“Many informal settlers are struggling to meet their families’ daily basic needs, and are also ineligible for housing loans from the Home Mutual Development Fund (HMDF) and Pag-IBIG.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Members of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and other progressives stormed the National Housing Authority (NHA) central office on Friday morning, Mar. 24, calling to scrap the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992, which was enacted 25 years ago on the said date.
Carrying banners calling for free mass housing, the groups slammed the serving of notice of eviction to Kadamay members who occupied idle units in the government housing sites in Pandi, Bulacan. Following the protest at NHA, Cabinet secretary and housing czar Leoncio Evasco Jr. said in an interview that government will not forcibly evict the urban poor occupants.
A number of #OccupyBulacan participants joined the protest to ask the NHA to award them the house that they have occupied. However, no representative of the NHA came out to dialogue. Instead, police men kept protesters from entering the NHA premises.
Jimmy Magbanua, 36, a female occupant in Pandi Residences 3 said the least the NHA could do is to respond to the people’s calls. She said they have waited long enough and went through different processes. They even had dialogues with different officials, such as local government officials of Pandi, and then Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Committee chair, Vice President Leni Robredo, but nothing happened.
Magbanua is among those who have been served an eviction notice earlier this week. But along with other Kadamay members calling for free and mass housing, Magbanua said she is determined to stay in their occupied house. “We draw our strength from each other,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.
UDHA made government housing program a business
Kadamay said that for the past two decades, UDHA only allowed the entry of private businesses in the government’s socialized housing program, and ensured sure profits for private developers.
The UDHA has even provided incentives “to encourage greater participation of the private sector.” Among these is the “reduction and simplification of qualification and accreditation for participating private developers.”
Think tank Ibon Foundation noted that under UDHA, private sectors were exempted from various taxes such as capital gains tax on raw lands used for the project; value-added tax for the project contractor concerned; transfer tax for both raw completed projects, and donor’s tax for lands certified by the local government units to have been donated for socialized housing purposes.
The law justified these exemptions to private sectors to “further reduce the cost of housing units for the benefit of the underprivileged and homeless.”
“These incentives make it easier for private companies to do business and profit while monthly housing amortization burdens millions of low-income homeless families,” Ibon said in a statement.
Ibon cited Bistekville, a relocation project of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista. Although awardees need not pay a down payment, monthly amortization costs more at P2,273 ($45), payable for 30 years.
“Many informal settlers are struggling to meet their families’ daily basic needs, and are also ineligible for housing loans from the Home Mutual Development Fund (HMDF) and Pag-IBIG,” Ibon said.
Gloria Arellano, Kadamay chairperson said that socialized housing are really meant for those who can pay. “However, the agency has constantly failed to fill the homes with people because of high amortization and the dismal state of utilities and public facilities,” explained Arellano.
‘We will act on the change we want’
In the afternoon, the groups trooped to Chino Roces bridge (Mendiola bridge) to demand to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the eviction of occupants in Pandi, Bulacan and act on the housing crises plaguing the urban poor.
Government data shows that housing backlog is at 5.56 million.
Jake Manunsong of Kadamay-Montalban chapter said the urban poor cannot rely anymore on government promises. “They will only take us to a road to nowhere. We will act and will claim the change that we want for us and for the future generation,” Manunsong said in the program.
Some 3,000 urban poor attempted to occupy idle government housing units in Montalban, Rizal on March 22. However, Manunsong said they were met with violence by the police and soldiers barricading the entrance of the relocation site. But they will not back down, said Manunsong.
Vizdiminda Catinyaman, 43, from Payatas are among those who joined the occupation in Montalban. They were renting their house in Payatas for P1,500 ($30). Catinyaman and her husband were only scavengers in the Payatas landfill, earning a combined income of P150 to P300 ($3 to $6) a day. She said idle housing units in Montalban were dilapidated. “Some houses have doors that are rotting, no bowl in the comfort room and no windows. The grass has grown all over the house,” she told Bulatlat.
She called on Duterte to award to them the idle housing units, to spare them from paying rent, which is a burden given their paltry income.
Investigate idle government housing units
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged Duterte to investigate why government housing units remain unoccupied for many years.
The group said in a statement that the past administration of NHA and HUDCC was headed by Chito Cruz, classmate of former President Benigno Aquino III. Bayan said Cruz undertook housing projects using the anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“What were the parameters for the construction of housing units? Were these constructed even without a clear plan for occupancy, just because government was in a rush to spend the DAP funds? What was the quality of the housing units that made them unfit for occupancy? Who profited from these projects?”
Carlito Badion, Kadamay secretary general meanwhile said that the urban poor will occupy more idle government housing units. He cited several successful mass occupation from the 1970s to 2016 where people occupied idle government housing units and were later on legitimized by the NHA.