FORMER House Independent Bloc Leader Martin Romualdez of Leyte yesterday strongly urged Congress to include among the beneficiaries of the proposed affordable and decent housing units those who have been displaced by calamities, especially Yolanda victims, as a show of “malasakit” (compassion) to them.
This was stressed by Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), in backing the proposal of Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, who chairs the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, for “reasonably priced” housing projects for the informal settlers with the objective of “preserving their jobs” by constructing medium rise buildings in government-owned lands in partnership with the private sector.
“I hope there will be immediate dignified shelters available for calamity victims especially the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda,” said Romualdez who thanked President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte for his commitment and promise last week to fast track decent housing for Yolanda survivors.
Romualdez made his statement after Benitez’s panel unanimously approved House Bill (HB) No. 82 or the “On-site, In-City or Near City Resettlement Act” that seeks to eliminate the relocation of informal settler families outside urban centers by pursuing an on-site, in-city or near city resettlement program.
shelters to them (informal settlers), we should ensure that the area is livable and accessible. Meaning their jobs and livelihood are assured and protected,” Romualdez said. “This socialized housing program of Congressman Benitez is a very laudable one because this will show malasakit to our informal settlers.”
Benitez said his HB No. 82 is an important component of a legislative package that provides a swift and more effective solution to the housing crisis in the country.
He noted that the country’s housing backlog has reached 5.5 million, with nearly 25 percent, or 1.5 million, representing ISFs.
The Negros Occidental lawmaker disclosed that 600,000 of the 1.5 million families are concentrated in Metro Manila.
“More than a decade after the passage of the landmark legislation that is Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA), the Philippines is still struggling to improve its housing indicators. The government is having a difficulty in catching up with the housing demands of the burgeoning population of the country,” said Benitez.
Citing a report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Benitez said Metro Manila is among the world’s most densely populated urban center, playing host to 11.9 million people.
“Government programs before were focused on the relocation of informal settlers to areas outside Metro Manila where they have no access to livelihood and other basic services. The scenario is that the ISFs are pushed to go back to informal settlements in the urban centers again because of their need to find a source of income for their family’s daily needs,” Benitez explained.
The proposed in-city, near-city development for existing ISFs is the product of an intensive study by various stakeholders in the housing sector. It was recommended during the nearly year-long Housing Summit that Benitez and his Senate counterpart, Senator JV Ejercito, co-sponsored in 2015.
Before the committee approval, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista was allowed to present the QC experience in pursuing in-city development which is believed to be among the highly-successful ISF programs in the country.
Benitez has also cited the Valenzuela City example as another success story in in-city development implemented by local government units.
The Valenzuela program was launched by Mayor Rex Gatchalian with the help of his brother, former mayor and now Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
HB No. 82 promotes the People’s Plan as a tool that recognizes the need for adequate consultation and participation of the beneficiaries themselves in planning their resettlement.
The measure said on-site development shall be implemented after adequate and genuine consultation with the affected ISFs, and in accordance with the people’s plan formulated pursuant to this act in order to ensure minimum movement of occupants of blighted lands and slum areas.
“Should in-city resettlement not be feasible, near-city resettlement shall be considered. Off-city resettlement shall only be resorted to when directly requested by the affected ISFs themselves, and must satisfy the requirements of adequate and genuine consultation prior to relocation,” the proposed measure stressed.