Co-producing a resilient city: The Pasig Green City Program

As we come to see the urban as a political ecology structured by human and material flows and their governance, the catalytic effect of urban density constitutes an insightful starting point from which to reflect: the intensities and complexities induced by urbanization generate both unique potentials – including the concentration of means enabling innovation – and great challenges for so-called ‘megacities’ in the Global South. According to Price (2006), nature in the city can be seen as “a landscape and ecology we build in and manage”. Within the ever-changing and incontrollable metabolism of the so-called ‘megacity’, ensuring that the city’s benefits are distributed equally among citizens is not an easy task (Porio 2012). Urban governance is therefore determinant for Manila’s capacity to manage major issues through inclusive development.

Multi-actor development in Manila

The People Power Revolution marked a turning point in in the progressive shaping of today’s political decision-making systems: under Martial Law (1965-1986), illegal settling was punished by imprisonment in Manila (Bello et al. 1982). Informal settlers were forced to organize into People’s Organizations (POs) to defend themselves for evictions and convictions.  These POs were at the forefront of the peaceful People Power Revolution, which overthrew the undemocratic regime in 1986. Civil society was therefore acknowledged a legitimate role in political life in the country’s 1987 Constitution and other key legal texts (Shatkin 2007: 28-33). As a result, the Philippines is the country with the most NGOs and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) per capita. There are over 2000 CBOs in Metro Manila today (Shatkin 2007: 2). Civil Society actors are granted 25% of the seats in the legislative bodies of each level of government (region, city and barangay) and their active role as mediators between the people and public authorities is widely acknowledged (Lobry, 2020: 11-12).

The People Power Revolution (1986)
Source: The Philippine Canadian Inquirer, 2016

We have already stated the excessive privatization of urban services in Manila, as well as the lack of access to land and water for its poorest inhabitants. Yet Manila’s tradition of participatory governance may have the potential to help Manileños achieve inclusive, resilient development.

The Pasig City Green programme

The Pasig Green City Programme is a regional model for co-production and participatory urban governance. Pasig is confronted with Manila’s common resilience challenges including the prevalence of flood-prone areas and a rapidly-growing population. In 2009, after Typhoon Ketsana submerged 70% of the city, the mayor put an ambitious resilience agenda in place.

Collaborative Governance in the Pasig Green City Program
Source: Porio 2012

First, a disaster risk reduction and management program trains citizens in rescue and risk reduction in the case of a flood. In coordination with local CBOs, the city created community-based volunteer groups like the Tanod Sapa team, in charge of river watching (Porio 2012: 21). These groups are part of a complex scheme involving significant financial investment from the city into innovative disaster risk reduction technologies. The operational teams and supervising agencies are equipped with technology including GIS map-guided systems, GPS tracking, and weather monitoring for the city to respond as fast as possible (UN Climate Change).

Importantly, the disaster risk reduction and management program is integrated into a comprehensive Green Agenda promoting inclusive sustainable development. Pasig City is working closely with the ICLEI, a network of environmentally committed cities to “develop and deploy bottom-up models of climate action planning”. A continuous consultation process is in place thanks to a feedback mechanism: on “People’s days”, all residents are invited to make comments, complaints and suggestions to public officials (ICLEI 2019). Throughout the process, citizens feel empowered to implement their own projects and have their say on the ongoing initiatives. The resulting sense of ownership further enhances the citizens’ commitment to the Green Agenda (UN Climate Change).

The Pasig Community Bus Service
Source: ICLEI 2019

The project expands to education: the Greenheart Savers Program raises awareness among the youth in 32 public schools. Pupils are encouraged to bring their recyclable waste to school through a system of rewards. Lastly, Pasig City encourages green mobility through various systems. These include elevated walkways to tackle Metro Manila’s poor walkability (GIZ 2016), the ICLEI-lead Pasig Green Bike Share Program and carless weekends in certain areas of the city (ICLEI 2019).

From Resilience to Thinking and Living Green

Pasig City’s green agenda emerges as a model for the entire agglomeration. Not only are environmental issues managed collaboratively, they are also continuously co-produced. As a result, more than a resource “especially dangerous to lose track of”, nature is increasingly considered by both citizens and government officials as “a premier source of human meaning” (Price 2006). Pasig City residents allegedly “think and live green” (Philstar 2009).

