Pitfalls of AFP/PNP housing project
IF NOT for the forced occupation of the militant group Kadamay of the unoccupied housing units in Pandi, Bulacan, the housing project for the low-salaried personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Corrections would not be talked about much after President Duterte, true to his populist posturing, unexpectedly allowed the Kadamay members to stay and live in the housing units which the developer has yet to turn-over to the National Housing Authority (NHA). It is easy for the allies and sympathizers to condone the forced occupation of the Kadamay with the justification that these houses were already ready for occupancy but they were left to rot while thousands are homeless. But it was illegal which Mr. Duterte legitimized through his undue influence that condoned Kadamay’s action. For one, the NHA, created by Presidential Decree 757 in 1975 as the sole production unit of the government’s housing projects, is now in dilemma on how to react with Mr. Duterte’s uninformed decision to legitimize Kadamay’s occupation. Since the nati
e allies of Mr. Duterte are in quandary how to respond to the situation. The act of giving away to the Kadamay the housing units intended for the low-salaried, uniformed government personnel was illegal because the funds used in the construction of these housing units had been made into law under the General Appropriation Act with only the low-salaried, uniformed government personnel as the designated beneficiaries. It will take another law to change the beneficiaries of the housing project in Bulacan that the Kadamay occupied. Unknown to many, the housing units in Pandi were not occupied by its beneficiaries because, according to the NHA, corrective work has to be done yet before the housing agency could proceed with its formal acceptance. The AFP/PNP housing project, now on its end phase of implementation which former President Benigno Aquino III initiated as his original flagship project for the low-salaried personnel of the AFP and PNP, was generously given a budget fund of P50 billion when it was launched in 2011. In fact, the NHA has already spent more than P16 billion of the housing fund for the completion of 96 percent of the targeted 66,434 housing units. The ‘legitimized’ illegal occupation by Kadamay of the housing units intended for the low-salaried personnel had displaced them as a consequence, a problem the government has to resolve since these beneficiaries do not also own houses. Conflicting with the law, the NHA’s hands were also constrained to let go off the original beneficiaries while a law changing the beneficiaries to informal settlers from low-salaried, uniformed government personnel has to be promulgated yet in Congress. The problem created by the Kadamay forced occupation of the housing units is relatively easier to solve with the enactment of a law designed to conform with Mr. Duterte’s decision. However, the problem with the absence of power and water connections to this housing units designed to be a community of at least 1,000 households is much harder to remedy. It is because there was no regard of the standard requirements for an area to be selected as the project site, that is, accessibility; and it must be within the area coverage of power distributors and water utilities readily available in the next three years. After six years of implementation, at the time when most of the housing units are completed, the question arises how the AFP/PNP Housing Board disregarded the standard requirements in choosing project sites when very low occupancy rate surfaced this year. With the standard requirements absent in the housing projects, we can only wonder what basis the AFP/PNP Housing Board considered in signing agreements with the developers. The AFP/PNP Housing Board that possesses the authority to choose the developer and identify the project areas based on the prescribed standards did not function as the sounding board and representatives of the end-users with project areas outside of the area coverage of water utilities and power distributors. With billions of pesos in contracts with the developers, it is time to have a hard look why these supposed representatives of the poor beneficiaries overlooked the most important basis of livable dwellings.