MANILA, Philippines – The National Housing Authority (NHA) on Tuesday, April 18, gave military and police beneficiaries until June 15 to occupy the housing units that were awarded to them.
NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr told the Senate urban development, housing, and resettlement committee that failure to do so would prompt the government to turn over these housing units to urban poor families.
Escalada made the statement in response to Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, committee chairman, who asked about the housing units for the police and the military that remain idle.
“We have finally set a deadline of May 30 to June 15 for the occupancy. Whether or not the [beneficiaries] would want to occupy them, if they are not occupied after June 15, we might as well give it to Kadamay,” said Escalada, referring to the urban poor group that occupied part of an idle government housing site in Bulacan in March.
He also said the NHA is eyeing other beneficiaries such as public school teachers, barangay officials, and informal settlers.
Some 55,124 public housing units for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel have remained unoccupied for the last 5 years.
This prompted urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) to forcibly take over idle government housing in Bulacan last month. Two of these sites are intended for AFP and PNP beneficiaries. (READ: Occupy Bulacan: How the urban homeless won shelter)
President Rodrigo Duterte himself allowed Kadamay to take over the idle housing units but later said it would be the last.
During the hearing, the NHA chief clarified that only the AFP and PNP housing sites will be covered by Duterte’s marching order, or two out of the 7 Kadamay-occupied sites.
“The 5 [remaining] sites are non-negotiable units for qualified beneficiaries living near waterways and danger areas,” he explained.
Escalada said the NHA completed the validation of Kadamay members for the distribution of units in Bulacan. They will be subject to cross-validatation to ensure that they are not beneficiaries of other housing units.
During the hearing, Ejercito cited data from the NHA that as of 2016, the occupancy rate of the housing sites for cops and soldiers was just at 13%.
Police Superintendent Antonio Taylan, the PNP representative at the hearing, said the housing projects were not ideally located and that the units were too small. Each unit measures 18 to 22 square meters.
Lieutenant Colonel Vilorna Cabral, the AFP representative, said the AFP was not consulted during the planning stage.
During the hearing, Escalada admitted that the planning and construction of the housing units were a failure.
He said he had submitted to the President a proposal for improvements in future sites, such as building in-city low-rise buildings rather than row houses, with a unit space of 40 to 80 square meters.
Duterte had earlier promised better houses for the police and the military to make up for the houses that had been occupied by and would be awarded to Kadamay members. – Rappler.com