By Ben Rosario
After nearly three decades of futile bid to enact a bill establishing a Department of Housing and Urban Development, the House of Representatives has finally come up with what is considered the finest version of the many bills filed since 1989 for the creation of a government department that would address the worsening housing problem in the country.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, made this assurance as the Lower House launched Tuesday night the plenary debates for House Bill 6775 that consolidated five legislative proposals for the creation of the DHUD.
“What we have on the floor is the best version of the bill on the department’s creation since it was filed in 1989, almost three decades ago” said Benitez.
Under HB 6775, the DHUD will not only provide for housing but will also “focus on building communities and habitats in both rural and urban areas.”
“It will not only deal with the physical element of housing but likewise provide the necessary link to community services and components such as education, heatlh, culture, welfare, recreation, food and nutrition,” Benitez explained.
The establishment of a DHUD was one of the more urgent proposals made during the Congress-sponsored 2015 National Summit Housing on Housing and Urban Development. It was possibly the longest planning session of top urban planning experts, urban poor leaders, officials of key shelter agencies and the academe, running from May 27, 2015 to April 4, 2016.
Benitez recalled that the DHUD bill has been part of Congress’ legislative dockets since the 8th Congress up to the 17th Congress. It was authored by nearly 200 solons, among them topnotch legislators headed by former Speaker Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan; former Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar of Cebu; Reps. Amado Bagatsing of Manila; and Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City.
Among those who wrote the consolidated HB 6775 are former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Reps. Rufino Rozzano Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City); Mikee Romero (1-Pacman Partylist); Jose Christopher Belmonte (LP, Quezon City) and Joey Sarte Salceda (PDP-Laban, Albay).
Benitez lamented that attempts to pass a DHUD bill have been sincere and strong that the Lower House was able to pass it on third and final reading twice, but was derailed due to various reasons.
Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development Housing Act has apparently overlooked the enormous demands in the housing sector.
Neither did Executive Order No. 9, creating a coordinating body for shelter agencies, address the housing backlog that stood at three million in 1992.
“It must be admitted, with much regret, that the government has failed to solve the shelter problem. Proof of this is the fact that we still grapple with the same problem today as some six million housing needs stare us in the face,” the senior administration lawmaker noted.
He warned that there remains “no silver lining in sight” as the country’s population continues to grow “faster than government can provide roofs over our people’s heads.”
The housing and urban panel, Benitez said, is presenting a bill that aims to address urgent housing and urban development concerns, especially for the poor.
The creation of a DHUD will be the key to the country’s “shelter quandary,” he added.
“It is high time we took the task of not only providing housing, but of establishing and nurturing human settlements and managing urban development seriously by re-engineering the puny coordinating body and elevating it into a full-fledged Cabinet-ranked agency,” said Benitez.