Press Release
August 16, 2016

For the Housing Solution Congress
Of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP)
SMX Mall of Asia Convention Center, Pasay City
August 16, 2016

Good morning to our friends from the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines! I am pleased to see you all again.

I am glad to have renewed my Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement this 17th Congress. For us in the Committee, the past 3 years had been productive in terms of coming up with effective and practical legislation for the housing sector.

At this point, let me update you with developments that have occurred in the 16th Congress, and of measures I intend to champion in the 17th Congress.

Foremost is the recent signing into law of Republic Act 10884 or the Balanced Housing Development Program Amendments, which amends Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. This amended law expands the coverage of the Balance Housing Development Program by including "residential condominium units" or vertical housing development in the definition of socialized housing.

Another feat we had during the 16th Congress was the convening of the first ever National Housing and Urban Development Summit, a series of meetings, planning, and learning sessions in partnership with our counterpart in the House of Representative, World Bank, legislators, representatives from various government and key shelter agencies, private sector, peoples' organizations, developers, and builders that lasted for 9 months. This summit sought to seek solutions on how to resolve the 5.5-million national housing backlog, the 580,000 informal settlers in Metro Manila, and also addressing concerns pertaining to disaster preparedness.

Now in the 17th Congress, I am espousing for the passage of the Creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, and the On-site, In-City or Near-City Resettlement Act into law.

The housing sector desperately needs a fully-fledged Housing Department that would serve as the sole and main planning and policy-making, regulatory, program coordination, and performance monitoring entity for all housing and urban development concerns.

My proposal is for this department to consolidate, rationalize and coordinate the functions and powers of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC), Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), and the National Housing Authority (NHA). The creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development would be able to address these concerns for faster facilitation and response of housing needs.

I also believe that it is time that we pass and implement the On-site, In-City or Near-City Resettlement Act. The condition of at least 1.5-Million informal settlers persistently became a hot topic during the Housing Summit. This enabled us to evaluate whether it is still practical for the government to conduct off-city relocations in Rizal, Bulacan, and Cavite when most of the ISFs still choose to remain in Metro Manila due to lack of job opportunities, and lack of access to public services such as transportation, hospitals, and utilities.

After much deliberation, we resolved during the Housing Summit to give chance for in-city housing relocation to answer to the ISF situation. This was initiated through Memorandum Circular No. 87, which created the Inter-Agency Task Force that conducted a Land Inventory for the ISFs to live in Metro Manila. The building of vertical style and high-density housing, including recreational facilities such as parks, was proposed to maximize the use of idle lands for in-city housing and resettlement in Metro Manila.

I am confident that local government units especially in the National Capital Region can carry this out for the 580,000 informal settler families residing in Metro Manila. Especially now under President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, I am sure that the in-city housing proposal and bid for a comprehensive land use would not fall on deaf ears. If I'm not mistaken, urban land reform and developing suitable lands for relocation sites for the homeless are some of the policies President Duterte wants to act on immediately.

I also have no qualms that this can be achieved because we already have a success story and best practice for in-city relocation in the City of San Juan. For such a small city at the heart of Metro Manila, San Juan City has three ongoing in-city housing projects. One is almost finished at St. Josephville, and the two other are incoming housing projects for the informal settlers in Barangay Batis, and the housing project for city government employees at F. Manalo.

St. Josephville is now being esteemed by local governments as the pioneer model for in-city housing projects in the Philippines. This housing project was unimaginable and was similar to Ground Zero just several years ago, when over 300 families in this area called Barangay St. Joseph were displaced from the 2012 Christmas fire. It was just apt that San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez's centerpiece program was in-city housing, that is why within just 3 years, the vertical style and high density type of housing was constructed by the local government, also through the help of the National Housing Authority, and the City Social Welfare Development Office.

As of the moment, there are more than three hundred eighteen (318) families happily residing in St. Josephville. And this is just the beginning, as there are more families set to live in the area with the non-stop building construction. (Show photos of St. Josephville residents and construction). As former Mayor and Representative of San Juan City and a homegrown San Juaneño, I am very thrilled for these families because they have started to live peacefully and have decent lives through their new homes. In fact, they have celebrated Christmas and New Year inside their medium-rise 'condominium' units early this year.

The in-city housing relocation can be accomplished through determination, strong political will, and efficient use of idle lands. It is POSSIBLE as seen in San Juan. Surely, the other 16 cities and municipalities in the National Capital Regions can accomplish this task, particularly richer and bigger cities such as Quezon City, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Taguig, among others.

On your part as we conduct this Housing Solution Congress, I hope the ECCP can share its technical expertise and support on how to address this issue, which is the concern of most Filipinos longing for decent and affordable housing in Metro Manila.

The past 3 years had been historic for the housing sector, and I look forward to partner with you more on this in the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement in the 17th Congress.

Thank you very much.

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