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Binay focuses on housing reforms in first five months in office

By Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) Updated December 24, 2010 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay focused his attention on housing reforms during his first five months in office.
Binay, presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) concerns and chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), also refocused the government’s priority to protect the welfare of OFWs.
He admitted that five months is still very short. “There is much work to be done in the coming years but we have already taken the important first steps in reforming the housing sector and ensuring government assistance for our OFWs,” Binay said.
Last November, Binay led government officials in bringing home 162 distressed OFWs from Lebanon, the first mass repatriation undertaken by the new administration.
He also directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intensify the drive against illegal recruitment, following the arrest of British nationals victimizing Filipinos.
“This case is only the first of other cases we will be filing against illegal recruiters and human traffickers. The Aquino administration is determined to protect our nationals from these unscrupulous individuals,” Binay said.
Binay also emphasized to government agencies the importance of working together and pooling resources to handle the concerns of OFWs. “Our OFWs deserve nothing less than the full attention of the concerned government agencies,” he said.
Binay has met with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to familiarize himself with their respective functions and programs.
“Close coordination of government agencies is essential in addressing OFW concerns,” Binay said.
As the country’s housing czar, Binay pushed for transparency and a level playing field with the filing of a complaint for syndicated estafa against after property developer Globe Asiatique.
He also directed the state housing fund to tighten its internal controls to protect the members’ contributions from unscrupulous developers, while at the same time making it easier for Filipinos to acquire homes.
The Home Mutual Development Fund, (Pag-IBIG), acting on the vice president’s directive, filed a complaint for syndicated estafa against property developer Globe Asiatique (GA) for over P6 billion in fraud-ridden loans obtained from the agency.
“More than correcting the impression that the National Government is playing favorites with some developers, the filing of the complaint shows that government is determined to run after developers who engage in misrepresentation and duplicity and endanger the stability of government institutions,” Binay said.
He also directed the Pag-IBIG Fund to adjust its target from 75,000 housing units to 150,000 units and set aside loanable funds that will be made available to buyers/developers.
“The intervention is intended to accelerate action in the other groups and sectors of housing. We must deliver more houses to fill the gap between housing stock and housing need, which is about 350,000 each year,” Binay said.
Over 5,000 land titles were distributed this year, and the vice president outlined a new direction for housing, “one that emphasizes building communities, not just houses.”
“The shelter agencies of government face the challenge of making houses accessible and affordable and by doing so, contribute to economic recovery,” Binay said.
In December, Binay was personally invited by the Chinese government to attend the opening of the Asian Para Lympics, the first such invitation extended to a ranking official of the Aquino administration.
Binay considered the invitation and his brief exchange of pleasantries with his counterpart, as “a positive indication that relations between the Philippines and China are normalizing” after the hostage taking incident in August.
He also met with OFWs in Guangzhou, a practice he began in South Korea during his first official travel as vice president.
For 2011, Binay said he will hold dialogues and consultations with OFW communities abroad. “I would like to hear from them directly their concerns and to assure them that our government will always put priority on their welfare,” he said.
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