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ISSUES OF PRACTICE IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT

“License to Design: The Practice of Architecture in the Philippines.”

The practice of these professions here is threatened to extinction by the continued bias of
clients against them, the threat of illegal Filipino practitioners, the invasion of foreign
consultants and the exodus of Filipino designers to better-paying jobs overseas.

Helping me explain these issues on the show were two architects — Armando Alli of the
Board of Architecture at the Professional Regulation Commission, and Dean Danilo
Silvestre of the Collegeof Architecture at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Both are also practicing (registered and licensed) architects and environmental planners.

The bias against local practitioners apparently stems from the public’s misunderstanding of
what architects and related design professionals do. Architecture is the art and science of
designing buildings and building complexes to house and support the functions of clients
and the public. As a service, it is like medicine and law where problems or needs are
addressed in a timely and direct manner but with the additional facet of elegance, aesthetics
and good taste.

Many Filipino architects are treated like suppliers or contractors, valued only if fees charged
are cheap and if they are willing to be constantly on call (unlike doctors or lawyers, clients
refuse to pay architects based on time spent at endless meetings). It’s a matter of respect,
which makes it all the more aggravating for many locals practitioners as they witness a
whole different attitude given by clients to foreign-schooled but unregistered or licensed
practitioners or foreign consultants.

Of late, a number of Filipino or Fil-American designers schooled or who have worked


overseas have set up practices without the necessary licenses. Their success has been the
product of good marketing skills, individual packaging (foreign accents, fashionable dress
sense, and conspicuous attendance in the cocktail circuit) as well as a competent portfolio
of work overseas. It is no wonder then that local media find these personalities good copy.

Nevertheless they have been found not to be in the roster of registered or licensed
architects. The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) has sent notices to editors in chief
and writers of design magazines and broadsheets to desist from referring to these
designers as “architects.”

Similar incidents have been cited by the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects and
the Philippine Institute of Interior Designers regarding personalities featured in newspapers
and magazines and referred to as landscape architects or interior designers.

All three professions are regulated by the government and require registration and licenses
to practice. On the show, architect Alli explained that the Architecture Law RA9266 (there
are similar ones for landscape architecture, interior design and environmental planning)
protects the interest of the public and ensures legal accountability for malpractice or its
results — collapsing buildings, landslides in housing sites, exploding utilities and the like.
More worrying for the UAP, PALA and PIID is the proliferation of foreign designers who are
featured in numerous press releases and ads by real estate developers — complete with
portraits and interviews as to how they have designed this or that new master planned
community, world-class complexes or trend-setting landscapes and urban design.

Alli explained that there are several requisites for foreigners to practice — proof that they
offer expertise no Filipino professional can offer, reciprocity from the country they come
from (meaning Filipinos could practice there), a permit from the PRC and a permit from the
Department of Labor and Employment. It has been discovered that not one foreign
consultant or firm has ever been given these permits. No country has reciprocity rights with
the Philippines and Filipinos are recognized worldwide as technically excellent in design
skills, which is why they are hired by topnotch firms worldwide.

Dean Silvestre for his part explained the effects of globalization on the educational system
and the pressures on students that reflect in different directions they take — moving abroad
versus establishing experience and practice in the Philippines. He believes that Filipino
architects can excel here and compete with the best of the world as training and improved
curricula can ensure their competence in a world soon without professional borders.

My view, as I stated in the show is that “No one questions the necessity of regulating the
practice of medicine or law. Local lawyers and doctors would raise hell if any foreign firm
dares set up a local practice. No patient or client would go to these firms anyway unless
they knew that these practitioners were licensed and liable under local law.”

The situation with architecture is a bit different but malpractice in the art and science of
designing buildings could lead, like bad medicine or lawyering, to loss of life or a sad
existence in a structure that looks and feels like a prison.

Filipino architects are considered world-class in every country except their own. Like many
in other design professions they are driven overseas because they are unappreciated and
underpaid yet they possess the technical expertise and capacity that could create all that
public and private clients are planning to build in support of a booming economy without the
recourse of foreign consultants.

Architecture is a proud profession. Its practitioners have to be respected for them to be able
to produce structures and settings that engender pride of place and a national identity.
Philippine architecture is best created by Filipinos for Filipinos. If we aspire instead to live in
simulations of other lands and cultures, then globalization will have shown its ugliest façade,
an illusion of modernity that hides behind it a poverty of culture and purpose we can never
escape from.
RESEARCH WORK
IN
PROFESSIONAL
PRACTICE 03
(THE POLITICAL OF GLOBALIZATION AND THE OPEN
PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE IN THE PHILIPPINES)

SUBMITTED BY:

IRISH T. BALISI

SUBMITTED TO:

ARCH. RAZEL TACAY


RESEARCH WORK
IN
PROFESSIONAL
PRACTICE 03
(THE POLITICAL OF GLOBALIZATION AND THE OPEN
PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE IN THE PHILIPPINES)

SUBMITTED BY:

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