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Commentary
January 5, 2015

Where has the P60-billion for Low-Cost Housing Gone?

The victims of killer Typhoon Yolanda have yet to recover when destructive Typhoon Ruby rudely visited them. Remember the Aquino III government’s promise to build better a year ago? Well, very few houses have been built, and most did not withstand Typhoon Ruby.

After Yolanda, mostly private organizations and international donors provided the few housing facilities that were built. The Aquino III administration has been slow in responding to the victims’ housing needs.

This state of indifference on the part of our public officials boggles my mind. With large amounts of funds appropriated to provide housing for victims of natural calamities, especially Yolanda, why has the administration continued to underprovide housing services?

And appropriate for the issue of the day—the request for supplemental appropriations. Why does the Aquino III administration continue to ask for more money when it has not even exhausted what has been provided for it in the first place?

From 2011 to 2015, Congress has authorized the National Housing Authority (NHA) to spend P47.6 billion for its various activities mostly to provide decent housing to many poor Filipinos.

In addition, Budget Secretary Abad provided P11.0 billion to the NHA as part of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—the plan that was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The sum was divided into P10.9 billion for the North Triangle Rehabilitation Project and another P100 million for the resettlement, relocation and housing projects.

Another P5 million was set aside from the DAP for the construction of 50 low cost housing.

In the proposed 2014 supplemental budget, the DBM is asking for an additional P7,999,856,000 for the construction of permanent housing of victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

In the same 2014 supplemental budget, another P1,500,000,000 is being requested for DSWD for the emergency shelter assistance for victims of Typhoon Yolanda. If this project is so pressing why was it not included in the 2015 budget? And why not allocate this under the NHA, knowing that DSWD does not have the technical expertise to provide low-cost housing?

It’s been a year since after Typhoon Yolanda and yet we’re still talking of emergency shelter assistance? Realistically, can the Aquino III administration spend P9.5 billion (P1.5 billion for emergency shelter assistance and P8.0 billion for permanent housing for victims of Typhoon Yolanda) within the few remaining working days of 2014?

 

P60-billion-for-Low-Cost--Housing

 

With so much money floating around for public housing, it’s about time Congress and the Commission on Audit conduct a thorough study on where the appropriations for housing have gone. If done properly, such study could have a very high payoff.

In addition to the national government appropriations for NHA, the Social Housing Finance Corporation and DSWD, some urban local governments are engaged in providing low-cost housing for their local constituents.

The sum of public funds going into low-cost housing could easily add up to about P60 billion. We, the Filipino people, have a right to know what the Aquino III administration has done to the money.

At approximately P200,000 per housing unit, the P60 billion should translate into about 300,000 housing units accomplished. But, realistically, how many low-cost houses have been built to date? And how many more will be built between now and the end of December 2015? Are the new houses built to withstand the next major typhoon?

Who’s minding the store? Is there a link between public spending for housing and number of sturdy, sustainable housing built? If none, why? Or our public authorities—the Executives, the legislators, and the Commission on Audit—not interested in knowing the inconvenient truth?

 

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