Senators hit 70% cut in housing budget

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SENATORS Franklin Drilon and Joseph Victor Ejercito on Tuesday deplored the 70% reduction in the proposed budget of the housing sector next year—from P15.3 billion in 2017 to P4.5 billion in 2018.

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Drilon and Ejercito aired their concerns during the plenary discussion on the budget of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the National Housing Authority (NHA).

“This is a criminal neglect, because the housing sector plays a very important role in our society. First and foremost, it addresses a social problem, which is the lack of housing,” Drilon said in a chance interview after Ejercito sponsored the HUDCC’s budget.

Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, said the budget for the housing sector had been decreasing every year.

“In fact for the last 10 years, the 2018 appropriation is the lowest budget that the housing sector will receive. It only amounts to 0.12 percent of the national budget,” he said.

“This will not address the current state of our housing sector considering that our housing backlog is already pegged at 1.2 million immediately and will increase by about 6.7 million in 2022,” Ejercito said.

He added: “Unfortunately, the housing agencies, especially the NHA has no absorptive capacity due to the low implementation of the housing projects. This can be attributed to the tedious process of land acquisition, licensing by local government units (LGUs), urban planning and unclear LGU rules as well as the policies of the national government.”

Ejercito said the old NHA budget allowed it to produce 172,000 units yearly. The proposed P2-billion budget for NHA in 2018 would only be enough to construct 2,000 units. NHA’s 2017 budget was P6 billion.

“With that kind of a backlog, why are we not providing enough resources to our housing sector?” Drilon asked.

“From the social point of view, housing is very important. From the economic point of view, it is very beneficial. That is why we are proposing to revert to the present 2017 level the budget (of the housing sector),” he added.

Drilon said there were many “unproductive portions” in the proposed P3.7 trillion 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), such as the P2 billion allocated for intelligence funds, which could be re-aligned to housing programs.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara reiterated the need to immediately pass the Senate bill establishing the Department of Housing.

“Many have complained that it is so difficult to get all the approvals for the developers. We should think of ourselves as not just building houses but we’re actually building communities of actual people,” Angara said.

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