All LGUs have one common problem: Informal settlers (Features)

March 8, 2010 11:57 pm 

By Roger M. Balanza

DAVAO CITY, March 8 — All local government units (LGUs) have one common problem: informal settlers.

In highly urbanized LGUs like Davao City, the number of informal settlers grows annually due to migration by people seeking better opportunities.

Also spread out around the city are old settlements on private lands working out purchase plans with owners that could not be speedily pursued due to fund lack.

While anti-squatting laws are in place to prevent illegal occupation of private and government lands by informal settlers, the spirit of humanity, sometimes, bind LGU hands from enforcing an iron-fisted policy.

Good urban land reform planning however is seen as a long-term solution to urban squatting.

In Davao City, housing planners map out multi-pronged approaches to respond to relocation, funding source and creation of sustainable communities for thousands of informal settlers.

On top of this grand plan to make Davao City squatter-free is the Local Housing Board, chaired by Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Armed with the Davao City Shelter Code, the landmark legislation authored by City Councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, the Local Housing Board identifies on-site and off-site settlements, approves funding for land purchase and guides the implementation of socialized housing projects. The Local Housing Board also interacts with key national government housing agencies to collaborate on implementation of housing projects.

With Vice Mayor Sara Z. Duterte at the Davao City Council providing a guiding hand to support legislation strengthening socialized housing programs, the Davao City government is on the right track towards providing long-term solution to housing for the city’s thousands of homeless urban poor.

The Urban Land Reform Program (ULRP) has been strengthened lately with the participation of the Socialized Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), which would absorb about 75 percent of cost of land purchase of local government socialized housing projects.

The SHFC funding initiative under its Localized Community Mortgage Plan (LCMP) would quadruple the capability of the local government's P100 million stand-by housing fund to serve more informal settlers and other qualified sectors.

Flagship projects

About 40 hectares of property where there was supposed to rise an export processing zone in the early 90’s — for two decades a wide piece of abandoned land — has been turned into a settlement for thousands of homeless urban poor dwellers here.

Failing to take off after initial road works and several buildings and much fanfare, the First Oriental Ventures project on the 70-hectare property in Barangay Ilang, Bunawan District crashed even as it was touted as Davao City’s window to the world export market.

But while the city lost its chance to be in the map of the country’s export processing zones, the First Oriental Ventures’ failure has come as a gift to indigent homeless families looking for a roof over their heads in this city of 1.4 million where acute housing is social problem.

The First Oriental Ventures property had been foreclosed by the banks after the company closed down and abandoned the project.

Today, this piece of grasslands could serve as model for the city’s ULRP.

About 12 homeowners associations under the umbrella of the Kobbler Federation — a non-government organization of urban poor associations — has been born on the site.

The Philippine Deposit Insurance Commission (PDIC), the Fareast Bank and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), who collectively own the property worth about P60 million, through their joint Asset Privatization Committee, has already issued intent to sell the property to the settlers numbering around 3,000 families after negotiation by Cabling.

Worth about P60 to P70 million, the property has now more than 3,000 families settled on the site which could own their lots under the Localized Community Mortgage Program (LCMP). A program of the state-owned Socialized Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), it allows for purchase of settlement site with SHFC pitching in 75 percent of the cost and the local government the remaining 25 percent. Beneficiaries pay amortizations on a long-term contract, with the local government handling collection. Massive purchases

Of late, the Davao City Council approved purchase by City Hall of three properties of about six hectares worth P14 million for on-site urban poor settlers.

The associations to benefit from the fund under the city’s ULRP are the Kahayag Homeowner’s Association, Inc. located in Barangay Indangan, Buhangin (P3,492.250);Small Communal Homeowners Association, Inc. (SCHOAI), in Ula, Tugbok District (P6,311,000); and New Kasilak Homeowner’s Association, Inc. in Barangay Mahayag, Bunawan District (P5,000,000).

Three large informal settlers’ associations in Davao City are leading the way in Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s vision to make his city squatter-free.

Cabling has finalized negotiations with owners of properties occupied by South and North San Juan villages in Agdao, Sasa-Panacan homeowners association and Kobbler housing in Barangay Ilang for purchase of the properties for distribution to about 3,000 families.

The land buying spree would also be pursued through LCMP of the state-owned SHFC which would chip in about 75 percent of purchase price, with the local government sharing 25 percent.

The six-hectare South and North San Juan property of Mr. Chua involves around 1,000 families, while the Sapaha property of six hectares of Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy also has the same number. The banks-owned Kobbler area of about 30 hectares, site of the defunct Oriental Ventures export zone project, has around 3,000 families of about 9,000 members.

Teachers’ Village

Last month, Department of Education Undersecretary (DepEd) Ramon Bacani said DepEd would make as a model the Davao City government project providing housing to public school teachers and non-teaching personnel.

This developed as top guns from the government’s key housing agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Davao City government that would provide housing to about 250 homeless public school teachers and non-teaching personnel in the city.

Bacani attended the signing of the P100 million project in behalf of Secretary Jesli Lapuz.

He said he would look into how the Davao City project could be replicated nationwide to benefit teachers throughout the country.

Groundbreaking ceremony was also held for the two-hectare project in Lasang — the country’s first ever joint venture on low-cost housing for public school teachers between a local government and key government housing agencies and the private sector.

Collaboration

The MOU on the undertaking involves Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, DepEd Secretary Jesli A. Lapuz; Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig) Chief Executive Officer Jaime A. Fabiana; National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Federico A. Laxa; and Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation, Inc., Chairman Francisco F. del Rosario.

The project is under the Pabahay Program of DepEd that aims to provide decent and affordable housing to teachers and non-teaching personnel of the department who cannot acquire housing due to their insufficient salary and the restrictive cost of housing;

The project would rise up in the 20-hectare land donated by Alsons Development and Investment Corporation (Alsons) to the Davao City government in compliance with Republic Act 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Housing Development Act (UDHA). The act mandates housing developers to allocate — under its Balanced Housing Development provision — 20 percent of total subdivision area or 20 per cent of total project cost of a housing subdivision for socialized housing. Other than the area for public school teachers, the Alson-donated property would also be utilized for socialized housing for city government employees, Kagawad Kalinga-identified homeless urban poor, beneficiaries from special sectors, and for parks and playgrounds.

Last week, the Davao City Council also approved purchase by City Hall of three properties of about six hectares worth P14 million for urban poor settlers.

For the future

There are several dozens more homeowners association existing as informal settlers as negotiations are underway for the city government to provide funding for land purchases.

And, as it looks to the future, the Davao City government foresees more migration coming in as the city’s unlimited opportunities as Southern Mindanao’s premier city lure migrants from other provinces and regions. But city planners have no doubt that the city government has already set into place the machinery for long-term solution to urban poor housing in the Shelter Code authored by Cabling and the political will of Mayor Duterte and Vice Mayor Duterte to achieve the Dabawenyos vision to make their city squatter-free. (PNA)

DCT/RMB/lvp

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