Congressional District planning: A forgotten but promising spatial strategy | Inquirer Opinion
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Congressional District planning: A forgotten but promising spatial strategy

/ 05:01 AM June 23, 2022

With the entry of a new president who appears to be receptive to new development approaches, this should be the right time to introduce a forgotten approach in planning our neglected countryside. I am referring to the introduction of the promising spatial strategy of congressional district planning. For so many decades now, we have been making physical framework and land use plans mostly for the regions, provinces, cities, and towns, but have not given proper attention to the planning of districts.

Districts, which are usually composed of a number of towns, provide the right scale for solving rural problems of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. The district grouping is deemed viable as it is large enough to have adequate resources and a population that will provide economies of scale, and small enough to be efficiently and effectively managed. A district can be planned as a locally integrated economic circuit, which means the promotion of economic interaction between the participating rural towns using only their surpluses after providing for their basic needs, with emphasis on the observance of a use economy based on self-sufficiency. The component localities will be encouraged and incentivized to exchange their goods and services within the local intermeshed market that will be created for the purpose of developing neglected local resources, and of effecting selective linkages with higher-order centers.

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The economic circuitry and the selective linkages effect will also be promoted through the proper development of existing periodic markets, as well as an interconnected road network among rural centers that will at the same time minimize monopolistic and oligopolistic (which means only a few sellers corner sales) market distortions. It may be mentioned that the road system of the cellular market can also be connected to higher-order centers, but the selective linkage principle will always be observed to prevent the leakage of capital, labor, technology, and ideas to the big cities and Metro Manila. It should be noted, too, that the district economic circuitry should only include periodic markets within the district boundaries.

The component localities should not just follow blindly the One Town, One Product strategy of the Department of Trade and Industry, as this can lead to product duplications. The towns should have variations in products and services to promote an exchange economy. In addition to the interventionist policies of the government in the buying and selling of local products, the circular and interconnected road network can even significantly reduce the wide disparity in the price of agricultural products by breaking up the multilayered setup of middlemen that distorts our market system.

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We should study the success of the interlocking market system of China where there is a network interlinkage of places and people in the rural landscape. In the Chinese marketing system, a standard market town is connected to the rural centers and to two or three intermediate market towns. Each intermediate market is linked to two or three central market towns. It is actually the standard market town that integrates and coordinates the activities in the lower-order and higher-order markets into a fully competitive marketing system. This unified commercialized system accounts for the extraordinary stability of the Chinese agrarian society. A related functioning setup can also be seen in India and can be studied for its applicability in the Philippines.

Another factor to consider when viewing the district interlinked market system as a promising strategy is its connection to a congressional representative who is in a position to oversee the system and facilitate funding for projects needed by the system. The spatial strategy can also be used as a rationale for doing away with the party list system whose representatives are not evenly distributed over the country, and who actually duplicate the work of the district congressional representatives. The newly elected House representatives should now lose no time in formulating and implementing plans for their respective jurisdictions.

Meliton B. Juanico,[email protected]

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