Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association (CREBA) 8th Business Meeting

Speech-CREBA-InterCon-HotelSpeech of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.
CREBA 8th Business Meeting
25 August 2011, Intercontinental Hotel, Makati City

Good afternoon, my esteemed friends from Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association (CREBA) and thank you once again for your kind invitation for me to speak before you this time to give you updates on the latest pending bill creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or DHUD for short, and other related legislative initiatives.

If you will recall, I had the privilege and opportunity to speak before you at your 1st International Convention in the famous city of Macau last October 26-25. At that forum, I presented to you the enormous challenges as well as the vast opportunities of improving housing in the Philippines, articulating to you the huge gap between the demand and supply of housing in the country.

As summarized in that forum, this demand-supply gap was observed to be rooted in at least three major factors:

• One is the inability of many poor households to pay the cost of housing.
• Second is the lack of resources on the part of the government, which traditionally has been the major provider of housing especially to the poor, to meet housing demand.
• And thirdly, is the lack of incentives for the private sector to engage in supplying this lower segment of the housing market.

In that same forum, concrete evidence was presented to show that continuing past efforts by different actors in the housing sector, including the church, civic and non-governmental groups and government itself, both national and local, had barely made a dent in the attempts to the housing problem, given its magnitude and the rate at which it continued to increase resulting from population growth and other sources of displacement, such as calamities, evictions, etc.

In your Macau convention last year, we came to the conclusion that the perceived dismal peformance of demand housing in the philippines needed further innovative ideas if we are to stem the tide of what is considered as the fairly sad state of affairs of housing in the Philippines.

After enjoining you to bring this situation to the attention of all and make housing, especially socialized housing, a centerpiece of government policy, and after all the noise and drumbeating done to get the attention of our policymakers, it looks like we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the inclusion of the urgent need for the long-delayed creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUB), as the number one priority in the latest ledac meeting called by the President a few weeks ago.

So my colleagues in the housing sector, today is a good opportunity to update you on the salient features of the latest senate bill submitted by the HUDCC, entitled: “An Act Creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

There have been three proposed versions in the senate put forward by our resigned colleague, Sen. Migz Zubiri, Sen. Frank Drilon, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, all of which seek “to address the absence of an adequate and coherent institutional framework that will enable a holistic management of the housing and urban development sector, address the weakness of the present set-up and define the horizontal and vertical relationship of the department with the other government agencies and local government units.”

Because of the rapid urbanization in the Philippines, more of our poor population are forced to move from the rural areas to settle in the cities in the hope of “finding a better life and enjoying modern amenities” in the cities. However, most of the time they end up staying in low-income communities that abound in the metropolitan areas, where the living conditions remain far from ideal and more often miserable.

It is no wonder then that our urban areas continue to display glaring gaps between the wealthy enclaves and the poor communities. And, there are more impoverished communities in our cities whose living conditions cannot be upgraded because of unaffordable and soaring urban land costs, made more burdensome by the high costs of basic home utilities.

In addition to poor living conditions, the underprivileged citizens have to contend with extreme efforts to get good-paying jobs to serve as sustained basis for their family’s survival in an unfriendly urban environment.

Against this backdrop and serving as a positive note, it is now obvious that the government has not been unmindful to this growing problem of urban poverty and blight. I also believe that the various groups in the housing sector have made enough money all these years to be able to share their material bounty and innovative ideas to bring about a more responsive housing body.

If we will recall, almost four decades ago, a small core group at the development academy of the philippines evolved into the Task Force on Human Settlements (TFHS). With the help of environmental planners from the then up institute of planning, the task force began organizing a comprehensive framework for planning and developing philippine human settlements, with considerations for availability of basic services, especially for the poorest of the poor. Eventually the task force became the nucleus of what was to be established as the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS) which was tasked to come up with the total holistic approach to achieve human security for all filipinos. At that time, MHS identified eleven basic needs of the filipinos that had to be consistently addressed in the short, medium and long terms: water, electricity, clothing, livelihood, health, education, culture, technology, ecological balance, sports and recreation, shelter and mobility.

To continue our flashback, unfortunately in 1986 the Ministry of Human Settlements was among the first national agencies to be abolished. In fact, it was replaced by a Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), which got transformed into a mere coordinating agency, without strong executive powers and no implementing responsibilties. In addition, some of the former subsidiaries/affiliates of mhs were placed under hudcc, which then became headed by a chairman and given a cabinet rank.

EO 90 of December 17, 1986 placed the HUDCC as the coordinating body for all the government housing or shelter agencies, including the HLURB. As an attached body to the HUDCC, the hlurb took on integrative roles of town planning, assistance to local government units, real estate management and regulation, and adjudication of cases involving buyers in subdivisions and condominiums against developers, oppositions to applications involving regulatory permits and licenses, and appeals from the decisions of local zoning bodies. Subsequently, with the enactment of RA 8763, regulatory and adjudicatory jurisdictions over homeowners associations were transferred to the hlurb.

