MANILA, Philippines – National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr said they are planning to give idle housing units to government employees and informal settlers.
"NHA is more than willing to negotiate and re-award the unoccupied housing units of AFP, PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police)," Escalada said on Tuesday, April 18, during a Senate hearing on idle housing units in Bulacan.
The NHA chief said they are looking into giving these houses to public school teachers, municipal and barangay employees, and informal settlers.
He also reiterated that these will not be given for free as all beneficiaries of the NHA have a monthly amortization to pay for the subsidized amount of the houses for 30 years. (READ: Why P600-a-month housing is still a burden to the poor)
Members of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), which occupied thousands of housing units in Pandi, Bulacan last month, are among the targeted beneficiaries. (READ: Occupy Bulacan: How the urban homeless won shelter)
To date, the NHA said there are around 55,124 unoccupied units out of the 66,184 units for the police and military in housing projects all over the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced he would give the cops' and soldiers' idle housing units to Kadamay.
Escalada, however, sought Congress' intervention to legalize the re-awarding of these housing units.
The General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2013 and 2014, which covered the project sites, specifically stated that the housing units are intended for qualified beneficiaries of the AFP and the PNP.
"[This is] so I won't be answerable again to the Commission on Audit and to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) because this has been part of the GAA," explained Escalada.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban development, housing, and resettlement, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez, committed to give Escalada this "legal cover."
"Iyong joint resolution, lahat ng mga unoccupied houses ng AFP, PNP, 55,000. We will give authority to NHA to redistribute it or re-award it to other beneficiaries. Hindi na sila limited sa AFP, PNP kasi do'n sa GAA ng 2013, 2014 very specific eh," said Benitez.
(The joint resolution will cover the 55,000 unoccupied houses for the AFP and the PNP. We will give authority to the NHA to redistribute it or re-award it to other beneficiaries – not limited to the AFP and the PNP – because what's contained in the GAA for 2013, 2014 is very specific.)
The two lawmakers said they will file a joint resolution when Congress resumes session in May. The joint resolution will be a faster way for the idle units to be distributed.
The Senate and the House will also conduct a joint congressional hearing in Pandi on April 25 to further discuss housing issues.
Kadamay members and other new beneficiaries are expected to be granted the houses after June 15, the deadline set by the NHA for cops and soldiers to occupy the houses they were granted.
Should the AFP and PNP personnel choose to forfeit the units, Escalada said they will be given new houses based on Duterte's orders but monthly amortization they have already settled will be credited. – Rappler.com