By Ben Rosario
Some 2,400 urban poor families in two communities in Tondo, Manila, will finally get their own houses that were promised them 20 years ago after the House of Representatives opted to exercise oversight powers vested in it.
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who issued an executive proclamation during her presidency in 2001, led leaders of the Lower House in signing a memorandum of agreement that, in effect, will save the urban poor families from being relocated outside Manila to give way to the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.
Arroyo congratulated Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez for taking swift steps in pushing for the immediate implementation of Executive Order No. 108 that ordered the award of a lot owned by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in Parola to its actual occupants.
Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, together with Rep. Manny Lopez (NP, Manila), was also instrumental in getting involved government agencies to agree on implementing the housing project for the informal settlers in Isla Puting Bato.
Benitez is the author of House Resolution 2067 that proposed a congressional inquiry into the failure of government to implement EO 108 and two other executive proclamations for housing that were issued by Arroyo during her presidency.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, lauded the signing of the MOU by Mayor Joseph Estrada and heads of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the National Housing Authority (NHA). Both Villar and Estrada were present during the signing of the MOU, which was witnessed by hundreds of Isla Puting Bato residents.
Benitez said the MOU provided for the setting aside of a five-hectare PPA property in Tondo, Manila to house the more than 2,000 informal settler families living in Isla Puting Bato off Manila Bay.
Under the agreement, the PPA will allocate the five hectares of land and construct the housing units in coordination with port operators International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and the Manila North Harbor Port, Inc.
Under the same MOU, the NHA will identify the qualified recipients while the City of Manila will help in the implementation of the project.
The PPA will also allot some P1 billion for the project, Benitez said.
Estrada thanked Speaker Arroyo for spearheading the project for the city’s urban poor, saying “she is God-sent.”
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, a representative of the PPA, Estrada, and heads of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, and the NHA were also present to sign the agreement.
Speaker Arroyo had earlier called for a hearing of the Oversight Committee on Housing to address the delay in the release of titles to the recipients of urban poor housing proclamations she issued when she was still president.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and Estrada lauded Arroyo and Benitez for their efforts in guaranteeing that poor families in Manila be given their own houses.
On the other hand, Lopez said the EO 108 is a presidential proclamation that takes the effect of a law.
Benitez revealed that a committee headed by HUDCC has agreed to implement the Arroyo-issued directive that will benefit 65 families from Parola.
“All that is being discussed now is the pricing of the GSIS-owned property,” he said.