QUEZON CITY – Several lawmakers have expressed support to raising the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and its attached agencies’ 2021 budget for the housing sector to better fulfill its mandate.
During Wednesday’s budget hearing by the Senate’s Finance Subcommittee H chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros, Senator Francis Tolentino and Senator Cynthia Villar both manifested for an increased budget for the housing department to help DHSUD achieve its goal of providing more resilient, sustainable and affordable housing units to Filipinos, especially the underprivileged.
“The DHSUD budget just represents 0.08% of the total national budget,” Senator Tolentino stressed. It has been stressed over and over again that the first line of defense against COVID-19 is really your house. How can you have a lockdown if you don’t have a house of your own?” he said.
“How can we implement a massive national housing program if we don’t have a housing budget? So I really affirm and support earlier discussions that we really need more budget for DHSUD,” the Senator noted.
Senator Tolentino likewise suggested that all budgetary allocations spread out in several different departments be transferred and incorporated into DHSUD, a move which he described as “administratively logical.”
Senator Villar, on the other hand, also voiced her support to raising the 2021 budget for DHSUD, especially to the National Housing Authority, one of DHSUD’s key shelter agencies, to boost programs with regards to establishing relocation sites for informal settlers in the National Capital Region.
Senator Nancy Binay likewise expressed her full support to the initiative meant to increase the allotted budget for the housing sector. She lamented DHSUD’s low budgetary allocation.
“Parang nakakaawa naman ang budget nitong housing agency natin. For a newly created agency, kaya nga natin siya ginawa nang departamento para bigyang halaga at importansiya ang ahensiya, pero pag dating ata sa pondo eh mukhang naiwan at ang trato ay para pa rin siyang isang council,” the senator stressed.
“This agency is very close to my heart. As you all know, my father (former Vice-President Jejomar Binay) used to head this agency when he was the vice-president. During his term, umabot na sa one percent ang binibigay sa mga ahensiya. Ang nakakalungkot ngayon ay we are back to less than one percent,” she noted.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, meanwhile, emphasized the need for additional funding for the housing department especially as DHSUD, along with its key shelter agencies, intends to provide 130,000 socialized housing units and 58,000 low-cost housing units next year.
DHSUD, according to Senator Go, is also adamant on raising its financial assistance to socialized housing programs and increase the number of pre-developed or transformed slum communities and urban centers, hence the need for a higher budget allotment for the department.
“The need for proper and adequate housing cannot be overemphasized. I have witnessed first-hand the situation of our countrymen,” noted the Senator, stressing that granting more funds to the housing department will be a significant step to fulfilling President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s goal of providing shelter to each Filipino family, especially those from low-income groups.
The Department of Budget and Management had only recommended a budget of PHP3.68 billion for the housing sector. The amount represents just 5.17 percent of the PHP77-billion budget that DHSUD was hoping to acquire for its projects and programs for next year.
DHSUD Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario had stated that such a low budget allocation will definitely have an adverse impact on the department’s operations for 2021. According to the housing czar, DHSUD will also require additional funding to accommodate an expected rise in terms of hiring employees, establishing one-stop processing centers for housing concerns and boost the department’s anti-COVID-19 response. (30)