Bulacan housing payments drop after Kadamay takeover
BULACAN, Philippines – The National Housing Authority in Region 3 has reported a steep drop in collections from a government housing site in Bulacan, following the takeover of members of urban poor group Kadamay there.
NHA Region 3 Head Engineer Romuel Alimbuyao made the report to lawmakers on Tuesday, April 25, after they inspected the government housing site in Pandi, Bulacan, where thousands of idle housing units now belong to Kadamay members.
Alimbuyao estimated a "50% drop" in collections in March, after the so-called "Occupy Kadamay" began on March 8. (READ: Occupy Bulacan: How the urban homeless won shelter)
He told lawmakers led by Senator Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban development, housing, and resettlement, that there were residents in the area who did not want to pay the P200-monthly fee since the Kadamay members were not paying anything.
"The collection starting March, humina po dahil sinasabi na iyong Kadamay ay libre, bakit dila magbabayad (it dropped because others are saying that Kadamay is living there for free, so why should they pay)," Alimbuyao told lawmakers who visited Bulacan on Tuesday morning.
With Ejercito were his House counterpart, Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez, and other lawmakers. They visited the Kadamay-occupied sites as part of their investigation on the problems of the housing sector.
After hearing the NHA report, Ejercito remarked that the continued call to award the units for free would lead to the "collapse" of the socialized housing sector.
"It may even cause the collapse of the socialized housing industry....Kailangan maipaliwanag sa mga kasamahan sa Kadamay na hindi puwedeng libre (We have to explain to members of Kadamay that it can't be for free)," he said.
Making ends meet
Not all Kadamay members living in the site want absolutely free housing. Some of those who occupied Pandi Heights, one of two sites intended for the police and the military in Bulacan, try to make ends meet by setting up small stores or sacrificing time with the family to live and work in the city.
The family of Kadamay member Jennelyn Candona does both. She tends a halo-halo stand at home while looking after her two children. Her husband remains in Caloocan City for work, to cut on travel time and expenses.
She said she would like her husband to find work near their new home so they can be together, but for now, they would have to continue with their arrangement.
Asked about paying for the unit they had forcibly occupied, she said: "Kung magbayad naman po, [basta] mas mababa lang. Kesa naman po magbayad kami sa Maynila. Dalawang libo, P3,000, P1,500. Dito, P200 land, mas makakatipid po kami."
(If we have to pay, as long as it is at a low rate. It's better than in Manila where we pay P2,000, P3,000, P1,500. Here, it's just P200, we can save more.)
The urban poor group has been criticized for being "free loaders" as they want absolutely free public housing, but there are those who, like Candona, are willing to pay for as long the rate is affordable.
Sveral Kadamay residents in Pandi have also set up their own small stores to earn money and augment their income. There are also those who still travel to Metro Manila every day to continue the work they had prior to the occupy movement.
Cora Dichosa, 58, wakes up before dawn to go to the Balintawak Market and sell vegetables in a talipapa (small market) in Caloocan where she originally came from.
"Fifty-eight na ako eh. Magtiyaga na lang ako magtinda kaysa aasa ka kahit kanino. Mahirap umasa kahit sa sarili mong anak (I'm already 58 years old but I will strive to sell rather than depend on anyone else. It's hard to depend on others, even on your children)," she said.
Like Candona, Dichosa said she was willing to pay for as long as the rates are reasonable. This was better, she said, compared to living in a friend's house or having a rental in Manila.
"Kung may upa dito, sa tamang halaga lang hanggang magkaroon ka ng bahay
(If we have to pay rent here, we hope it is at an affordable rate until we can own the house)," she said.
During the briefing in Pandi, the lawmakers agreed on the need for a "sweat-for-work" program for the Kadamay beneficiaries so they can have the means to pay for their houses.
Benitez explained that the members can work for the government, and in exchange, their labor will serve as payment for their monthly amortization.
He also raised the idea of working in their own resettlement sites to be able to pay their dues.
"Puwedeng sila maglilinis doon, sila magtatayo ng water system (They can clean there, build the water system), [as payment for the house]," Benitez said.
Pandi Mayor Celestino Marquez said accepting the thousands of Kadamay members is a challenge for his government, which has a limited internal revenue allotment.
This prompted the official to seek the help of the lawmakers in generating more jobs for his second class municipality.
"Our IRA is only for a population of 50,000. Now we have [20,000] additional so it's really not enough," he said in Filipino.
Marquez said Pandi needs support for better road accessibility to make the town attractive to potential investors. – Rappler.com