Transforming cities and building resilient communities: Updates from the Philippines

Mr. Christopher Rollo of UN-Habitat speaking at the TAHANAN Summit expressed his commitment of support to the event and the coming related undertakings of TAMPEI towards promoting safe, inclusive, and transformative cities and communities.

In the recent years, the Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment, Inc (TAMPEI) with support from the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) as facilitated by UN-Habitat, has been organizing the TAHANAN Summit to provide a venue for discussion on land and housing issues in the Philippines. In 2019, the first TAHANAN summit was organized with the theme “Promoting inclusive approaches for improving tenure security for the urban poor in the Philippines”. In 2021, during COVID-19 pandemic, virtual TAHANAN summit was also organized as part of the series of consultation on people’s plan approach.

A representative from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) responds to a question from participants during the Urban Poor sector assembly at the Philippine Urban Forum (PhUF)

This year 2023, the TAHANAN Summit was held on 4th of October during the Urban October month celebrations, which also coincided with the celebrations marking the National Shelter month in the Philippines. The event was attended by a total of 48 participants, 23 of which were women, from different stakeholders across sectors including civil society organization, local government representatives, private sector, and the national agencies particularly the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Due to the rapidly accelerating urban growth, coupled with the increased informality in Manila, the need for space and land is pressing. With the theme “Co-creating inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities” the TAHANAN Summit served as a platform for this year’s discussion between the DHSUD and the Philippine Housing sector on how the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH) program, a ‘flagship program’ -on housing by the national government-, can harness the potential of the participatory process and people’s planning approach as an additional strategy to creating safe, affordable, and disaster resilient settlements. Launched in September 2022, the said program aspires to provide affordable and decent
housing to the majority of the people in low-income groups particularly the urban poor and the informal settler families. The program targets to build one million housing per year to address the reported 6.5 million housing backlog by 2028. The lead agency responsible for the delivery of the 4PH program is DHSUD.

Director Sambar from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) presents the 4PH government program to participants at the TAHANAN Summit 2023

Although one of the objectives of the 4PH program is to reduce tenure insecurity and deliver housing for all, one of the major issues is affordability. While it is said that the 4PH program caters to most of the poorest of the poor who are also the informal settlers living in vulnerable conditions, most of them work in the informal economy with irregular, often meager, income that is hardly enough. These discussions played out in the first Philippine Urban Forum that was organized subsequently, after the TAHANAN Summit.

Christopher Rollo, UN-Habitat country programme manager in the Philippines, was also present and expressed his commitment of support in the undertakings of TAMPEI relevant to pursuing sustainable urbanization and development.

The First Philippine Urban Forum
Following the organized TAHANAN Summit, TAMPEI participated in organizing the first Philippine Urban Forum (PhUF) with the theme “Transforming Cities and Building Resilient Communities”. Borrowing from UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum, PhUF provided a platform for policy dialogues, multi-stakeholder engagements and knowledge exchange. The event was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) 5-6 October 2023. Chaired by the DHSUD, PhUF’s major contribution included the development of the Manila Urban Declaration which will be presented in the next World Urban Forum in Cairo, Egypt. According to Chris Rollo of UN-Habitat, this will be the first time in 20 years that the Philippines will be bringing something to report in the upcoming global forum. The declaration serves as an agent to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals with the commitment of support from various sectors including women, children, youth, and urban poor. The declaration also endeavors to gather urban actions and commitment from national to local government to ensure the advancement of sustainable urbanization and improve the lives of the marginalized communities in the country.

Participants at the Philippine Urban Forum (PhUH)

TAMPEI and its network, the Philippine Alliance, has been the lead organization to organize the sectoral assembly representing the Urban Poor sector. Prior to that, an initial workshop was held to consolidate all inputs from across the urban poor CSOs to present during the PhUF. The significance of bringing the people together on the table to discuss their land and housing issues was emphasized during the event. Encouraging participation in all levels of discussion is key to promoting and transforming safe and resilient cities, not forgetting the role of grassroots organization in driving positive impact in human settlements and urban development. The collective action, which fostered inclusive and meaningful discussion will serve as the basis in policies and program formulations that will support the implementation of the Philippines New Urban Agenda. With less than seven years remaining to achieve SDGs, the first Philippine Urban Forum was a call for action to accelerate the efforts to further work together to achieve a better urban future that is inclusive of everybody and every place.

Participants of the TAHANAN Summit 2023