Reaching Out to Informal Settler Families in Metro 3rd

Focusing on the other “H” in his Metro 3RD Asenso–IHELP (infrastructure-health & housing-education & environment-livelihood-policy) Program, Congressman Alfredo Benitez initiated an inventory of informal settler families (ISF) and a review of the various housing programs of local government units in the Third District.

Marie June Pavillar Castro, women’s rights advocate, civic leader and former Silay City councilor who was tasked as District Coordinator for Housing Concerns DCHC), said the initial inventory recorded close to 50,000 informal settler families in Victorias, EB Magalona, Silay, Talisay and Murcia. As she works closely with the LGUs to assist fast-tracking their housing programs and other related concerns, the listing and mapping of ISFs continue to generate an accurate data-baseline for appropriate interventions and provide relevant inputs to policy initiatives to address the housing backlog and other issues.

Cong. Benitez worked with the National Housing Authority and Victorias Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca to facilitate the implementation of the Permanent Housing Project in Barangay 13 for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. To date more than 300 units are occupied by ISFs of the total target 2,321 houses.

Victorias housing officer Primilo Solinap recently reported that 1,300 ISFs will soon benefit from the free patent program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Villa Miranda.

EB Magalona Mayor Marvin Malacon reported five priority areas as sites for relocation and housing projects – Barangays Mantaangan, Gahit, Nanca, Poblacion 3 and Sto. Niño for those affected by Typhoon Yolanda and other natural disasters.

DCHC Castro have also identified ISFs who have organized themselves into homeowners associations seeking assistance and conducted consultative meetings with these groups. Among them are the Community Association of Barangay Zone IV of Talisay, the Community Association of Purok Kapayas, and Barangay Zone IV of Murcia.

Vital links are established with government housing agencies like the National Housing Agency (NHA), Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). The District Office and the DCHC continue to conduct various fora to assist the SHFC advocacy on promoting the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) and the Local Community Mortgage Program (LCMP).

Ongoing is the coordination with the Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit housing organization whose vision is to provide decent shelter for underprivileged informal settlers. DCHC Castro said, Habitat plans for a housing project in the province, using available indigenous materials.

Congressman Benitez, also the House chair for the Committee on Housing and Urban Development, has initiated groundwork on ways and means to tackle the housing backlog in the country, working closely with his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito.

In his District, Congressman Benitez takes the lead in transforming lives of informal settler families through access to resettlement communities and socialized housing.

DCHC Castro together with Team Albee shared experiences of long and tedious meetings with stakeholders, rigorous systems and procedures that need improvements and even changes and most of all, the need to change attitude and mind set of people that have been rooted in the old ways.

But opportunities outweigh the constraints in the work towards improving lives of people. For Congressman Benitez, the challenge of making shelter, housing and finally, decent homes a reality for informal settler families is not an impossible dream.*