Various urban poor organizations, CSOs, the legislative department, and key shelter agencies have pledged to jointly confront challenges in the country’s urban housing program.
The commitment was made during the “Housing Justice: Dialogues on Housing for the Urban Poor,” organized by Habitat for Humanity Philippines in collaboration with Joly Homes Foundation (JHF) and the Office of Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, Chair of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development.
Representatives from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor sat down with civil society organizations and people’s organizations representing at least 100 urban poor communities for an intensive dialogue about housing issues faced by informal settler families (ISFs) and families in relocation areas.
In the dialogue, Madeline Suarez, President of the Alliance of People’s Organizations along Manggahan Floodway emphasized challenges confronting urban poor communities, such as insecure housing tenure, demolition threats, displacement from disasters, and insufficient social preparation in relocation sites, notably in terms of livelihood and basic services availability.
The urban poor groups, composed of the Homeowners Association (HOA) Resettlement Alliance, Kilos Maralita, Philippine Alliance, Koalisyon ng Organisadong Samahan ng mga Maralitang Tagalungsod, and Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya also argued that the government’s Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino (4PH) Program is not financially viable for them due to the unaffordable monthly amortization.
“Napakalimitado ang oportunidad na naibibigay sa mga NGOs at people’s organizations para maging kabahagi sa pagbalangkas ng 4PH program at makapagbigay ng kanilang mga rekomendasyon,” Suarez said.
They urged DHSUD to consider alternative affordable housing models instead of solely focusing on 4PH, adopt a people’s plan approach for all government housing projects, and enactment of a law that will strictly observe the process of demolitions and evictions to protect the rights of ISFs.
Grace Caballero of the HOA Resettlement Alliance, for its part, lamented that most of the relocation sites lack power supply and a sufficient source of potable water, which are distant from their places of work, schools, and hospitals. Furthermore, these sites need more facilities and sufficient basic and social services, and they suffer from frequent flooding incidents.
“Sa pananaw ng mga relocatees, sapat nang kabayaran ang naranasang paghihirap para sa bahay at lupa,” she added.
In response to concerns raised by urban poor groups, Benitez stated that the House of Representatives has approved on the third and final reading the measure that aims to establish a local government resettlement program for ISFs, offering on-site, in-city, near-city, or off-city options.
“Naka-institutionalize sa on-site in-city bill iyong mga hinihingi ng ating mga kapatid na urban poor, kabilang ang people’s plan, resettlement action plan at pagpapalakas sa papel ng LGUs,” said Benitez, who committed to spearheading the Committee on Housing and Urban Development’s efforts to revisit the Code of Conduct on demolitions and relocations.
For its part, the DHSUD affirmed its commitment to considering the perspectives of grassroots and civil society groups, particularly in making 4PH more affordable and impactful for ISFs.
“The agency is doing everything it can to make the 4PH program more affordable for poor families and how they can avail of housing loans from concerned government agencies,” said DHSUD Director Mark Sambar, mentioning that Secretary Jerry Acuzar prioritizes the concerns of urban poor groups and fully supports the proposed on-site, in-city measure in Congress.
Highlighting the global Home Equals advocacy campaign, Habitat Philippines expressed its gratitude for the transparent and active engagement of the participants in the dialogue. This contributes to the true inclusion and empowered participation of communities in decision-making, which is one of the crucial aspects of Habitat for Humanity’s advocacy.
An advocate for community mobilization and empowerment, JHF aims to create safe spaces for dialogues, emphasizing the unique voice of the unheard in development planning. Through the Housing Justice dialogue, urban poor representatives were given a platform to be more involved in discussions concerning their welfare.
Meanwhile, another advocacy-related event was organized by the Hilti Foundation, Habitat for Humanity Philippines, and Base Bahay Foundation, highlighting the use of the Cement-Bamboo Frame Technology (CBFT) for socialized housing projects.
In line with Habitat’s advocacy to promote shelter innovation and integrate disaster resilience in house construction, the tour at the Base Innovation Center in Makati City gathered lawmakers and their representatives to see firsthand the use of bamboo as an innovative and sustainable construction material.
Luis Felipe Lopez, BASE Head of Technology and Director of the Base Innovation Center, underscored the different benefits of CBFT on housing projects, noting it can withstand various natural calamities and help address climate change.
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