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‘Lack of funds spells doom for Marcos’ housing program’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
âLack of funds spells doom for Marcosâ housing programâ
Housing Secretary Jose Acuzar told the Senate finance subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, that the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) sought an allocation of P95 billion for next year to deliver on Marcos’ promise.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos’ goal to build a million houses per year and wipe out the country’s housing backlog at the end of his term may be untenable due to an acute lack of funds supporting the sector, his officials told the Senate yesterday.

Housing Secretary Jose Acuzar told the Senate finance subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, that the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) sought an allocation of P95 billion for next year to deliver on Marcos’ promise.

However, the Department of Budget and Management allowed only P3.95 billion or four percent of the amount requested and about half of the agency’s budget this year of P7.61 billion, said Acuzar.

Given the situation, housing officials bewailed that not only will plans to wipe out the backlog of six million housing units be derailed, but the administration may also face numerous lawsuits from developers for failure to pay its debts and other contractual violations.

“The country’s ability to address the housing problem to attain its goal is limited to the budget allocated by the housing agencies,” Acuzar said, adding that the allocation for public housing has averaged only less than one percent of the national budget in the past 10 years.

That budget is enough to build only about 130,000 shelters annually so he warned that unless sufficiently funded, the DHSUD would have the 6.5 million housing backlog ballooning to 10.9 million by 2028.

“Housing greatly improves the quality of life for our people and also plays an important role in safeguarding the health of our citizens during the pandemic, especially for vulnerable households living in highly dense communities,” Acuzar said.

He said the sector has “solid impact” on the socioeconomic life of Filipinos as the housing and real estate industry is a major pump primer due to more than 80 allied industries attached to activities of the housing sector.?

“Given the economic and social contribution of housing, it is imperative that government elevate the human settlement urban development program as… a key platform for poverty alleviation,” he said.

NHA owes P36 billion

National Housing Authority general manager Joeben Tai told the committee that the NHA needs an additional P36 billion for 2023 to pay what the agency owes in shelter projects obligated three to five years ago.

However, the NHA was allocated only P2 billion next year for the provision, Tai said.“We will only continue to proceed with projects worth P2 billion,” the official said upon questioning by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.He said the amount of payables for all housing contracts is P36 billion.?“You will be violating your contracts next year?” Pimentel asked, to which Tai replied: “Yes.”When asked about the penalties to be faced by the NHA when this happens, the official said the agency is “trying to terminate contracts.” Pimentel noted the “enormity” of the NHA’s problems given the agency’s committed expense.

“Next year could be painful for you if there will be lawsuits,” the senator said.

“I’m expected to fix our problem by the President,” Tai replied.

FERDINAND MARCOS

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