9-day program highlights community workshops and ends with the Multi-stakeholders Forum on Citywide Upgrading jointly organized by CAN, SHFC, and WB
The Community Architects Network (CAN) successfully held its Second Regional Meeting-Workshop on May 20-28, 2013 in Metro Manila. CAN is a program under the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) that links architects, engineers, planners, academic institutes, and community artisans/builders in Asia who work with the poor in the planning and management of their communities. The network advocates that the poor should play a central role in community planning and in finding solutions to build better settlements. CAN was established in 2010 with the first meeting-workshop held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Organized with the theme “People can make change”, the 2nd CAN Meeting brought together about 100 participants coming from 18 countries in Asia to learn from each other’s work and support the upgrading initiatives of poor communities. The CAN participants represented East Asia (Korea, Japan, Mongolia); Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines); South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh) and Tibet; and the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Australia). Non-Asians from Italy, Belgium, UK, and Kenya also joined the 9-day event.
Several local groups (TAMPEI, TAO-Pilipinas, FDUP, PACSII, HPFPI, UP-TFA) worked together to organize the various program activities from May 20-28. On the first day, participants attended lectures about the Philippine urban poor situation; field visits to urban poor communities and housing projects in Manila, Navotas, Quezon City, and Valenzuela; and a welcome dinner hosted by the Valenzuela People’s Organization Network. The second and third days’ program activities were devoted to country experiences sharing and panel discussions that tackled the young professionals (YP)spirit and sustaining work as a community architect; new education towards designing and planning with communities; and the role of community artisans and builders in community upgrading. These initial activities were held in Balay Kalinaw at UP Diliman campus and participants were billeted at the University Hotel. The international participants also went on a tour around historical Old Manila on May 23.
The main feature of the program was the conduct of simultaneous workshops in nine communities in Caloocan City, Valenzuela City, and Bocaue, Bulacan. The CAN participants were grouped into teams to facilitate participatory planning in these communities and apply their technical skills to local upgrading initiatives and community efforts towards security of tenure. The CAN teams stayed in the communities for three days (May 24-26) to consult the people and work with them on addressing the area-specific issues and challenges to upgrading.
The level of technical intervention provided by the CAN teams depended on the readiness of the community organizations to address the legal, social and economic issues related to community upgrading. Several conducted community mapping exercises as a way to start community dialogue, understand the local situation and explore possibilities for community improvement. In Donnaville in Barangay 177, Caloocan City, the team was able to work with the community to come up with an alternative site plan and architectural design for a 12-unit housing project.
The CAN teams presented the results of the community workshops by setting up exhibits during the Multi-stakeholders Forum on Citywide Upgrading on May 28 at the BSWM Convention Hall in Quezon City. Community representatives from Barangay 177- Caloocan City, Valenzuela City, and Bocaue also presented the CAN community workshop process they have undergone and the resulting proposals during the forum.
Forum on citywide upgrading
The forum, jointly organized by CAN, Social Housing and Finance Corporation (SHFC) and the World Bank, was widely attended by the CAN participants, PO partners, LGU and national shelter agencies representatives. The keynote address was given by DILG Undersecretary Francisco “Bimbo” Fernandez who underscored the government’s PHP50B fund for housing informal settler-families in danger areas as an innovative and community-driven housing program. He acknowledged that planning with people is a slow process and challenged community architects to facilitate the hastening of the people’s planning process for the program to work. The World Bank’s Sector Manager, Mr. Ousmaine Dione, likewise stressed enabling policies and environment for people to be the main drivers of change and better professional support through participatory planning. Ms. Somsook Boonyabancha, Secretary General of ACHR, also considered the Philippines’ ISF housing program as a potential model for other Asian communities if the country implements it the right way.
Ms. Boonyabancha gave a presentation that explained the key features of people-driven citywide upgrading strategy. She highlighted citywide upgrading as an integrated approach in lieu of the “projects approach” to community and housing development. Ms. Boonyabancha discussed some of the needs and challenges to such a strategy: determining land supply information at the city level, building an active community finance system, and establishing networks and alliances. She also showed how ACHR’s Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA) program has created legitimate space for the poor to be actively involved as development actors.
The forum concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a plan towards a citywide approach to slum upgrading in Valenzuela City and Caloocan City. The signatories to the MOU included DILG, SHFC, LGU of Valenzuela City and Barangay 177-Caloocan City, CAN (TAMPEI and TAO-Pilipinas), VALPONET, HPFPI, and NASAMA Barangay 177. After the MOU signing, Valenzuela Mayor-elect Sherwin Gatchalian and Barangay 177 Chairperson Donata De Gana Jarito gave their brief statement of support to the CAN workshop process initiated in the communities.
Reflection session and mini-concert
The CAN meeting-workshop was wrapped up with a reflection session led by CAN coordinators May Domingo-Price and Nad Luansang. The participants shared their impressions and the lessons gained from the workshop activities. After the workshop was officially closed, they then proceeded to a mini-concert especially organized for the CAN participants at the St. Vincent’s Seminary grounds.