FORMER Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando criticized Vice President and housing czar Noli De Castro for his alleged failure to address the lack of adequate housing for the poor, especially the informal settlers.

Fernando said despite his efforts, De Castro, who headed the National Housing Urban Regulatory Board, failed to address the problem brought by the lack of decent housing for informal settlers particularly those living in areas classified as “danger zones” such as along waterways.

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He said that the housing problem was confounded by the wrong measures taken by the government to resolve the problem adding that instead of relocation to neighboring provinces, it would have been better if there is “in-city relocation” for informal settlers.

“Dadalhin natin sa labas ng Metro Manila ang mga informal settlers pero babalik din makalipas ang ilang panahon dahil sa nandito ang kanilang trabaho at leisures, kaya dapat na irelocate na lamang sila with in the city,” Fernando said.

Moreover, Fernando said relocating the squatters to neighboring areas brought resentment from residents leading to squabbling.

He added that the housing problem can be solved through the construction of low-cost medium-rise building that can be rented by informal settlers.

"Kailangan nating magtayo ng mga medium rise housing para ilagay ang mga squatters na kanilang uupahan sa loob ng 25 years at sakaling magkaroon ng ‘congestion’ dahil sa paglaki ng populasyon ay gagawin nang ‘high rise housing o condominium'," he added.

During his term as MMDA chairman, Fernando also made the same call adding that local government units should take the lead.

Earlier, current MMDA Chairman Oscar Inocentes said the agency will tap the Department of Justice (DOJ) instead of the local government units (LGUs) in filing cases against professional squatters and squatting syndicates operating in the metropolis.

The agency said this is one of the measures taken to address the problem brought by professional squatters who take away much-needed housing by posing as qualified beneficiaries of the government housing program.

The MMDA said the number of informal settlers in 2009 had ballooned to 517,175 families based on the submitted list by 13 out of 17 LGUs in Metro Manila.

Out Of the 517,175 informal settlers, the biggest chunk, 232,123 families were living in government owned lands, 173,536 families from private-owned lands, 81,628 families from danger areas, 16,890 from areas for priority development, and 11,866 families from areas affected by government priority projects.

The figure could swell, the MMDA admitted once the updated figures from the rest of the LGU are passed to the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee on Informal Settlers (MMIAC).

The MMIAC is composed of the MMDA as the lead agency, the National Housing Authority as vice chair, and other member agencies such as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government, Caritas Manila Housing Ministry, National Urban Poor Sectoral Council, and other agencies attached to the Office of the President.

MMIAC is the creation of the Executive Order 803 signed by President Arroyo on May 21, 2009 to carryout housing and resettlement of homeless citizens. (AH/Sunnex)