Examining NHA and its low-cost housing projects
Last week, social media went amok over a video showing congressmen and National Housing Authority (NHA) officials plunging into muddy water after the wooden footbridge they were on collapsed.
They were inspecting the resettlement site for victims of the Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Barangay Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City.
“This was the first time in my search for substandard projects that I encountered such bad experience,” said Negros Occidental Rep. Abelardo Benitez, who also serves as chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Housing and Urban Development.
“We will hold people accountable and we have to address safety. They were spared by the calamity, the human disaster only to be victims of poor housing design and materials,” said Benitez, who was one of the victims of the collapsing footbridge.
According to Barangay Rio Hondo chairperson Rasdie Mukarram, the NHA had been ignoring the barangay officials’ complaints about the relocation site. In an interview with the Inquirer, Mukarram said: “To our leaders, you saw how these NHA officials fooled our people by putting up poor materials in our housing project. I am sad that it happened to them but this poor work will never be addressed if we only used our own voices.”
Built in 2016, the wooden footbridge formed part of the low-cost housing projects by the NHA. Its construction cost P12 million, sparking the Committee on Housing and Urban Development’s interest to launch a probe into said resettlement site.
The NHA’s implementation of low-cost housing projects is in accordance with the State’s constitutional mandate to establish, maintain, and ensure adequate social services in the field of housing to guarantee the enjoyment of the people of a decent standard living.
The NHA’s duties under Presidential Decree No. 757 are as follows: (a) to provide and maintain adequate housing for the greatest possible number of people; (b) to undertake housing, development, resettlement or other activities as would enhance the provision housing to every Filipino; and (c) to harness and promote private participation in housing ventures in terms of capital expenditures, land expertise, financing and other facilities for the sustained growth of the housing industry.
Among NHA’s powers is to develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated housing program which shall embrace, among others, housing development and resettlement, sources and schemes of financing, and delineation of government and private sector participation.
Likewise, the NHA shall determine, establish, and maintain the most feasible and effective program for the management or disposition of specific housing or resettlement projects undertaken by it.
Unless otherwise decided by its board of directors, completed housing or resettlement projects shall be managed and administered by the NHA.
Among NHA’s projects are its resettlement and sites and services programs, which involve acquisition and development of large tracts of raw land into service lots or housing units for: (a) families displaced from sites earmarked for government infrastructure projects and those occupying danger areas; or (b) informal settlement, immigration and population growth.
Some of the NHA’s housing projects have become the subject of controversy, however.
Aside from the collapse of the wooden footbridge in Barangay Rio Hondo, the NHA was criticized for its permanent housing program for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
In another report by the Inquirer, while the relocation efforts of victims in Tacloban, Leyte, continues to be successful, the situation is deplorable in other provinces in the Visayan region. In northern Cebu, for instance, only 188 of the targeted 22,423 housing units are ready for occupancy and 108 of these are being occupied.
Other units cannot be occupied because of, among others, their slow construction and the lack of utilities.
Moreover, the NHA and members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) are embroiled in an ongoing conflict, in which the latter have been residing without authorization in housing units in Pandi, Bulacan, originally built for police and military personnel.
Meanwhile, the NHA was accused of supposedly framing certain members of Kadamay of selling the unoccupied housing units in said area.
Nevertheless, the NHA remains committed in providing safe, affordable and innovative housing units for the public.
The “new NHA,” as referred to by its general manager, Marcelino P. Escalada, Jr., is focused on policy developments geared to fast-track housing delivery for the Filipino people, as well as due diligence, transparency, accountability of its personnel and strict policy implementation toward termination of developers, filing legal cases to housing sellers and buyers.
Said Escalada: “It’s not impossible to build quality. In fact, we are already doing it right now.”
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