“It has been stressed over and over that the first line of defense against COVID-19 is your house. But how can Filipinos shelter in place during a lockdown if we don’t have a house of our own?”
Billions of pesos in various housing allocations are scattered among several agencies, undermining the mandate of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to address the country’s deep-seated shelter problems, Sen. Francis Tolentino has warned.
Tolentino, who chairs the Senate committee on urban planning and housing, raised the issue of the government’s dispersed housing expenditures during a hearing last week on DHSUD’s proposed P3.9 billion budget for 2021.
The senator expressed disappointment that such funds are scattered in other agencies when the DHSUD was created last year to harmonize and consolidate government shelter programs under one department.
“It has been stressed over and over that the first line of defense against COVID-19 is your house. But how can Filipinos shelter in place during a lockdown if we don’t have a house of our own? How can the government implement a massive housing program if the department doesn’t have an adequate housing budget?” Tolentino said during the hearing.
The DHSUD originally proposed P77 billion for 2021 but the Department of Budget and Management slashed the request.
The senator advised DHSUD Secretary Eduardo del Rosario to be more proactive and ask other government agencies to voluntarily consent to the transfer of their respective housing and resettlement appropriations to DHSUD before the Senate proceeds with its plenary deliberations on the 2021 national budget next month.
Section 7 (G) of Republic Act 11201 that created DHSUD empowers the agency to coordinate with other government agencies to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the government’s housing and urban development programs, Tolentino said.
He said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has P112.3 billion under its Resettlement Governance Assistance Fund; the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), P1.9 billion for its housing program for its beneficiaries; Department of Transportation (DOT), P18 billion for right-of-way resettlement of families; and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P4.1 billion for its Core Shelter Assistance Program, among other agencies with housing budgets.
During the hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon hit the government’s decision to allocate a measly P4 billion for the housing sector while it pours a total of P9.6 billion into confidential and intelligence funds in the proposed national budget for next year.
“With that huge backlog, I do not see the logic why we need more confidential and intelligence funds than budget to give our people decent and safe homes,” Drilon said.
Senators pushed for increasing the budget for the DHSUD and the housing sector whose proposed budget is equivalent only to 0.08 percent of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 or 0.02 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
The DHSUD earlier reported that it needs at least P30 billion a year, over a period of 20 years to construct 6.7 million houses and address the housing backlog, roughly three million of which are in the socialized and subsidized housing category.