Two opposition senators are seeking passage of a bill calling for the least displacement of informal settler families (ISFs) through on-site, in-city and near-city resettlement strategies by mandating local government units (LGUs) to provide basic services and livelihood programs in resettlement sites.
This way, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima said the urban poor would have more rights to participate in urban development instead of their dwellings being subjected to demolition or them being imperiled because of unwanted eviction.
“Recent events, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have highlighted the fundamental importance of adequate housing and people’s participation in cities and other urban areas, and ultimately, the right to the city,” the senators said in the explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 2609 or the proposed “Least Displacement of Informal Settler Families Act.”
“As we address the housing backlog in the country, we must ensure that affected communities, urban poor families, and children as right-holders are at the center of our strategy. If enacted into law, this measure will be a step towards that direction,” De Lima and Hontiveros stated.
They said the bill primarily seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992—a law that is almost three decades old—to ensure the urban poor’s access to and participation in the development of their cities.
According to the senators, the bill itself is a product of a consolidated inputs gathered from consultations with children, urban poor families, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations, local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies involved in Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Tacloban City and Davao City.
They said the inputs provided in the bill seek to enhance existing bills in Congress that proposes to establish and on-site, in-city or near-city resettlement program in order to address more effectively the needs and aspirations of children and urban poor families for education, job opportunities and access to basic services and facilities.
“The right to the city is the right of urban dwellers to access and participate in decision-making concerning urban resources,” they said.
“The right to the city is consistent with the principles of cooperation, participation, and consultation, as well as decent and affordable housing and adequate employment opportunities enshrined in our Constitution,” the two lawmakers reiterated.
Under the bill, LGUs, with the help of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), shall be tasked to implement the relocation and resettlement of ISFs living in dangerous areas within two years from the effectivity of the proposed law.
The LGU, in coordination with DHSUD, must see to it that the provided relocation or resettlement areas conform to adequate housing standards complete with access to electricity, water and other basic utilities, sufficient to meet the needs of the affected families.
For this purpose, the senators proposed that LGUs be given authority to purchase lands outside of its jurisdiction.
If the land occupied by ISFs and homeless persons is privately-owned, the LGU and the DHSUD, would be tasked to negotiate with the owner of the occupied property for procurement.
Should the negotiations fail, the LGU may resort to expropriation as an exception to Sec. 10 of the Republic Act 7279, provided that they have been in continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property for at least 30 years.
The bill, likewise, mandates the DHSUD, and the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, to conduct regular audit of existing resettlement sites to determine the occupancy by the program beneficiaries at the said sites.