Usec. Teodoro T. Encarnacion is SURP 2015 Commencement Speaker
July 16, 2015

Usec. Teodoro Trinidad Encarnacion graciously accepted SURP’s invitation to give this year’s Commencement Address at the Cariňo Multi-purpose Hall last June 27. Usec. Encarnacion, a very distinguished SURP alumna, shared his experiences with the 2015 graduates in the hope of inspiring them not only to accomplish their individual dreams but to call them forward to assist in improving government initiatives to attain resilience through responsive planning.

As narrated by former SURP Dean Primitivo Cal, Usec. Encarnacion is an accomplished gentleman. He received many awards and citations, such as:

  • One of 75 Filipino Outstanding Civil Engineers, awarded by the PICE at its 75th anniversary celebration in Nov. 2012.
  • One of 100 Outstanding Alumni of the Century awarded by the UP Alumni Engineers in 2009.
  • Also awarded by the UP Alumni Engineers as the 2001 Most Distinguished Alumnus.
  • 1999 Outstanding Professional in the field of Environmental Planning, conferred by the PRC.
  • Professional award in Environmental Planning, awarded in 1981 by the UP Alumni Asso.
  • Outstanding Alumnus Award, awarded in 1975 by the UP SURP (formerly known as Institute of Environmental Planning)
  • Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievements in Infrastructure, awarded in 1969.
Blessed with exceptional intellectual ability and excellent academic preparation, he is a holder of BS Civil Engineering and Master of Environmental Planning Degree from the University of the Philippines. He also attended special courses in the US and Europe. Usec. Encarnacion topped the CE Board Exams in 1961 and is affiliated with both the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP). He is also active in socio-civic organizations such as the Procurement Watch, Inc. and is the Adviser of the Executive Board of the Bantay Lansangan (Road Watch).

For over four decades, he held various positions in planning and project development at the Department of Public Works Transportation and Communications, and later the Department of Public Works and Highways. During his tenure at the DPWH, he participated in the crafting of laws and their IRRs, including:
  • RA 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act
  • RA 6957 and RA 7718, otherwise known as the BOT Law
  • PD 1594, the predecessor of RA 9184
He retired in 2003 as Undersecretary in charge of Technical Services. As Presidential Adviser on Infrastructure, he oversaw special infrastructure projects such as the South Luzon Expressway and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road projects.

Following his retirement from government service in 2005, Usec. Encarnacion has been involved in several consulting works both in the Philippines and abroad, including projects which led to the drafting of a bill on National Transport Policy Act and the National Transport Plan used as input into the preparation of PMTDP for the Aquino Administration.


Dr. Mario de los Reyes, the Dean of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, faculty and staff of the School, retired faculty and alumni, parents and guests, ladies and gentlemen, and, of course, our graduating students, a pleasant afternoon!

Foremost of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the School for giving me this opportunity to stand in front of you. Just like you, I am a product of this School, which was then known as the Institute of Environmental Planning. The difference is that I belong to the first batch of planners that passed through this esteemed institution 46 years ago, while you comprise the batch that is lucky to be part of its 50th anniversary.

We may be almost five decades apart. But, the theories, postulates, planning processes and analytical techniques imparted by the School, thru its top-notch faculty, are still essentially the same, addressing basically the same problems and concerns on urban and regional development. Perhaps, the main difference would be the modern tools that now support you in your studies and eventually upon returning to the real world. Moreover, the priority we now rightly give to the impacts of climate change on our environment, both natural and man-made, and to Disaster Risk Reduction or DRR to minimize these impacts, was not as much as during our time in the School.

The SURP has produced quality alumni totaling 1,689 and counting. Its graduates have, by and large, distinguished themselves in various fields of planning. In the National Government, their training at the School has immensely helped alumni Vice-President Jojo Binay in coordinating the housing sector programs, Secretary Pete Prado in developing and regulating our national transport system, and Secretary Ramon Paje in managing our natural resources and environment. In the Local Government, Governor Tony Cerilles has effectively applied his planning skills towards the development of Zamboanga del Sur. In the private sector, Jun Palafox is a prominent figure in property development here and abroad. In the academe, Luis Calingo has made his mark as President of the Holy Angels Academy in Angeles City.

Recent developments in our country augur well for the fruitful practice of planning. Foremost is the booming economy of the Philippines. Over the past few years, our country has registered an unprecedented growth rate in the GNP, outrunning many neighboring countries, although it slowed down a bit in the last quarter. To support economic growth, the Government has sharply increased its infrastructure investments, doubling them from 2.1% of the GDP in 2011 to almost 4.0% in 2015, and targeting 5.0% of the GDP in 2016, which is the minimum benchmark recommended for developing economies in the region. The Department of Public Works and Highways has reached a record infrastructure budget of P266 billion in 2015. This, in real terms, is more than four times its infrastructure budget in 2005 when I retired from the government. The DPWH, though, is reportedly underspending its huge 2015 infrastructure budget. Some say this is an indication of inadequate planning – overlooking the absorptive capacity of the agency to implement projects considering constraints in procurement, construction and supervision.

