The ambitious but guaranteed-priority legislation of Senator Bongbong Marcos launched to a strong start with the maiden hearing of the Senate bill proposing the establishment of a national housing program for government employees. The major players in the housing sector, including the National Housing Authority, the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund), the Social Security System, the Government Service Insurance System, and led by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) flanked Senator Marcos and colleague Senator Gregorio Honasan II during the deliberations held on 8 March 2011 at the Senate.
The discussions on the national housing program shall start with what Senator Bongbong called the “inventory phase”, wherein national government agencies, like the NHA, and local governments shall first prepare an inventory of available lands that can be used for the program, to be followed by an inventory of the client base or employees who would be willing to avail of the housing program. The inventory phase will enable the housing agencies to do a “matching” of initial supply and demand, in order to know the structural and logistical needs of the program, as well as to allow for a prudent allocation of the land resources.
Senator Bongbong emphasized the importance of this phase, especially the participation of the LGUs. “We need the inventory of available lands all over the country and that will serve as a basis of what we can and cannot do...and it is absolutely imperative that we get that information as quickly as possible,” he said. The HUDCC reported, however, that of the 36 departments written by the HUDCC, only 16 had responded, of which 9 reported no available lands, while 7 identified properties, but which are occupied by informal settlers or earmarked for other purposes.
Speaking of the expected clientele of the program, and to give a sense of magnitude to the task at hand, Senator Marcos reported that from the Department of Education (DepEd) alone, there are already 144,382 employees who are interested to avail of the benefits of the proposed housing program based on the latest survey conducted by the DepEd.
Senate Bill No. 2699, or the Civil Service Housing Program, is the calculated response of Senator Bongbong to the perceived congenital constitutional issues that shroud the earlier bills that proposed a national housing program solely for public school teachers. Hearings shall resume after the sector-wide discussion to be held this month among the key shelter agencies, which shall be led by the HUDCC. According to Senator Marcos, the succeeding hearings shall likely progress into technical working group hearings that shall discuss with precision the provisions of the bill.