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Housing for uniformed personnel now for informal settlers

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has adopted a joint resolution authorizing the National Housing Authority (NHA) to award unoccupied and unawarded homes for uniformed personnel to other beneficiaries, including informal settlers and calamity victims.

With a total of 17 affirmative votes, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8 was adopted by the Senate and since it was already approved by the House of Representatives, it would now have the force and effect of a law.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement, said a significant number of housing units constructed by the NHA for the military and other uniformed personnel remain unoccupied because of a lack of interest by the intended beneficiaries to avail of these homes.

Ejercito noted the housing units were seized by the militant urban poor group Kadamay.

The urban poor group argued they might as well take over the housing units since the intended beneficiaries from the military and the police are not interested.

The construction of these low-cost houses for uniformed personnel came about after former president Benigno Aquino III issued Administrative Order No. 9 in recognition of their service and sacrifices for the nation.

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A total of P20.87 billion was appropriated to fund the housing program of uniformed and military personnel from 2011 to 2015. 

Dubbed the AFP/PNP Housing Program, this catered to the housing needs of low-salaried uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and later on included the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Six years after the program was implemented, Ejercito noted very few have actually availed of these housing units.

According to the NHA, only 8,837 housing units or 14 percent of the 63,836 completed units have been occupied as of July 31, 2017.

“As your chairman of the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement, I had conducted several hearings and site inspections. It is with a heavy heart that I learned that after almost six years, an alarming total of 54, 999 units or 86 percent of the completed units remain unoccupied,” Ejercito said in his sponsorship speech.

The poor availment of the housing units was due to a lack of basic services such as running water and electricity, as well as the absence of proper consultation with the intended beneficiaries.

Ejercito said the size of the houses have a lot area of 18 to 22 square meters while the floor area is only seven square meters.

“The salaries of the uniformed personnel could well afford two to six times the house built for them. Sadly, this was not considered,” Ejercito said.

“The housing sites also lack basic services such as water and electricity. This perennial problem in all of our housing and resettlement sites stem from improper site selection. There is difficulty of installing connections of water and power because the sites are located in far flung areas. Likewise, there is either limited or no access at all to transportation links,” he added.

It was this situation that led to the illegal occupation of the housing units in Pandi, Bulacan by Kadamay, who argued that the homes were just being neglected and it was justifiable for homeless people like them to utilize them.

With the adoption of the joint resolution by Congress, Ejercito said, the NHA would have broader authority to award the shelters, not only to military and uniformed personnel, but also to low-salaried government employees and other qualified beneficiaries, with priority given to the lower 30 percent income earners.

“Every single housing unit is important to this government. Most especially now that there is a growing number of homeless families that we need to relocate and resettle. It is our sworn duty and responsibility to account for every single housing unit that this government built,” Ejercito said.

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