Use ‘pork’ for more housing

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Sunday, February 17, 2013


CEBU CITY -- Urban poor families in Cebu City want aspiring senators and congressmen to allocate funds, if they win, to buy lots where the poor can build permanent homes.

Some urban poor groups submitted Saturday a four-page covenant for decent and affordable housing to Liberal Party (LP) candidate Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, a first cousin of President Benigno Aquino III, during his visit in the city.

The same covenant will be given to other politicians running for office on May 13.

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It asks the candidates to set aside one to three percent of their Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel, if they win, to purchase lots for the urban poor.

A portion, they said, can also be used for housing programs and livelihood.

Sought for comment, Aquino said he cannot promise anything yet, but that he is in favor of the idea.

Every year, a senator gets P200 million in project funds and each member of the House of Representatives gets P70 million.

Aside from seeking funds, the urban poor families enumerated 19 other concerns they want to be addressed by the aspiring lawmakers once they are elected.

This includes conducting an inventory of idle government lands and identifying other sites for socialized and low-cost housing; conducting an inventory of non-irrigable lands, including friar lands, for development as sustainable communities; and setting better standards to ensure the construction of high-quality and affordable housing units.

Also on their list is the reduction of red tape in the processing of housing permits; free education and health services; civil society representation in policy-making bodies; fast-tracking the issuance of titles; and improving housing programs for overseas workers.

The rest are the creation of a new quasi-judicial court for urban poor housing cases; proper consultations and resettlement for urban poor dwellers subject for eviction; and a law that will require vertical housing developers to comply with balanced housing requirements.

Balanced housing refers to the requirement for developers to set aside part of their project cost or land area for low-cost housing.

One in every five families in the Philippines is considered poor. The National Statistical Coordination Board reported that as of 2009, 20.9 percent of all Filipino families were poor.

Aquino, in a gathering organized by Pagtambayayong Foundation Inc. on Saturday, did not sign the covenant submitted by the urban poor.

He, however, said he will study the matter.

“Gusto natin ng malinis, maganda at desenteng pamumuhay para sa ating mga kakabayan (We want clean, beautiful and decent shelter for
our fellow citizens). We will support the implementation of pro-poor laws and that is my assurance,” he said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2013.

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