Key gov’t agencies back Sustainable Cities bill

Key government agencies expressed their support to Senator Pia S. Cayetano’s proposal to transform the country’s urban centers into sustainable communities that are better equipped for all kinds of future scenarios, including new pandemics and major disasters.

The Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement conducted a hearing on Wednesday (July 1) to discuss, among others, Cayetano’s Senate Bill No. (SBN) 65, or the ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities Act.’

Filed last year, the bill seeks to support local governments in transforming their respective localities into sustainable communities. This will be undertaken by ensuring access to basic social services, renewable energy sources, efficient waste management systems, and reliable mass transportation.

“Studies show that survival of the people really lies on the sustainability of their community,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking

“When I drafted this bill, a pandemic was not in my mind, but our targets for our SDGs. Now, it is very clear that we need to prepare for all possible future scenarios,” she noted.

Cayetano said the proposal complements the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) SDGs agenda, particularly Goal 11, which seeks to make cities and human settlements “inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable” by 2030.

Urban Planning Committee Chair Sen. Francis Tolentino described Cayetano’s bill as “very timely,” especially since COVID-19 has highlighted the need for policy and infrastructural reforms to address the “mounting problems in our urban sustainability programs.”

“Sustainability transcends this contagion. And we must look for solutions. More than ever, we have to review and recalibrate our approach on urban development,” Tolentino stressed, citing data estimating more than half of the world’s population will live in urban centers by the year 2050.

Tolentino also suggested that education and the right to adequate housing be included as key targets in creating sustainable cities and communities under the bill.

Meanwhile, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario said SBN 65 will help enable the agency to assist different cities and municipalities in crafting their respective land use and development plans.

“DHSUD fully supports Senate Bill No. 65… [It] will further support the efforts of the national government… in fine-tuning and strengthening the crafting of the Comprehensive Land Use Plans of all municipalities and cities nationwide,” Del Rosario stated.

Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Tonisito Umali meanwhile said that the agency “completely agrees” with the objectives of SBN 65, and how education will fit in the model for sustainable cities and communities, as articulated in the bill’s provisions.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri also said SBN 65 will further promote local autonomy and community empowerment, which is one of the agency’s mandates.

“The department has been implementing programs and projects to promote sustainable communities at the local level. Thus, we manifest nothing but support for this measure,” Usec. Echiverri said. #

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