Although the HUDCC chair was ostensibly granted vast powers, the HUDCC, as then established, was limited to policy making and was not involved in the implementation OF HLURB’s mandates.

Thus, in order to address this observed weakness, there emerged a perceived need to reorganize the housing or shelter agencies, resulting in the proposal to merge the functions of HLURB with HUDCC under one secretary. This led to the present proposals to create the Department of Housing and Urban Development and reconstituting and renaming HLURB into an independent and more powerful adjudicatory commission.

And that brings as now to the succession of legislative initiatives, among them proposing the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this evolution, it was provided in the proposed dhud bill that the regulatory function of housing and urban development shall be vested with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the adjudicatory function be vested on a separate and independent Housing and Urban Development Commission (HUDC). The other version placing and integrating under one roof all functions under the proposed dhud.

In all these versions, however, the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is envisioned to provide the core capacity required to improve sector governance and to address sector issues and challenges stemming from rapid urbanization, uncontrolled urban growth, increasing urban poverty, and a deteriorating urban environment. The proposed department will enable the government to address these problems through the formulation and implementation of the necessary reforms, sector policies and program interventions that will mobilize public and private resources and ensure their synchronization.

The philosophy of the lastest bill creating dhud is best summarized in the HUDCC proposed bill’s declaration of policies:

“the state shall, by law, and for the common good, undertake, in cooperation with the private sector, a continuing program of urban development and housing which will make available at affordable cost, decent housing and basic services to under-privileged and homeless citizens in urban centers and resettlement areas. It shall also promote adequate employment opportunities to such citizens. In the implementation of such program the state shall respect the rights of small property owners.

The state shall pursue the realization of a modern, humane, economically viable and environmentally sustainable society where the urbanization process is manifest in towns and cities being centers of productive economic activity, led by market forces; where urban areas have affordable housing, sustainable physical and social infrastructure and services facilitated under a democratic and decentralized system of governance; and where urban areas provide the opportunities for an improved quality of life and the eradication of poverty.

Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law.”

Therefore, the proposed Department of the Housing and Urban Development, hereinafter referred to as the department or DHUD, by merging the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), shall act as the primary national government entity responsible for the management of housing and urban development. It shall be the sole and main planning and policy-making, regulatory, program coordination, and performance monitoring entity for all housing and urban development concerns. It is not yet clear whether there will be a separate adjudicating commission as this is still being deliberated on.

In this connection, i understand that creba has some concerns about increased costs of getting development permits for the many real estate projects of your members all over the nation. Specifically, in our committee hearings and consultations on the DHUD bill, if the information I gathered is correct, you have been experiencing higher levels of expenditures because of the practicality of paying off authorities at the local levels to hasten release of permits so that projects can proceed and be sold profitably. As a result, you have even proposed that the authority to issue permits be returned to HLURB, which was the situation then obtaining during the days of the Ministry of Human Settlements.

On this matter, if i may suggest, it may be most prudent to secure the feedback of LGU executives, because they now have the authority to require fees for development permits. Ideally, said fees should largely contribute to their much needed local development funds. Besides, lgus, where development projects take place, have emerged as a very powerful stakeholder in urban and local development because they are empowered to control development initiatives and activities in their respective areas of influence.

However, presently, the HLURB still has a very strong say on the various Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPS) and Comprehensive Development Plans (CDPS) passed by the local sanggunians, since these have to be cleared by the HLURB in the end.

As the provisions of the latest proposed DHUD will indicate, this proposed national government department should be a more accommodating institutional framework to provide a win/win balance between LGUs parochial interests and real estate developers’ corporate profitable interests. However, in all these the DHUD will always be looked upon to uphold public interests, which have to do with the improvement of the quality of life of majority of our low-income citizens who have been existing as informal settlers for the longest time. It is so sad that these folks, who need shelter and opportunities as they work for a living, are perceived to be the least benefitted by our national shelter programs.

Call me biased but in the consideration of the proposed DHUD creation, I would like to revisit and reconsider what the MHS programs had hoped to achieve for our people then and now, especially the marginalized and less privileged. The MHS programs envisioned sustainable communities with affordable and accessible shelter plus the minimal basic human security services and utilities needed to live decently amid livelihood opportunities (such as jobs and micro and small enterprises) in strategic locations in the urban areas. As it has evolved, the proposed dhud as appearing in the present bill seems to respond to the perennial need for healthy and prosperous sustainable communities in our growing philippine urban environment. But this has to be revisited to ensure the incorporation of the concept of total human security in the said bill.

As your organization is very much an active participant in the discussions and consultations of the committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement and a dynamic private sector partner in all the working groups with the HUDCC, I presume that you are constantly and consistently informed of all the lastest updates on the deliberations pertaining to the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We in the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement and our counterpart in the Lower House look forward to the continued active and proactive participation of the private sector, especially CREBA, in the creation and the activation of the new DHUD, because housing development is principally a private sector-led economic enterprise, with the national government and the local governments as your dynamic partners in ensuring the accelerated growth of the housing industry and optimum development of our urban communities.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay kayong lahat!

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