Written by Charlie V. Manalo
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 08:00 [ tribune.net.ph ]
A newly elected lawmaker yesterday expressed support to the call of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the government to open up government lands for mass housing of informal settlers living along esteros and other danger zone areas in Metro Manila.
Incoming Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said he agreed with the proposal of Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, saying the national government should stop selling public lands to foreign corporations and instead mobilize resources for mass housing projects built on government lands to accommodate not fewer than 500,000 informal settlers all over Metro Manila.
Hicap said the same can be applied to other cities facing the same problem in different parts of the country.
“Of course the long-term solution would be the implementation of genuine land reform and national industrialization which need an overhaul of the system and power relations in the country,” Hicap said.
The Anakpawis partylist representative said President Aquino should immediately rescind the policy of selling public lands to foreign investors and other real estate monopolies and instruct concerned government agencies to immediately conduct a national inventory of all government lands which can be used for mass housing projects which are decent, cheap and truly affordable to urban poor and homeless Filipinos.
On top of the mass housing projects, Hicap suggested that the Aquino government invest government funds in productive campaigns such as job creation based on production of goods and services that would employ millions of jobless urban poor and, in return, would enable them to pay low- cost housing with the support from the state in the form of institutional subsidies and support services.
Hicap said the Aquino government can re-channel the P44 billion it set aside for the budget of the controversial conditional- cash transfer to mass housing projects and sustainable job creation program anchored on the promotion of light and heavy industries which are essentially public owned or public controlled.
Hicap cited the potential of the government-owned Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) in Taguig City, one of the largest industrial complexes in the country.
He said the Aquino government can build mass housing project on the unused government land inside FTI compound for the relocation of informal settlers and design a job employment program that would enable urban poor families to land jobs in the 300 firms currently hosted in FTI.
“Why complicate the problem? The equation in addressing this mass housing problem is as simple as solving the equation 1 + 2 = 3. The problem with Aquino administration is that it is super obsessed with selling the people’s resources to the highest bidder in exchange for juicy commissions and political backing of the rich and powerful,” Hicap said.
The solon agreed with observations raised by urban poor organizations that the proposed P18,000 assistance to estero-dwelling families for renting space somewhere else for 12 months will not solve the problem.
“The P18,000 subsidy would lead these tens of thousands of estero-dwelling families to the same area where they used to occupy because only in these urban poor and danger prone areas where they they can find space for rent that would cost each of them P1,500 per month. The offer is not part of the solution even in tactical sense, it is part of and would further exacerbate the problem of homelessness and landlessness among the poor in Metro Manila,” Hicap said.
Earlier, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda had denied the P18,000 offer was a band-aid solution, asserting that what the government will provide is assistance and that structures are being built to accommodate informal settlers who would be displaced once the government goes full blast in clearing eight major waterways that would call for the eviction of not fewer than 20,000 families in the National Capital Region.