In a bid to swiftly respond to the infrastructure needs of the victims of the earthquake in Mindanao, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called for the realignment of the National Housing Authority’s (NHA) P3 billion worth of unspent funds from 2018 and before to housing and rehabilitation.
During the plenary deliberation of the 2020 budget of the government’s key shelter agencies, Hontiveros said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has made the assessment that the key shelter agencies, especially the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) have very low budget utilization rates.
Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance – Subcommittee “H,” which tackles the national budget for the housing sector next year, said that the DBM pointed to P3.0 billion that the NHA has yet to obligate in direct budgetary support for its operations from the previous years.
“We don’t want these funds to go stale, so it’s better that they be dedicated to the most urgent needs. Dahil sa pinsala na dulot ng lindol sa maraming panig sa Mindanao, maigi na maglaan ang gobyerno ng dagdag na pondo para sa pabahay at imprastrakturang rehabilitasyon ng mga kababayan natin sa Mindanao,” Hontiveros said.
“This is where the government should put flesh to its ‘build, build, build’ rhetoric. Maging modelo sana ang mga lugar na pininsala ng lindol ng makataong pabahay,” Hontiveros added.
“New and better ways of doing things”
Hontiveros also said that “new and better ways of doing things” should be seriously considered from hereon in order to increase the absorptive capacity of the housing sector. The Senator said that the Government should not limit its options when it comes to providing poor and homeless families with decent and affordable housing. “We should link up and identify possible partnerships with institutions both public and private which are willing and able to help our people,” she said.
Among those mentioned by Hontiveros as possible partners are local government units and private developers. Local governments have been formulating their Local Shelter Plans for years but they have not been matched with resources. She also noted that both the NHA and the PAG-IBIG or Home Development Mutual Fund have in fact entered into Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
“Handa na at naghihintay lang ang 300 na munisipyo,” the Senator said.
“Let’s see which partnerships work and are effective in allowing us to hit more of our housing targets. Successful ones should be scaled up and replicated in the long-term. Mahalaga ito para walang pera na natetengga na dapat ay napapakinabangan ng mamamayan, lalo na yung mga naghahanap ng maayos at makatarungang pabahay,” Hontiveros concluded.