By Ben Rosario
As threats of more destructive natural disasters mount, the chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development has underscored the need for government and private housing developers to locate their projects away from geo-hazards, particularly earthquake fault systems.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum 6, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo (Albee) Benitez aired this call as he strongly pushed for the prioritization of a housing and urban development legislative agenda that would address the huge housing backlog that could balloon from two million to 6.6 million when the country elects its next president in 2022.
Benitez said the housing problem in the country is no longer a “monopoly of the poor,” adding that aside from building new houses, making the structure safe should also be included in the housing development plan.
“And beyond providing housing, we need to ensure that the housing units will be built in locations safe from geo-hazards and they will withstand the test of natural disasters,” he stated.
Benitez said : “To that end, we should harness technological and engineering innovations that will buttress the quality of the housing structure.”
He lamented that while government responded to the worsening shelter problem, it has focused on “off-city relocation” which showed “discouraging” results.
“Some families, met with limited choices in resettlement sites, return to Manila and rebuild their homes, Solonthus worsening our problem with informal settlements,” said Benitez, whose father was the late human settlements and urban development czar Conrado Benitez.
The House housing and urban development panel has approved House Bill 5347, a bill authored by Benitez that provides for “on-site, in-city or near-city housing”.
However, Benitez said the high cost of building in-city housing projects is expected to serve as one of the biggest setbacks in implementing the measure.
To address this, Benitez batted for the allocation to mass housing of government’s 3,419 hectares of land in Metro Manila, saying that this could “be more than enough for housing for the urban poor.”
“We will unlock more government lands if we transfer government offices outside Metro Manila as a way to decongest the metro and decentralize development,” he stressed.
Benitez is confident that the bill creating the Department of Human Settlements will be enacted soon, saying that the agency will undertake long-term urban planning and will lead the full implementation of the housing programs.
Lower House and Senate versions of the bill are undergoing “refinements” by their respective technical working groups
Benitez explained that the creation of the new agency represents a strong governance structure that “will create and sustain an enabling environment for different stakeholders to work together.”
“The creation of this Department reflects the government’s seriousness in giving priority to its mandate to provide access to affordable and decent shelter to its citizens,” he said.
Tags: Benitez, destructive natural disasters, government lands, House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, housing development plan, private housing developers, Solon alerts nation on housing backlog