Senate bill seeks to address urban poor’s housing needs

MANILA —Senator “JV” Ejercito has filed a bill seeking the creation of a National Commission for the Urban Poor, an agency that will act as the focal facilitator in addressing socialized housing problems.

Currently, there exists a Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), which serves as direct link of the urban poor to the government in policy formulation and program implementation.

Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, however, cited the need to pursue participatory governance in the formulation of policies for the urban poor and fulfill the commission’s role in poverty reduction.

“Alleviating poverty is one of the primary thrusts of the government. While there are many factors which are attributable to the state of poverty, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study in 2009 cited that the poor remain poor because they cannot borrow against future earnings to invest in education, skills, new crops and entrepreneurial activities,” he said.

“It is stated that they are cut off from economic activity because many property rights, public safety and infrastructure are said to be under provided and these people lack information about market opportunities,” the senator added.

Ejercito said these factors are manifestations of disproportionate and inaccessible opportunities in the society.

“The government should bridge these gaps in the form of sound policies,” said the lawmaker, who has been seeking to legislate landmark reforms on local housing.

Under Senate Bill No. 2074, entitled, “The National Commission for the Urban Poor Act”, shall be composed of a chairperson, with a rank and privileges of a department undersecretary.

The chairperson shall act as the chief executive officer (CEO) while four commissioners representing the National Capital Region (NCR), Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao shall have the rank and privileges of assistant secretaries of a department.

They shall be appointed by the President from among the list of nominees submitted by a duly-organized and accredited urban poor organization or institutions with national and regional constituencies and will serve a three-year term.

An executive director shall be included in the composition of the commission with a term of one year, subject to yearly re-appointment.

Besides shelter-related projects, the commission is also tasked to coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in taking measures that will plan and regulate urban activities for the conservation and protection of vital, unique and sensitive ecosystem.

It is also expected to directly fund livelihood projects for urban poor settler families and promote the concept of “township” or “resettlement sites” within economic zones. (Senate PR)