Caravan to assert right to housing, resist eviction in Pandi held

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The group also calls for the scrapping of the Senate Bill 1578, an Act Creating the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) led thousands of homeless as they protest the recent moves of the government to evict those who occupy idle housing units in Pandi, Bulacan. Dubbed as “Homeless Protest Caravan,” on Thursday, Feb. 9, the group trooped to the National Housing Authority (NHA), to the Senate and at the foot of Chino Roces bridge (former Mediola bridge) to call for an end to the eviction of urban poor communities.

Kadamay chairperson Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano lambasted the NHA for its attempts to evict Kadamay members who are presently occupying idle housing units in Pandi, Bulacan. They vowed to stand firm and will not leave the houses that they fought for.

The NHA alleged that Kadamay members occupying housing units in Pandi have been renting out or selling their units, which, according to the agency, is against the law. The agency reported that Jerry Lovado, a member of Kadamay was caught on camera selling the house he is occupying. But the group maintained that the reported incident was a set-up.

Arellano said instead of evicting the poor, the NHA should resolve the housing crisis in the country.

She said the NHA should not evict the poor from their community, put them in far flung relocation sites and burden them with housing amortization.
“These problems should be acted upon and not make the urban poor suffer even more,” she said.

The Philippines’ capital, Manila, was reportedly the city with the highest rate of homelessness in the world.

The group also slammed the NHA for its failure to provide housing to the poor and yet thousands of housing units are not being utilized.

Based on the Commission on Audit (COA) annual audit report for circular year 2016, the NHA Housing Program has targeted to build 382,082 housing units within the period of three years. However, only 190,413 housing units were completed or 49 percent. Of the completed housing units, only 76,004 housing units or 49 percent are occupied.

The NHA’s In-City Resettlement Housing Program (ICRHP) implemented in 2011 also has low occupancy rates. According to COA’s Performance Audit Report of the program released in 2017, NHA has allocated P9.8 billion ($191 million) to construct 16,748 permanent housing units which is targeted to completed by the end of 2016. But only 8,644 or 52 percent were completed. Only 3,656 out of the identified 16,748 informal settler families were resettled and relocated to the said housing units.

The ICRHP was part of the P50 billion ($976 million) allocated by the government to fund its 5-year housing program. It aims to relocate and resettle informal settler families living in what the government described as danger zones in Metro Manila.

Kadamay decried that the NHA wanted to evict their members so that the agency would profit from the housing units that they have occupied. This is contrary to the NHA’s statements that they needed to relocate the informal settlers to the said housing units.

“When these idle housing units have been occupied, suddenly there is a need to distribute these to informal settlers from Manila, while all these years these have been left idle?” Arellano said in Filipino.

It was March last year when thousands of homeless Kadamay members successfully occupied idle housing units in Pandi, Bulacan.

Read: Kadamay: Futile dialogues with gov’t led to #OccupyBulacan

Through a dialogue, NHA has agreed to process the occupants’ eligibility to the government’s housing program.

Read: Housing authority to process urban poor occupants in Bulacan

No to DHSUD

The group also calls for the scrapping of the Senate Bill 1578, an Act Creating the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Contributed photo

Under the proposed law, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) will be abolished and will be consolidated into one department. The DHSUD will become the “sole and main planning, policy-making and regulatory” body.
Kadamay along with the employees union of the National Housing Authority (NHA) expressed their opposition against the proposed Department as it “will entail unparalleled power to one agency to rule over the housing sector bearing a neoliberal and anti-poor agenda.”

The same proposed bill was also filed during the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

Read: Proposed Department of Housing promotes homelessness, privatization of public housing

Arellano said both have the same purposes: to demolish urban poor communities, rake profits from housing and massive unemployment of government employees.

The group specifically noted Section 5, Powers and Functions of the Department under number 5, General Powers which states: “Enter into contracts, joint venture agreements or understanding, public-private partnerships, and memoranda of agreement or understanding, either domestic or foreign, under such terms and conditions as the Department may deem proper and reasonable subject to existing laws.”

In its position letter the Kadamay said the proposed bill has “little to no mention about the creation of mechanisms to prevent the demolition or destruction of communities.”

“It merely refers to existing laws such as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 which automates the demolitions in more ways than one,” the position papers read.

Kadamay also noted that the proposed bill does not indicate ceilings for socialized, low cost/ economic and middle-income housing. Section 28 of the Bill states that the ceiling shall be “jointly determined by the Department and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). The ceilings may be reviewed or revised anytime, but not more than once every two years “to conform to prevailing economic conditions.”

“Every two years, the DHSUD and the NEDA will be able to raise these payments as they see fit,” Arellano said.

Meanwhile, they urge President Duterte to sign into law the Senate Joint Resolution No. 8. In this resolution, the Congress authorized the NHA to “award to other qualified beneficiaries the unawarded housing units.” It also authorizes the NHA to award housing units that are not yet occupied. (http://bulatlat.com)

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