Palace: P18,000 for informal settlers not for 2016 polls

Natashya Gutierrez
Malacañang defends Interior Secretary Mar Roxas from concerns that he's using the relocation fund for informal settlers to position for the 2016 presidential elections

RELOCATION. Earlier this year, the government announced its intention to relocate 100,000 informal settlers living along major waterways. AFP photo

MANILA, Philippines – A day after the government said it will offer P18,000 to each family to be relocated from along Metro Manila waterways, Malacañang asserted the distribution of the money has nothing to do with the Liberal Party’s plans for the 2016 presidential elections.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte defended Interior Secretary Mar Roxas from concerns that the 20,000 families who will receive money for relocation would view it as dole outs.

Roxas is largely expected to be the ruling Liberal Party’s presidential bet in 2016.

Additionally, President Benigno Aquino III unveiled the relocation project in 2011, but clearing the waterways is not estimated to finish anytime soon. Instead, it may be completed closer to 2016., Valte said.

Aquino has vowed to move 100,000 families by the time he steps down from office.

Valte said the delay in the relocation and the monetary assistance cannot be attributed to 2016 political plans.

“First of all, the law says we cannot relocate them if they have nowhere to go,” she said of the delay. “Secondly, this initiative is not just Secretary Roxas’. It did not start at Roxas’ time but at the time of Secretary [Jesse] Robredo, this was already being talked about.”

Roxas replaced Robredo, who died in a plane crash.

“And of course, everybody understands we cannot immediately build medium-rise structures. It took some time to plan and it took us a while to choose which communities [to relocate] whether in-city, near site or off-site,” she added.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) headed by Roxas is tasked to implement the relocation program to move families from danger zones. It is part of a flood control master plan to mitigate the country’s yearly massive flooding problem brought by typhoons.

Valte said the distribution of money is meant as incentive to illegal settlers to relocate more quickly and use it as startup in their new homes, or for house rental while the new areas are still under preparation. She said it was still being discussed whether the P18,000 would be given over the course six months or as a lump sum.

Valte also gave assurances it will be audited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ensure it was being used for the intended purposes.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has set aside P10 billion for the relocation project. The assistance funds will cost the government about P360 million. –

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