In decades past, the main hindrance to infrastructure development was our chronic lack of funds, making us heavily reliant on international lenders. Today, this is no longer a problem. In fact, our problem now is that we have more than a trillion pesos of excess money parked in the Bangko Sentral. We are now able to collect more taxes and increase our national budget for infrastructure and we have inspired the private sector to use part of their excess savings in our Public-Private Partnership or PPP Projects. The Government has rolled out several good PPP projects. But, these are not enough. Prospective investors are still looking for more infrastructure and related investment projects that are properly planned and clearly commercially attractive. Thus, we planners need to work with the Government to expand its thin pipeline of feasible infrastructure projects based on well-crafted development plans so as to support the economy in quickly achieving global competitiveness.

Another welcome development is the series of government inter-agency convergence programs which rationalize the planning of infrastructure hand-in-hand with productive activities and other facilities that they are designed to support. A good example is the convergence scheme between the Department of Tourism or DOT and the DPWH for the Tourism Road Infrastructure Program or TRIP. TRIP identifies, prioritizes, allocates DPWH funds, and implements the construction and improvement of national and local roads leading to key tourism destination areas identified by the DOT, using an objective set of technical and economic criteria following a bottom-up selection process, with national tourism and road network development perspectives.

As you know, there are two types of planners: those who plan for the private sector development, and those who plan as Government officials. The former – that is, private sector planners – have generally predictable environment and resources, while the latter – Government planners – have to deal with all the limitations imaginable. But I am not here to choose or demonstrate which planners are better. I am here to underline our common responsibilities.

I can summarize these into two responsibilities: First, we planners always start and end with land, making sure that we plan all developments based on the “best use” of each portion of land.

Second, we planners are agents of social justice and social economics, integrating into our plans the features that will defend the workers, weak, the poor, and the vulnerable from too much market rationality of business and politics.

On the first responsibility, we planners have to design how to deliver the collective objectives of the community, all in the context of available land, its profile, and its corresponding “best use.” Some people mistakenly tend to equate best use to that which is driven by market rationality.

On our second responsibility as agents of social justice and economics, we planners are supposed to draw and design the vision and the goals of the community without sacrificing the welfare of the people. Planners are supposed to maximize opportunities of market rationality, but making it sustainable by defending the welfare of everyone.

Because, as you know, if market rationality will prevail, the engine of growth of an economy will be left to those who can pay for the highest bid price of the land, without necessarily protecting the welfare of society. Too much price efficiency will tend to consolidate land spaces only to the powerful persons in society, crowd out those who need them more but are deprived of the income and resources to match the asking price. Too much price efficiency will neglect the safety and vulnerability of communities from land and its physical properties. Too much market rationality will disregard the fact that workers must stay near their workplace or at least have access to efficient mass transport system so that they are not caught in traffic congestion and, thus, do not waste productive time or forego precious time with their families.

Just to recapitulate what you already know, there are two types of economic development: First is pure market development, whereby the classical economists would always argue that the market must be left on its own, and the Invisible Hand – as coined by Adam Smith – which is the collective self-interests of the society will magically harmonize and arrange the resources according to their ideal distribution. The second type is planned development, where the spaces will be determined by the planners and the Government leaders and the market will develop within the confines of those pre-determined spaces.

A smart and strategic planner should be able to promote a healthy mix of these two kinds of developments.

In this regard, in rapidly developing urban areas where market forces are strong, it would be a practical strategy to plan and implement infrastructure much ahead of market development and, thus, influence market forces to move in the desired directions. This is in lieu of the tendency to procrastinate and wait for market demand to build up to levels that almost saturate or even exceed the existing capacity – such as congestion at EDSA and NAIA or imminent water supply shortage in Metro Manila – and then scrambling and cramming to provide new or expanded capacity, only to find out that in just a few years after the expansion, another backlog will develop. This is like running endlessly on a treadmill in order just to be in the same place.

I would like to emphasize to you three more points based on our experience in infrastructure planning. First is the value of closely consulting and working with the key project stakeholders – that is, the prospective project beneficiaries, project-affected persons, and main players in project implementation and operation – in order to solicit their views on the projects, modify the projects as necessary, and ultimately obtain their support for and ownership of the projects. This has been amply demonstrated in the 123-billion peso Laguna Lakeshore Expressway-Dike cum Reclamation Project, a PPP undertaking, where the DPWH and the Laguna Lake Development Authority have been interacting with and considering the suggestions of the LGUs, fisherfolks, owners and occupants of properties affected by the right-of-way in the lake and inland, prospective project financiers, constructors, real property developers, toll road and flood control operators, and road users, among others. The DPWH has held one-on one sessions with prospective bidders, eliciting useful feedbacks which have improved the performance standards and proposed contract for the project, making the project more doable and feasible.

