Wanna Save Our City From Sucking? Try Being An Environmental Planner!
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Wanna Save Our City From Sucking? We Talked To Someone Who Does That For A Living!

Traffic is always a trending topic. Whether you’re in transit or scrolling on your news feed, you can’t get away from it. And Metro Manila is notorious for being one of the world’s worst cities to drive in. So instead of endlessly ranting about it online, or waiting on the local government to do something, what can we do as individuals? Is there a way to present viable solutions and get them implemented?

Well, we talked to someone who does it for a living! Meet Keisha Mayuga, a licensed Environmental Planner, and see if you want to tackle Manila’s most notorious problem, too. 

Introduce yourself and tell us about the work that you do 

I’m Keisha Mayuga, a freelance Environmental Planner, and I make plans for cities and towns in the country. Most of the time, I convince people to try biking instead of taking their cars!

School and course in college

I graduated BA Journalism from UP Diliman, and I’m currently taking my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning also in UPD.

What led you to become an environmental planner? 

Three years ago, I had an epiphany that I wanted to fix transport. My life’s goal is to get people home in 30 minutes in the most sustainable, economical, and efficient way. It led me to take my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning, where I learned that so many things come into play when planning holistically for the environment.

What’s a typical day like for an environmental planner? 

Being an Environmental Planner (EnP) entails a lot of project-based work, so aside from me having office work (in a German-led coastal conservation project), doing EnP-related work will really depend on the different needs of local government units or external parties.

A typical project like making a Comprehensive Development Plan entails engaging with stakeholders, gathering relevant maps and data on the area, talking to locals on what their goals are for their city or municipality, and planning WITH them to achieve those goals. 

How do you apply your advocacy to your daily life in Manila? 

I watch how people interact with their environment, whether as a pedestrian or a cyclist or a road-user. I think about the choices I make and others make when it comes to transport modes and try to understand what we can do to make it easier for people to bike or walk. I also try to challenge myself on the possibilities of commute cycling!

The furthest I’ve done so far ice biking from Quezon City to Bacoor. It took me just two and a half hours!

Who is your life peg?

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Jeannette Sadik-Khan. She was the former commissioner for New York’s Department of Transportation. She made the city a lot more walkable and bikeable in just a few years—something that seemed so impossible for such a car city like New York.

What are some misconceptions about your job?

People often confuse Environmental Planning with being an environmentalist, which is not totally wrong! Environmental planning is a broad term for urban/town/city planning. When people think of being “environmental”, their first thought is planting trees, reducing waste, etc. But to me, it’s much bigger than that!

Our daily choices affect the environment as a whole, such as the way we dispose of our waste, the way we plan cities, and the way we make our daily transportation choices. I think one of the more technical differences is that being an EnP requires you to have a license, whereas anyone (and everyone) can be an environmentalist.

What’s a recent achievement you are proud of?

My team and I were able to make the Comprehensive Development Plan for Apalit, Pampanga. It took months of coordinating with the local government and helping them choose what programs to pursue in the next 6 years.

What’s your advice for students to want to embark on the same career?

Try walking or biking around your areas! Aside from those options being eco-friendly, they give you a better sense of the world around you and you see the little things that could make your surroundings better, whether it be pocket parks, PWD ramps, or safe pedestrian crossings.

What are the three skills that students can learn to do now to increase their chances of getting licensed?

  1. Learn to observe your surroundings. It’s hard to make plans for a place you’re not familiar with! When I travel and go to new places, the first thing I do is walk around my area and familiarize myself with the ins and outs of the place. 
  2. Design with the user in mind. A lot of planners tend to make plans for perfection, when they should be making plans for people. Human-centered and environment-centered design are important perspectives to look at when making plans.
  3. Read up and do your research. Sometimes we don’t need to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch. In planning, there are a lot of standards in place, both local and international, and a little bit of research can help you with your ideas.

What are a few eco-friendly changes that Filipino teens can start doing today? 

Try biking! If you regularly take a car or ride-share to your destinations, try biking your usual routes, even just for small errands or trips. Motorized transport is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions, and every little decision to walk or bike can help.

In your own words, what’s your motto?

There is no such thing as a perfect plan, and it’s okay! The best thing about being human is that we learn to adjust, learn, and grow.

Are you inspired to take up the same career? Check out the same master’s degree program right here (just like Keisha). And while you’re at it, see what it takes to pass the board exam! For more possible careers, job hunting section at Edukasyon.ph! We’re confident that you can help save us all from our nemesis and make life in Manila a lot easier.