Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How about forming Department of Housing & Urban Development now?

January 30, 2010 | MAKATI CITY, PHILIPPINES – In the third part of Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD) and the Probe Foundation’s Mulat Pinoy Kapihan Series, Cecilia Alba, Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Dennis Murphy of Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Dr. Zelda Zablan of University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), Siegfried Briones of PAG-IBIG and Froilan Campitan, Assistant General Manager of National Housing Authority (NHA) joined the discussion on population and housing

One of the major problems that go with poverty is housing. Shelter is one of humankind’s basic needs, a refuge from nature’s elements. We saw how shelter is dearly important to the people, as typhoons “Ondoy” and ‘Pepeng” destroyed the refuge of our fellow Filipinos. We saw how existing structures are not that secured and the residential areas were haphazardly planned.

Large populations necessarily require more housing, especially in areas of economic growth. But with high market values and uneven economic development, this leads to issues of inadequate housing and informal settling. Having a large population exacerbates these problems.

The alarming increase of the population growth in the country tends to increase poverty, and lessens the housing support and urban planning in the Philippines. According to Dr Zablan, there is a need to regulate the population growth to contain the housing support of the government. Watch the video of Dr. Zablan as she talks about issues on housing and urban planning.

On the other hand, HUDCC’s Assistant Secretary Alba, NHA’s Assistant General Manager Campitan and Pag-Ibig’s Briones outlined the projects the government has in line with the housing and urban development issue in the country. Watch the video below:

Now that the 2010 election is near, the presidential candidates still have vague plans regarding housing and urban planning projects in their platforms. Here is Dennis Murphy of UPA rationalization on such concerns.

But the problem that I saw with this project is that:

1. How will the “informal” settlers pay the fee for the housing project of the government if their daily income--especially those who belong to poverty line who lives on a dollar to $1.25 a day? (that is, 45-50 pesos.);
2. How will the government address the issue on the settlers choosing their old houses in the slums over the relocation sites because of low economic support?;
3. Alba mentioned that HUDCC is coordinating with the municipalities for the number of informal settlers in their areas but only few comply. Alba mentioned that it is a matter of priority; now, does it mean that this concern is least from the priority of the government?

To be frank, the agency is weak, even though the person seating as its secretary is Noli de Castro--the vice president of the republic. Maybe the term coordinating council is weak in HUDCC. When will be the time that the agency will be elevated to a department status, which according to Alba it is pending almost 10 years in congress? How can we push projects on housing and urban planning if the group that supports it doesn’t have fangs to push plans that all local government would follow and have a dent on the budget? Sadly debt servicing remains a priority of this government along with the vague platforms of presidential candidates. There are lots of issues like this that should be solved. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the limelight and rubbing elbows of most people whose responsibility is to monitor the platforms and analyze it.
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