THE DURIAN BEAT
By Roger Balanza
THERE is a day that the Pinoy homeless poor should celebrate: September 6, 2019. On that day, government agencies and various stakeholders with a heart and mission to provide a home to every Filipino homeless family congregated to map out a plan to strengthen the government's socialized housing program. On that day, the First Social Housing Convergence that gathered all government agencies and other stakeholders concerned with the implementation of the government’s socialized housing program, was held in Manila.
Juxtaposed against the country's housing backlog of more than 6 million, the gathering, other than being historic, might as well be the best pro-poor action of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the government's housing agencies. The Convergence was led by Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) President Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling.
HUDCC is the focal agency of the government's housing program; SHFC is the financing arm of low-cost socialized housing for the country's homeless poor.
The day-long Convergence, held at the Land Bank of the Philippines Plaza in Ermita and organized by SHFC, was the culminating event of the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), the flagship program of the SHFC. The gathering of more than 200 people from government agencies and various stakeholders was spiced up by the attendance of special guests Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development, and Negros Occidental Representative Jose Francisco Benitez, vice chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development. Sen. Tolentino urged social housing stakeholders to join hands in building resilient houses using mass production techniques for the country to meet its target of providing homes to the country’s poor and those displaced by disasters like earthquake and typhoons or moved out of risk areas.
Rep. Benitez, for his part, assured the SHFC and all other key shelter agencies of the House support for legislative initiatives on housing and urban development. Benitez also highlighted House Bill 42 or the Local Government-Led In-Site, In-City, or Near-City Resettlement Act. The bill will ensure the sustainability and viability of resettlement sites through access to services and employment opportunities, Benitez said. Rep. Benitez, who represented Rep. Strike Revilla (Cavite, 2nd District), chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, also stressed the key role that SHFC will play in the implementation of Bill 42.
Lauding the CMP as a testament to the “bayanihan” spirit of the people, Benitez congratulated SHFC for its “invaluable work on providing flexible, affordable, innovative and responsive shelter solutions to homeless low-income families." He also praised the agency for its partnership with national agencies, local governments, and civil society organizations that resulted to the efficient implementation of the government’s socialized housing programs.
Land Bank President and CEO Cecilia “Cecile” C. Borromeo, who welcomed the participants, assured of continuing financial support for the BALAI program, the comprehensive program crafted by housing czar del Rosario. BALAI (Building Adequate, Liveable, Affordable and Inclusive) houses for Filipino Communities, established a unified vision for all government shelter agencies under the supervision of HUDCC to speed up delivery of solutions to the country's housing woes.
What made the Convergence a big success is that the country's housing program, particularly low-cost housing, earned legislative support of the Senate and the House, continuing funding support from a government bank, a willing collaboration of private sector housing community and the various stakeholders. This is a positive brew that could prop up towards success the government's mission to provide a home to every homeless Pinoy. There are about 4.5 million homeless people in the Philippines of a population of about 106 million, about 3 million of them in Manila, according to the Philippine Statistics Office.
Cabling said the SHFC target is 200,000 houses from today up to 2022, for a total number of units of 500,000 built since it was founded 30 years ago. The SHFC over the past three decades poured over P14 billion, under its CMP program, in housing loan assistance to more than 300,000 families. The cost of providing a roof over the heads of the millions of the homeless poor Pinoys may be staggering, but solidarity in purpose and unity in action could help the country resolve the housing woes.
As Rep. Benitez, in his speech at the Convergence, said: “Let us work together on achieving our vision and the safety and security of the homeless in a house they can call their own, where opportunities will enable the people to rise from poverty.”
About the Columnist
The author is publisher and editor of the Davao City-based online news site The Durian Post and Top News Now.