FAITH, HOPE& CHARITY | Databases for development

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BY IKE SEÑERES

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017
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I READ a comment from someone who lives in a city outside Metro Manila, saying that traffic jams are now becoming common where she lives, and she sees it as a sign of progress. I am sure that she was kidding; because there is no way that a social problem is a sign of progress.

On the other hand, she might just be correct, because progress could really happen without development planning and social problems could really come with progress, if and when there is no development planning that could avoid or prevent these problems.

Because of what she said, it made me understand better the meaning of development, that real development with real planning is the only right thing to do in all cities, regardless of whether these are in urban or rural locations.

Words are just words, and semantics could come into play, but the wrong understanding of words could indeed affect governance, and that wrong interpretations could continue to produce social problems not unless the mindsets of local leaders and local planners are changed.

For example, it seems that many of these leaders and planners could not yet tell the difference between progress and development and in a similar sense, they could not also tell the difference between poverty alleviation and poverty reduction. Using another example, many of them do not yet understand that traffic itself is not the problem, because there is always traffic as long as there is at least one vehicle on the road. The problem therefore is not the traffic itself, but the congestion of vehicles that causes the slow movement of the traffic.

Surely there are many ways of defining what development is, but as far as I am concerned, I would like to define development as the outcome of planning. Using that definition, I could say that any other outcome that results outside of the scope of planning is accidental, regardless of whether it is good or bad, and that includes the emergence of progress, whether or not its results are good or bad.

In theory therefore, it is completely possible for a city to progress, but if it does so without a development plan, do not expect the resulting progress to be good. On that note, it could be said that there is good news because the law requires our Local Government Units (LGUs) to have their own Comprehensive Development Plans (CDPs). There is bad news however, because it seems that the majority of LGUs do not have their own CDPs.

As it is supposed to be, all LGUs are supposed to prepare and submit their own Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs), prior to the preparation and the submission of their CDPs. As it is also supposed to be, and using ordinary logic and inference, the CLUPs are supposed to be the basic foundations of the CDPs.

In theory and for all practical purposes, CDPs are supposed to be in effect the Master Plans of the LGUs, even if that terminology is not popularly used. Again using ordinary logic, it would be very practical to produce the CLUPs in digital form, and there is no other way to do that except to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. If and when the LGUs would use GIS for their CLUPs, it would then be convenient and practical for them to also use the same GIS for their CDPs.

It may sound too technical for some of the local planners and leaders, but the same GIS software that they are using for tax mapping could also be used for hazard mapping and traffic mapping, among other tasks.

As a matter of fact, hazard mapping should no longer be difficult for the LGUs because the national government is already providing them with the hazard maps, and all they have to do is to integrate it into their existing GIS software, assuming that they would have these in the first place. Technically speaking, each particular use of a general GIS map is really just a layer over it, meaning to say that these layers are just projections of specific data sets with a common database at the backend or in the background, in other words.

The challenge of building databases for development at the local level belongs not only to the local planners and leaders, but also to the local citizens. If it is already common knowledge that the local planners and leaders are not doing their job in this regard, then it is about time that the local citizens should step in to make their move.

In this connection, all local citizens should know that they would not be alone should they want to make a move. For one, there are non-government organizations that would be willing to help them, among them would be the Community Based Monitoring System (CBMS) led by Dr. Celia Reyes, the Gising Barangay Movement (GBM) led by Mr. Manny Valdehuesa and the Our Barangay Inc. (OBI) led by Ms. Elsa Bayani. ([email protected]/PN)

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