Second, to be effective, planning for infrastructure projects, especially PPP, must involve the intensive interplay and teamwork of many disciplines to handle the different facets of the projects. In the Laguna Lake Expressway-Dike Project, for example, we had to coordinate the services of planners, engineers for highways, flood control and reclamation, lawyers, economists, financial analysts, economists, environmental specialists, and real property specialists, who closely interfaced their planning inputs to produce a coherent feasibility study and project proposal which the DPWH successfully defended before the PPP Center and the NEDA.

Third, in infrastructure planning, what is now increasingly important, apart from ensuring that infrastructure facilities, such as transport and water supply, provide high levels-of-service to the users, is to assure that these are resilient and can withstand the impacts of disasters which are now made worse by climate change. I enjoin you, as graduates of the School, not only to help our Government in improving the QOL, or quality of life, of our people, but also to ensure that our infrastructure facilities are capable of resisting the effects of disasters, especially flooding and earthquakes. Typhoon Yolanda, the recent floods in various parts of our country, and the devastating earthquakes that struck Bohol and elsewhere are wake-up calls that compel us to put higher priority on infrastructure resilience and awareness on DRR and climate change. In line with this, the DPWH recently increased its design specification against wind loads for school buildings to 250 kilometers per hour throughout the country, since the 175-200 kph previously specified for some areas has been surpassed by actual events. The DPWH has also raised the design earthquake or seismic coefficient to 0.45 to 0.50 times g – that is, acceleration due to gravity – for bridges and other structures in Metro Manila and other earthquake-prone areas, since the 0.16 g in the early 1990s and 0.40 g under the National Structural Code are not safe enough. To assure better protection from floods, the design flood for the Laguna Lake Project has been set at 1 in 100 years, much higher than the 1 in 45 years flood caused by Typhoon Ondoy and the 1 in 60 years design flood recommended in the 2013 Master Plan for Flood Management in Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas. For the Laguna Lakeshore Project, the DPWH has provided for climate change by adding to the design dike height an allowance of 0.5 m to cover the expected increase in sea level by 2100 based on the 2013 Master Plan for Flood Management in Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas. These are examples to raise our planning and design standards in the light of changes in the environment.

We exhort you planners to build upon and improve these initiatives by working hand-in-hand with the Government in attaining resilience through responsive planning and continuing review and upgrading of our standards for infrastructure planning and design, to provide stronger and higher-quality, but still cost-efficient, buildings, transport systems, and other facilities. We also must help the Government ensure that development plans truly provide for inclusive growth to benefit the masses, as in the case of the DPWH program to give priority to water supply projects in waterless and poor communities that also serve key tourism development areas, or the DOTC plans favoring high-occupancy rail and bus transit projects over car-oriented highway projects.

Of equal importance is to intensify research in infrastructure planning. We urge you to come up with new planning tools, approaches and alternatives toward raising the level and quality of our infrastructure, notably in urban areas. The School has provided you with the basic knowledge and means in doing this. You must always keep abreast of the ever evolving best practices in planning worldwide, but be selective and adapt from them what is relevant and applicable to our country, without reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

Thus, we now need to introduce the concept of Low Carbon Society, which is being promoted by other countries. We need, however, to come up with our concept that is responsive to our own environment, and not just accept what may be alright to other countries. Targeting a Low Carbon Society is a means to ensure that we can have an environmentally sustainable development, supported by an efficient infrastructure and low carbon technologies – such as new transport or mass transit systems.

Let us also support the direction that our alma mater, SURP, will follow in moving forward – to contribute to ensuring that our students and alumni are competitively able to meet the challenges of globalization, especially in the ASEAN integration.

Finally, allow me to extend my sincere congratulations to the SURP for its forthcoming 50th anniversary. Keep on providing planners that our country needs!

Maraming salamat at magandang araw po sa inyong lahat!

The SURP’s twin Vision in the next decade shall be:

SURP will be a globally competitive learning, research and training institution in the fields of urban, rural, and regional planning within an archipelagic and tropical environment comprised of landscapes and seascapes in a developing economy; and

SURP will be a center of excellence for learning and research in the development of innovative theories, tools, and sustainable practices in urban, rural, and regional planning adapted to developing countries.
The SURP’s Mission for the next three years (2012-2015) shall be to continue and further enhance its contribution to socioeconomic development and nation building:

Improving the quality of education in the school and producing highly competent planners.

Extending technical assistance to government, non-government organizations (NGOs), peoples' organizations (POs), the private sector, and other academic and research institutions on policy formulation and plan preparation for the development of localities, regions, and the nation.

Disseminating new knowledge on urban and regional planning theories, tools, and practices through the School’s publications and training programs.

Protecting and advocating for the welfare of society -particularly the poor- and promoting social justice and equity in the formulation of development plans and programs.