Amid reports that militant urban poor group Kadamay had again attempted to occupy idle housing units in Rodriguez, Rizal built by the government for policemen and soldiers, the chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development disclosed on Thursday, June 14, that an executive order is in the works to address the shortage in socialized housing in the metropolis.
In an interview with dzRH’s Angelo Palmones, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez said President Rodrigo Duterte had agreed to his proposal to convert idle government-owned landholdings — about 3,000 hectares — in the National Capital Region (NCR) into free housing for informal settlers.
According to the lawmaker, he was told by the chief executive to draft the executive order (EO) for him and Duterte would sign the presidential directive.
“So sabi natin, lahat ng mga lupa ng government, mga unutilized, mga nakatiwangwang, ‘yong mga hindi ginamit sa tamang paraan ay ipamahagi na natin sa socialized housing program,” the lawmaker said.
“Pumapayag po s’ya (Duterte) do’n…Sabi ko, ‘Mister President, napakalaking lupain ng gobyerno ang nasa Metro Manila, ang nasa urban cities na hindi naman nagagamit sa tamang paraan. So kung pupuwede nating gawin ang isang executive order para ipamahagi na natin ito sa mga socialized housing programs.’ At ang sabi po sa ‘tin ay, ‘Gawin mo ‘yan at pipirmahan ko,'” said Benitez.
The House panel chair said he had been working with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for the finalization of the EO so it could soon be signed by the President. “So nando’n na po kami sa office ng President, kay Executive Secretary Medialdea para tapusin na ‘yong executive order para mapirmahan ng Pangulo.”
Benitez said he did a follow-up last week in Malacañang and he was told by Medialdea to see him “within this week to finalize the draft” of the EO.
“Baka…ilang linggo na lang, baka isang buwan, baka pup’wede na nating mapapirmahan sa Pangulo ito at magkakaro’n na tayo ng isang magandang programa [Maybe it would just take a few weeks, maybe a month, we might already have the EO signed by the President and we would already have one good program],” he added.
Enough gov’t land in NCR to accommodate urban poor
Once signed and implemented, Benitez is hoping that the EO will once and for all address the urban poor’s clamor for relocation within NCR cities where they work.
“Dahil ang hinaing naman ng mga informal settlers natin ay huwag kaming ilagay sa malalayong lugar dahil wala do’n ang trabaho, nandito ang trabaho sa mga urban cities,” he said.
According to Benitez, while many claim that there’s no more available land for urban poor housing in Metro Manila, the fact is there is — about 3,000 hectares — which the lawmaker thinks is enough to accommodate all informal settlers in the NCR.
“Kaya po tayo…tinutulak itong executive order dahil ‘yong lupain ng gobyerno ay sobrang laki, talagang sapat ang magiging mga pabahay ito. Lahat-lahat po p’wede nating bigyan ng sarili nilang bahay. Kaya pong i-accommodate ‘yong buong informal settlers, ‘yong nakikita nating mga homeless dito sa mga lupain ng government in Metro Manila,” he said.
“Marami pong nagsasabi wala nang lupa, wala nang makita. Pero kung titingnan natin, mahigit pa tatlong libong ektarya ang mga pag-aari ng gobyerno dito sa Metro Manila,” Benitez added.
The lawmaker said he was proposing that the housing units, which would mostly be low-rise, would “almost be free.”
“Ang isa sa mga pinag-iisipan namin ay hindi po ibebenta ng gobyerno sa informal settlers (ang pabahay),” he said.
Asked by Palmones if the EO would not lead to further congestion of Metro Manila, Benitez said he would also propose the transfer of government administrative buildings outside of the national capital.
“(S)a datos po, lumalabas na about 15 percent of our population ay government-employed. So ito po ang isa sa p’wedeng dahan-dahan nating ilipat sa mga ibang lugar para ma-decongest ang Metro Manila,” he said.
[The data show that about 15 percent of our population in Metro Manila are government-employed. So this is what we could transfer gradually to other places to de-congest Metro Manila.]