framework of development of the Cory Aquino Administration. Both Administrations continued the policy of liberalization, deregulation and globalization. Planning was focused on major urban areas like the National Capital Region (NCR) and the CALABARZON region, since these areas are the major drivers of growth of the Philippine economy during 1992 to 2001. The Ramos Administration ushered the development of various economic zones in the Philippines and continues to be areas of manufacturing growth up to this day.

Moreover, both Administrations fully embraced privatization and heavily encouraged private sector participation. The passage of Republic Act 7718, which amended Republic Act No. 6957 [An Act Authorizing the Financing, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure Projects by Private Sector, and for Other Purposes (popularly known as the BOT Law)] broadened the application of the BOT Law to encourage more private sector investment in planned public infrastructure projects.

The “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Period” ushered a plan that was focused on growth and human development in a framework of macroeconomic stability, free enterprise and good governance. The main infrastructure push came from the implementation of various projects of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway System designed to link the Visayas and the Mindanao regions to spur economic development in neglected rural communities.

The good governance mantra under the GMA Period was transformed into the Daang Matuwid battle cry of the “Benigno Aquino III Period”. In addition, the PNoy Administration implemented plans that prioritized climate change and disaster risks mitigation policies as well as food security strategies.

Finally, we are in the era of the Duterte Administration. We hope that His Excellency’s 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda will gain traction and implemented with a high degree of success. The passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (RA 10963 – The TRAIN Law) last December 2017 is a step towards a progressive tax system for the Philippines. The additional revenues from the TRAIN Law will fund the “BUILD, BUILD, BUILD” Program of the current Administration.

The final chapter introduces the readers to the distinguished planners of the Philippines, who contributed their time, learning, and wisdom to the development of the planning profession and practice in our country.

In sum, the book is a testament to the vision of the author to provide the full history of urban planning in the Philippines – a body of work that recorded the past urban planning events of the country.

I would recommend this book to the urban planning enthusiast like me, who takes interest on how things can work better based on a solid and well-thought of plans.

Furthermore, I would recommend this book to real estate practitioners – brokers, appraisers and consultants alike. It will be most helpful in the practice of our profession to know that the laws, rules and regulations as well as the government agencies we deal with at present were results of careful planning of past Administrations, with the able and competent guidance of urban and environmental planners in the Philippines.

To get more information about how to get a copy of the book, please email us at info@realttorney.com and we will be happy to assist you.

[1]Otherwise known as “Subdivision and Condominium Buyers’ Protective Decree.”

[2]Also known as “The Rules and Standards for Economic and Socialized Housing Projects.”

[3]Popularly known as the “National Building Code of the Philippines.”

[4]Otherwise known as the “Philippine Environment Policy.”

[5]Entitled “Establishing An Environmental Impact Statement System Including Other Environmental Management Related Measures and for Other Purposes.”

[6]Also known as the “Local Government Code of 1991.”