“There will be no dissent if only the government were truthful in serving the people.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Members of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) stormed government agencies on World Habitat Day on Monday, Oct. 2, which they dubbed “World Homeless Day.” The group lamented that through the years, the poor never did enjoy their right to housing. Worse, under President Duterte, communities are being bombed and the urban poor are being killed in the name of the war on drugs.
Kadamay picketed the office of the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Quezon City, then proceeded to another protest action in front of Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police headquarters.
The United Nations designated the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day. In 1985, the UN General Assembly declared World Habitat Day through Resolution 40/202. This year’s theme is Housing Policies: Affordable Homes.
Still no utilities in Pandi
For the past years, the price of government’s mass housing has persistently increased beyond the capacity of the poor to pay.
“Tere,” 20, (real name withheld upon request) said urban poor like her occupied idle housing units in a relocation site in Pandi, Bulacan because of the expensive amortization rate.
The house of Tere’s family at Tondo, Manila was demolished. They were relocated to Bocaue, Bulacan, but the monthly amortization of a housing unit costs about P400 ($8) a month, something that is beyond their means. In March, he joined those who occupied idle and rotting government housing units in Pandi, Bulacan, as part of the campaign Occupy Bulacan.
Most of the units were meant for military and police personnel, but were unoccupied. The core units were too small, and there is no water and electricity connection in the area.
In response, President Duterte ordered the NHA to process the turnover of the housing units to the urban poor occupants. He promised soldiers and police men that better and bigger houses will be built for them, with water and electricity available.
Up to now, Tere said, there is still no electricity and water supply in the relocation site in Pandi. “If President Duterte is sincere in helping us, those houses could have been ours by now. No more delays,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.
“There will be no dissent if only the government were truthful in serving the people. We protest because there is something wrong in the system,” he added.
Budget cut for housing
The housing problem plaguing the Filipino people would further worsen as the budget for housing was slashed in the proposed 2018 government budget.
Citing the 2018 National Expenditure Program, independent research group Ibon Foundation said the combined budget of six key shelter agencies will suffer a decrease of 70 percent, from P14.8 billion ($288 million) in 2017 to P4.4 billion ($86 million) in 2018.
The six key agencies to suffer budget cuts are: the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), National Housing Authority (NHA), National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), and Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC).
Ibon noted that the NHA would suffer the biggest budget cut from P12.7 billion ($24 million) in 2017 to P2.2 billion ($42 million) in 2018, or by 82 percent.
Only 28 percent of the NHA budget, or $12 million, is allocated for the relocation of informal settler families (ISFs) that will be displaced by infrastructure projects, while the bulk, 72 percent or $31 million is for the construction of houses for military and police personnel.
“Excluding the AFP/PNP housing budget, the total budget for the construction of housing units for ISFs and the development of existing relocation sites will actually decline by 95 percent,” Ibon said in a statement.
Ibon urged the Duterte administration not to turn its back on its “responsibility to ensure and uphold the people’s right to shelter.”
“The government should increase the budget for housing programs and prioritize the development of sustainable, decent, as well as free and affordable housing, in consultation with poor communities,” it added.
There is also a threat of another amortization hike once the comprehensive tax reform bill in Congress is passed into law. Ibon said the bill seeks to lift value-added tax exemptions on low-cost and socialized housing and housing rentals.
“Filipinos paying amortization for low-cost and socialized housing, or a monthly housing rent of P12,800 ($250) and below will have to shoulder an extra 12 percent VAT,” Ibon said.
‘No to aerial bombing’
Kadamay also denounced the recent aerial strikes in Batangas city, just some two hours south of Manila. The military has launched airstrikes on Sept. 24 supposedly in pursuit of the New People’s Army in the area. Residents of the community have evacuated, two civilians were reportedly killed in the indiscriminate bombing.
Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano, Kadamay chairperson said they would not let Batangas turn into another Marawi.
“The Duterte government only sees fire as the solution to everything, no matter the amount of lives it puts at stake,” she said.
“We have Oplan Tokhang and demolitions on one side, and then the indiscriminate fire and bombings of Oplan Kapayapaan on the other. Poor Filipinos are being victimized at every turn, this will only push them to fight the regime even more,” she added.