The gap between planning & policy: Bridging the Divide
For a developing country like the Philippines, opportunities for development workers especially in Local Governments come few and far between partly due to limited resources and the lack of access to information and global networks. Thanks to the Netherlands government that through Nuffic, we were able to participate in a tailor made training (tmt). The two-week training on “Towards Climate Smart Cities: Mainstreaming Affordable Resilient Housing Strategies for Vulnerable Communities in Local Development Plans & Policies” conducted by the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam for the League of Vice Governors of the Philippines (LVGP) was by far one of the best, most useful and intensive program to integrate the roles of policy and local planning staffs. The modules of the TMT allowed sufficient platform in capacitating the participants in learning responsive and science -based planning and policy making especially for vulnerable communities.
Speaking from my personal experience being once a policy staff, local planning and policy making are separate and distinct entities in local governance with their respective roles and mandates to fulfill. There is very little interphase for these units to understand the complexities of each other’s work, much more to appreciate how each should complement the other. The recently concluded TMT opened valuable insights on the vacuum that exist in understanding the work that each is doing to make local governance effective. This is imperative in the face of an ever increasing need to adapt to climate change and build resilient and affordable housing especially for vulnerable communities.
When I applied for the course on Land Management and Informal Settlements Regularization way back in 2008, the qualification clause of the course “for middle managers” for some reason stood out. Fast forward to 10 years as Executive Director of the League, the holding of the TMT made me realize all the more profoundly the wisdom of giving sufficient and quality training to mid-level career staffs, who more often still have the passion to learn newer and more innovative ideas, but seldom get the opportunities that seniors officials have access to.
During the holding of the two-week course (March 19-24, 2018 in Puerto Princesa & April 2-7, 2018 in Roxas City), the intensity, the passion, at some points the confusion and even to some extent the self-critique especially in the workshops, speak volumes of the desire of the participants not only to understand the subjects per se, but to grasp it in the context of their local experiences as policy and planning workers. I too have realized that the top policy maker of local governments, the Vice Governors cannot optimize the realization of their mandates without a team of capable, well trained staffs. The TMT program also made me realize that the League has given very little opportunity for policy staffs to be involved in our League seminars. I’ve made a mental note that the LVGP should endeavour to engage with them more actively, this is not only imperative but strategic.
At the end of the two week program, I cannot thank enough the IHS-TMT team Alonso Ayala, Charmae Pyl Wissink-Nercua and Elena Marie Enseñado as well as the local experts who patiently facilitated, mentored and encouraged the participants. I am also very grateful for the leadership of the LVGP headed by the President, Vice Governor Antonio "Tony" Albano and Chairman Vice Governor Humerlito "Bonz" Dolor for their developmental approach towards achieving the goals of the LVGP. With all the negativity surrounding government work, politics and government workers, I still believe that somehow a spark can start a conflagration of change, the right one that is.
About the author: Annalyn Flores is the Executive Director, of the League of Vice Governors of the Philippines. A very active IHS alumna of the short course on Land Management and Informal Settlement Regularisation Course in 2008, Refresher Course Philippines 2016 and TMT Philippines 2018. She also sits in the board of the Netherlands Fellows Foundation in the Philippines (NFFPI).