The Senate adopted a joint resolution authorizing the National Housing Authority (NHA) to award the unoccupied and unawarded housing units of uniformed personnel to other qualified beneficiaries like the informal settlers, calamity victims, as well as middle income and low-salaried employees.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 8 was adopted with 17 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention. The resolution was introduced by Senators Joseph JV Ejercito and Loren Legarda.
A joint resolution, like a bill, requires the approval of both houses and the signature of the President. It has the force and effect of a law if approved. The House earlier approved the joint resolution and transmitted it to the Senate for adoption.
Ejercito said the NHA was mandated to build shelters for the military and police personnel through Administrative Order No. 9 issued in 2011 by then President Benigno Aquino III in recognition of their sacrifices “for putting their lives at risk to uphold the laws and maintain peace and order in the country.”
The legislator said the government appropriated P20.87 billion to fund the housing program of the uniformed and military personnel from 2011 to 2015. This program, called the AFP/PNP Housing Program, catered to the housing needs of the low-salaried uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and later on included the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
However, the lawmaker said, after six years of implementation of the AFP/PNP Housing Program, only a handful of the uniformed and military personnel had actually benefitted from the project.
The senator from San Juan cited an NHA report which showed that as of July 31, 2017, only 14 percent or 8,837 units of the total 63,836 completed units were actually occupied.
“As your chairman of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, I had conducted several hearings and site inspections. It is with a heavy heart that I learned that after almost six years, an alarming total of 54,999 units or 86 percent of the completed units remained unoccupied,” he said in his sponsorship speech.
Ejercito attributed the low occupancy rate to the constricted space of the housing units, lack of basic services such as water and electricity and lack of “proper consultation” with the intended beneficiaries.
“The housing unit size built for our uniformed personnel is only 18 to 22 square meters and the standard habitable space per person is seven square meters. The salaries of the uniformed personnel could well afford two to six times the house built for them. Sadly, this was not considered,” he said.
“The housing site also lack basic services such as water and electricity. This perennial problem in all of our housing and resettlement sites stem from improper site selection. There is difficulty of installing connections of water and power because the sites are located in far flung areas. Likewise, there is either limited or no access at all to transportation links,” Ejercito added.
With the joint resolution, he said, the NHA would have a broader authority to award the shelters, not only to military and uniformed personnel, but also to low-salaried government employees and other qualified beneficiaries with the priority to the lower 30 percent income earners.
Ejercito said housing units to be awarded to other qualified beneficiaries include 1. unawarded housing units; 2. awarded housing units that are not yet occupied and whose ownership and possession are surrendered by their respective awardees in favor of another unit in another housing project and 3. housing units whose respective awards were cancelled by reason of default in the payment of amortization or for any violation of the terms and conditions of the individual loan agreement in accordance with existing laws.
“Every single housing unit is important to this government. Most especially now that there is a growing number of homeless families that we need to relocate and resettle. It is our sworn duty and responsibility to account for every single housing unit that this government built,” he said.