Wanted: A city architect

In 1991, then president Corazon Aquino enacted into law the Local Government Code of the Philippines, which transfers control and responsibilities of delivering basic services to the local government units (LGU).

The devolution of powers from the national government to the LGUs transferred records, equipment, assets and services of national offices and agencies corresponding to the devolved powers, functions and responsibilities. This showed immediate results and brought a sense of freedom to the executive powers and financial independence among LGUs. Programs and projects were implemented faster, creating immediate developments in the localities.

But even if the Local Government Code of 1991 was geared toward development, there seemed to be some loose ends overlooked in the passage of the law. One of them was the provision of the City Architect which was made optional.

Article 15 of the Local Government Code is on The Architect. Section 485 states the Qualifications, Powers and Duties of The Architect, to quote:

“No person be appointed architect unless he is a citizen of the Philippines, a resident of the local government unit concerned, of good moral character, a duly licensed architect. He must have practiced his profession for at least least five years in the case of the Provincial or City Architect, and three years in the case of the Municipal Architect. The appointment of the architect is optional for provincial, city and municipal governments.”

When the Local Government Code was enacted, the role of the City Architect seemed not to have been fully understood by the LGUs. Toward the present times, the functions of the architect became more solidified and comprehended by progressive provinces, cities and municipalities, having embraced the creation of the Office of the Architect. Architects bring faster development and clearer approach to government building facilities and services.

There is a clear distinction between the City Architect Office and the City Engineers Office. LGUs are taking advantage of having an architect because of the unique and distinct services architects are trained to do. Planning and designing habitable structures is their specialty.

The services the architects provide are academically taught, learned, experienced, and put to use in community development. These include the renewal of slum improvement resettlement and blighted areas; maximum utilization of the land and water; review of plans and designs of government and non-government entities or individuals—particularly for undeveloped, underdeveloped, and poorly-designed areas; land reclamation activities; greening of land; and appropriate planning of marine and foreshore areas.

The City Architect also recommends to the Sanggunian and advises the governor or mayor on all other matters relative to the architectural planning and design, as it relates to the total socio-economic development of the LGU.

Chances are, a developed or developing LGU will have the City Architect in place collaborating with the City Planning and Development Coordinating Office (CPDC) and the City Engineer for implementation as no other technical allied profession is equipped to do the nitty-gritty planning and designing.

All infrastructure facilities are planned, designed and implemented by the Office of the Architect: multi-purpose halls, hospitals and healthcare facilities, solid waste disposal facilities or environmental management facilities, plaza, municipal buildings, public markets, slaughterhouses, public cemetery, tourism facilities and other tourist attractions, adequate communication facilities and security facilities, sites for police and fire stations and substations and the city jail, cultural centers, public parks including freedom parks, playgrounds, and sports facilities and equipment, sports centers, including information and reading centers, extension and on-site research services and facilities, inter-barangay facilities, historical buildings and preservation of such structure, establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, mangrove forests and even forest development projects.

Cities such as Davao, Cagayan De Oro, Tagum, Toledo, and Naga in Cebu, which have the Office of the City Architect, have improved their LGUs’ performance ratings as Livable Cities by attracting more investments and populace. These LGUs consider the benefits they get in with orderly, aesthetically pleasing and well-planned communities created by the City Architect.

The local governments should accept that progress is determined by developments. That the creation of the Office of the City Architect provides much-needed technical, socio-political support for the local executives to hasten improvements of their locality. It uplifts their cities into safer, healthier, beautiful and orderly areas to live, work and play. Just look at Singapore, and other developed Asian Cities.

Having a City Architect should be mandatory. And LGUs should realize and understand the plight of government architects before these highly-trained professionals start looking for better opportunities in the private sector.