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Emerging planning practices of civil society groups in Iloilo City, Philippines and their implications for planning theory

Ibabao, Rhodella
Fields of Research
The aim of the thesis is to provide a better understanding of the emerging planning practices of urban civil society groups in the Philippines informed by a critique of the current debates in the post-colonial urban planning literature. This thesis is an exploration of urban planning theory in a post-colonial setting that is sufficiently normative to provide guidance to improve planning effectiveness but at the same time, such a theory should also be sufficiently pragmatic to capture the diversity of planning practices in countries such as the Philippines. The modernist planning model has been strongly criticised for being ineffective in responding to challenges in post-colonial cities. This model is seen as incompatible with the changing role of local governments which have become more inclusive of a wide variety of stakeholders in decision-making so as to facilitate collaborative initiatives in order to respond to the needs of the urban poor. In response to these concerns, alternative approaches have emerged that challenge both substantive and procedural planning orthodoxies. One of these is the insurgent planning model which is encountered most often outside the formal structures of the state and may take the form of resistance against the state. While the insurgent planning model highlights the importance of civil society groups in transforming society, it arguably fails to recognise the increasing collaborative engagement between the groups and the state. For this reason, the co-production model has been proposed to provide another alternative understanding of planning practices within civil society groups. However, current planning theory literature tends to view insurgent planning and co-production models as not only mutually exclusive, but antithetical. Scholarship tends to focus on one or the other and only a limited number of writers have suggested that civil society groups might engage in both planning practices. Conceptually informed by insurgent planning and co-production planning frameworks, this study was designed to interrogate collective practices of three civil society groups in Iloilo City in the Philippines. I draw on the experiences of these three case study groups, using qualitative data predominantly obtained from semi-structured interviews and participant observations. This thesis addresses three important points as theoretical contributions to the post-colonial city planning literature. The first point is the need for greater nuance between the terms ’collaboration’, ‘co-production’, ‘insurgent planning’ and ‘insurgency’ which encapsulates the categories of civil society -- state relationships. At one extreme ‘co-production’ is analogous to ‘collaboration’ or delivery of services through formal arrangements (such as contracts, tenders, or Memorandum of Agreements). A more ambivalent relationship is evident in acts requiring the co-production of knowledge or information generated by civil society groups – such as a census of the homeless – through informal means to secure rights and recognition. This co-productive stance is not exactly collaborative in a formal sense, nor is it oppositional; it occupies a complex middle ground that can help make groups more ‘visible’ to the state and to set precedence to negotiate for changes in policies and procedures. This study also makes a distinction between ‘insurgency’ as meaning engagement in armed struggle against the state itself, and ‘insurgent planning’ as involving opposition to selected state practices through formal and/or informal means that are within state-recognised or state-endorsed framework. On this basis, questions also arise around the appropriateness of the label ‘insurgent’ given the recent revolutionary history of the Philippines. The second point of the study, then, is that the term ‘insurgent’ is not useful and should be replaced by ‘transgressive’ which better captures this type of active, engaged and partially oppositional activities of civil society. The third contribution of this thesis centres on the notion of hybrid planning which signals the proposition that, in practice, groups rarely engage in either insurgent planning or co-production planning model. Rather, they adopt and engage in a combination of collective practices simultaneously: collaborative-ad-hoc, collaborative-strategic, oppositional-ad-hoc, and oppositional-strategic hoc with a somewhat murkier middle ground comprising those acts that co-produce knowledge or deliver services in the absence of the state.