Pasig City’s Green Campaign is a crucial part of its inclusive development agenda
Source: Facebook, Pasig City

As Pasig scales up its solutions, it faces major challenges in Metro Manila’s pyramidal governance system: Municipalities are loosely coordinated, partly due to the weakness of the over-arching Metro Manila Development Agency (Boquet 2014). As a result, Pasig City’s public bus lanes and bike share system brutally stop at the municipality’s borders, thus limiting the positive impact of the Pasig green City Programme in the agglomeration.

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Resources used:

Featured image: Agricultural Training Institute. (February 21, 2019). Expansion of Green Communities in Manila Continues. Retrieved from: http://ati.da.gov.ph/ati-main/news/02212019-2013/expansion-green-communities-manila-continues

Bello, W. F., Kinley, D., & Elinson, E. (1982). Development Debacle, the World Bank in the Philippines. San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy.

Boquet, Y. (2014). Les défis de la gouvernance urbaine à Manille. Bulletin de l’association de géographes français, Géographies, 91(91–4), 461–478.

Brillantes, A. B. (1987). Decentralization in the Philippines: An Overview. Philippine Journal of Public Administration, 31(2), 131-148.

Cheema, G. S., & Rondinelli, D. A. (1983). Decentralization and Development: Policy Implementation in Developing Countries. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Capuno, J. J. (2011). Incumbents and Innovations under Decentralization: An Empirical Exploration of Selected Local Governments in the Philippines. Asian Journal of Political Science, 19(1), 48–73.

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) (2016). Transforming Public Transport in the Philippines. Eschborn.

ICLEI (10/09/2019). Pasig City, Philippines demonstrates the benefits of inclusive climate action. Retrived from: https://talkofthecities.iclei.org/pasig-city-philippines-demonstrates-the-benefits-of-inclusive-climate-action/

Ishii, R., Hossain, F., & Rees, C. J. (2007). Participation in Decentralized Local Governance: Two Contrasting Cases from the Philippines. Public Organization Review, 7(4), 359.

JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). (2014). Roadmap for transport infrastructure development for metro Manila and its surrounding areas (region III & region IV-A) in the Republic of the Philippines. Japan International Cooperation Agency: ALMEC Corporation.

Kang, D. C. (2002). Crony Capitalism: Corruption and Development in South Korea and the Philippines. Cambridge Core.

Lobry, F. (2020). Rethinking the Entrepreneurial City: Local Government Executives and Collaborative Governance in Metro Manila. University College London: Bachelor Dissertation.

Philstar (15/12/2019). Pasig City: Thinking and living green. Retrived from: https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/health-and-family/2009/12/15/532197/pasig-city-thinking-and-living-green

Porio, E. (2012). Decentralisation, Power and Networked Governance Practices in Metro Manila. Space and Polity, 16(1), 7–27.

Price, J. (2006). “Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in L.A.” Believer Magazine. Part 1 available here: https://believermag.com/thirteen-ways-of-seeing-nature-in-la/

Shatkin, G. (2007). Collective Action and Urban Poverty Alleviation: Community Organizations and the Struggle for Shelter in Manila. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Smoke, P. (2003). Decentralisation in Africa: Goals, dimensions, myths and challenges. Public Administration and Development, 23(1), 7–16.

UN Climate Change. Pasig City – A Smart City with a Green Heart – Philippines. Retrieved from : https://unfccc.int/climate-action/momentum-for-change/activity-database/pasig-city-a-smart-city-with-a-green-heart

One thought on “Co-producing a resilient city: The Pasig Green City Program

  1. Hi ! This extensive project is really interesting and promising by use such a holistic approach through sensibilisation, training, watching, inclusion, mobility, etc. This is just a shame that institutions could/did not want to give a hand to develop and harmonise the infrastructure needed. Larger is the scale of sustainable development, since urban environmental interactions do not stop at some district limit…
    A greener district could in fact results in adverse social impact for some, since a greener environment would be considered as more valuable because it is so scarce, and thus would become more expensive, and could lead to gentrification and socio-spatial disparities.

    Like

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