By Francis Earl Cueto/Manila Times
About 55,000 houses built by the previous administration for government workers and poor families remain unoccupied, an official from the National Housing Authority (NHA) said.
NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada told radio station dzMM that the administration of President Benigno Aquino built a total of 72,000 housing units, but only 18,000 have been occupied.
The NHA official said the Aquino-era houses remained vacant because these were “poorly constructed, cramped and far-flung.” The agency is also addressing reports that some housing projects do not have electricity and water.
Escalada’s statement came a day after the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay stormed a housing project for soldiers and police in Rodriguez, Rizal, claiming these were unoccupied. The government also did not act on their demand for housing units, Kadamay claimed.
It was the second housing project stormed by Kadamay, after the group took over a housing project in Pandi, Bulacan last year. Last Tuesday, however, Kadamay failed to take over empty homes in Rodriguez.
Escalada said all houses in the area had been awarded to intended beneficiaries. These beneficiaries applied for socialised housing after the NHA allowed them to merge two units, he said.
Members of the Montalban Homeless Association, a chapter of Kadamay, stormed the La Solidaridad-Avilon Zoo housing project on Wednesday, in what housing officials said was an attempted takeover of vacant units at the site.
The group claimed that 700 members stormed the project, more than the police estimate of 100.
“That is practically a violation of law if and when Kadamay members will continue to occupy that without any authority at all,” Escalada said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had allowed Kadamay to remain in Pandi, and told uniformed men he would find another housing project for them.
On Thursday, an angry Duterte said he would no longer allow Kadamay members to have their way, and gave them until noon yesterday, to leave the Rodriguez NHA project.
Otherwise, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will apply the full force of the law to prevent members of the urban poor group from taking over government housing projects, he said in remarks in Santa Rosa, Laguna. Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr reiterated Duterte’s warning to the Kadamay group “that they cannot take the law into their own hands.”
“Well, in the past, the president allowed Kadamay to occupy government housing project intended for soldiers in Pandi. But if you will recall, the president said that would be the first and the last,” Roque said in a news conference.
Roque said the president also instructed the NHA “to explain why we have idle housing units and when they intend to give these housing units to the intended beneficiaries.”Kadamay said they only wanted to assert their rights to decent housing as stated in Joint Resolution 2 of Congress, signed by senators and congressmen on May 9.
The resolution gave the NHA 60 days to come up with implementing rules and regulations for the utilisation of idle houses.
The NHA said on Thursday it was considering filing a case against Kadamay.
“It is being studied already by our legal department because this is not the first time that they did this,” said Elsie Trinidad, NHA spokesman and resettlement and development services manager.
Trinidad said Kadamay members needed to go through an application and evaluation process before being awarded housing units. “(Kadamay0 will be part of the screening process which is also based on the Republic Act (RA) 7279 or the Urban Housing Development Act of 1992,” she said.
Under Section 16 of RA 7279, a beneficiary of the government’s socialised housing programme must be a Filipino and an “underprivileged or homeless citizen,” not owning any real property in the urban or rural areas, and must not be a professional squatter or a member of squatting syndicates.
Kadamay chief Gloria Arellano earlier said that even before the signing of Joint Resolution 2, Kadamay had applied for housing units, but were not given priority.
“Trinidad is making it seem like Kadamay is the one preventing the entire process when in fact the NHA has consistently ignored our demands,” Arellano earlier said.
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