MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed alarm over the huge decline in the 2018 budget for the housing sector – from P15.3 billion in 2017 down to P4.5 billion – calling it "criminal neglect."
Drilon proposed that the 2017 budget of the sector be restored for next year, saying the additional allocation could be drawn from the multibillion-peso intelligence funds of the administration.
He also warned that the existing 1.2-million housing backlog this year could balloon to 6 million by 2022, if not addressed.
"This is criminal neglect, because the housing sector plays a very important role in our society... With that kind of a backlog, why are we not providing enough resources to our housing sector?" Drilon told reporters in an interview on Tuesday, October 10, on the sidelines of the Senate deliberations on the proposed budget of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
Drilon said the government should prioritize the housing sector because it has a "multiplier effect" on the economy.
"Remember, ang sabi nga nila ay may multiplier effect ito. Sa bawat piso na gagastusin sa pabahay, P7 ang balik nito sa ekonomiya na ang ibig sabihin ay maraming na-generate na economic activities (Remember, they said this has a multiplier effect. For every peso spent on housing, P7 is returned to the economy, meaning it generates many economic activities)," he said.
"From the social point of view, housing is very important. From the economic point of view, it is very beneficial," he added.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, who sponsored the budget of the HUDCC, shares the same view.
"If we do not address that, 172,000 lang ang production eh. So at the rate we are going, we won't be able to address the backlog. It will create more social problems. Sana ma-retain lang 'yung last year's budget," Ejercito said.
(If we do not address that, our production would only be 172,000. So at the rate we are going, we won't be able to address the backlog. It will create more social problems. I just hope last year's budget will be retained.)
Aside from the HUDCC, other housing agencies include the Social Housing Finance Corporation, National Housing Authority, Home Guaranty Corporation, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation, and Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board.
Slash intel funds for housing
Drilon said the intelligence funds of the government, amounting to billions of pesos, could be the source of the additional allocation for the housing sector.
"That is why we are proposing na ibalik natin sa present 2017 level ang budget. Maraming unproductive portions ang ating budget – halimbawa 'yung intelligence funds. Ilang bilyon iyon? Importante ang intelligence gathering, pero gano'n ba kalaki ang pangangailangan natin? I repeat, [the] intelligence fund is a non-productive item in the budget kasi walang multiplier effect iyan," said the Senate Minority Leader.
(That is why we are proposing that the budget be restored to its 2017 level. Our budget has very unproductive portions – for example, the intelligence funds. How many billions do we spend on intelligence? Intelligence gathering is important but do we really need that much? I repeat, the intelligence fund is a non-productive item in the budget because it has no multiplier effect.)
Drilon vowed to fight for the housing sector's budget, but said it is ultimately up to the Senate majority to make it happen.
The Office of the President has proposed P1.25 billion each for confidential and intelligence expenses.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is eyeing P969 million in intelligence funds, while the Department of National Defense (DND) would get nearly P2 billion in intelligence funds for 2018.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org