Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today urged the National Housing Authority (NHA) to revisit its Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 256 to ensure that the residents of Northville and Southville resettlement areas are well-informed and are given enough time to comply with their contractual obligations.
In her opening statement read by Sen. JV Ejercito during the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement which he chairs, De Lima said NHA should take into consideration the economic and social conditions of its occupants before removing them from their housing units.
“Sa aking palagay, dapat ring pinaglalaanan ng gobyerno ang buhay at kabuhayan ng mga ‘beneficiaries’, para naman matulungan silang makarating sa estado ng pamumuhay na kakayanin nilang mabayaran ang kanilang mga obligasyon, at hindi na sila muling mawawalan ng tirahan,” she said.
Addressing the informal settler families’ (ISFs) claim that they were not given a copy of the contracts and were not fully informed of their contractual obligations, De Lima added, “if true, it would be the height of injustice that they be evicted for failing to comply with their contractual obligations which was not, in fact, fully disclosed to them.”
NHA’s MC No. 2506 defines illegal occupants as those whose contracts were cancelled due to arrearages of more than three months and those with contracts that matured or expired but who have not fully settled their obligations.
From 2005 to 2014, more than 600,000 informal settler families (ISFs) from Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna who were residing along railroad tracks were affected by the Northrail and Southrail projects.
These ISFs who have been relocated to 69 Northville and Southville resettlement areas of the NHA are now in danger of being evicted due to the NHA MC No. 2506 which removes occupants from their housing units.
Last Oct. 29, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 535 urging the Senate Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement Committee to look into the plight of the residents of Northville and Southville resettlement areas.
Under SR No. 353, De Lima noted that NHA has commissioned collection agencies and law firms to help the government in collecting arrears from the informal settler families without regard to their living conditions in the relocation sites.
The Senator from Bicol also said the government should provide opportunities to build communities and improve the lives of the so-called “beneficiaries” in relocation sites instead of worsening their living conditions.
“Ang mga pamilyang ito marahil ay mga ‘beneficiaries’ lamang sa papel at hindi sa katotohanan, dahil parang hindi naman nila totoo at lubos na nararamdaman ang tunay na banepisyo ng mga programa ng ating gobyerno,” she said.
“That, to me, is a huge problem, not just for the affected families themselves, or to the government agencies involved, but to every single taxpayer, to the national economy and, essentially, to the whole country. We are spending money, but using it so poorly that we always end up at square one, if not worse,” she added.
De Lima noted that the government, through the agencies led by the NHA, should not merely focus in the business of building houses but also in the business of nation-building.
“The work is not done by simply placing our citizens inside physical structures, i.e., houses, but by providing them the opportunity to start and make a home and, ultimately, a life. In the process, we are not just giving our people shelter, we are helping them become productive and engaged members of our communities,” she said.
De Lima said she hopes the hearing can bring about a positive resolution that will not only prevent the possible eviction of the occupants in the relocation site but will also improve their living conditions. (Press Release)