(Photo courtesy of DHSUD)

MANILA – President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s "Pambansang Pabahay para sa Filipino: Zero ISF 2028" program took center stage in this year's observance of the National Shelter Month (NSM) led by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Speaking at the NSM kick-off on Monday, DHSUD Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar said the NSM features an array of activities and programs aimed at further equipping Filipinos with more knowledge of their financial options in acquiring safe and affordable homes.

Acuzar said this year's theme “Abot-Kayang Pabahay Tungo sa Panatag na Buhay” reiterates the DHSUD’s objective of providing affordable and decent shelters to uplift the lives of Filipinos, particularly the informal settler families and those in the low-income bracket.

Through the program, the DHSUD aims to build one million housing units every year or a total of six million housing units within the six years of the current administration.

“This year’s celebration accurately encapsulates the goal of the DHSUD to provide affordable yet decent and sustainable shelters that will give Filipino families a sense of security and certitude. Hopefully, this goal will be reached by the end of the current administration,” Acuzar said.

The official rollout of the program started in September with groundbreaking ceremonies in key cities and municipalities in the country, including Quezon City, Bacolod City, Roxas City, Iloilo City, and Mariveles, Bataan.

More agreement signing and groundbreaking ceremonies are in the pipeline in time for the NSM celebration.

This October a series of activities will be launched by the DHSUD central and regional offices and its key shelter agencies (KSAs) such as caravans, forums, and learning sessions designed to enlighten both the DHSUD and the public about the financial elements and possibilities of the Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino Program.

Acuzar added that recreational activities will also be organized including Zumba sessions, office Olympics, and tree-planting initiatives.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary Henry Yap, in his speech, thanked partner organizations that have been helping the DHSUD in fulfilling its mandate, particularly the United Nations Human Settlement Program or UN-Habitat, whose “assistance in numerous Philippine projects such as the development of climate resilience urban plans and design studies, provincial climate risk diagnostics, and in rebuilding Marawi, reinforces their shared commitments toward establishing safe, resilient and sustainable communities.”

He also recognized UN-Habitat not only for participating in the kick-off event, but also for “jointly celebrating with us World Habitat Day and continuously creating awareness on the growing inequalities and challenges facing our settlements that are further exacerbated by the ‘3 Cs Crisis,’ namely, Covid-19, climate change, and conflicts.”

Bernard Barth, human settlements officer of UN-Habitat’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific, expressed the organization’s support of the DHSUD’s goal to realize the Filipino family’s dream of owning a safe and decent home toward improving their quality of life.

The NSM coincides with Urban October, a month-long celebration by the UN Habitat that aims to raise awareness and engage the international community in discussing the challenges and opportunities created by the fast pace of change in cities. (PNA)