By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, March 4 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

The chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development said there are more than 3,000 hectares of land that could be used by the new Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development (DHSUD) for socialized housing and urban development.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfedo Benitez said these lands are located in Metro Metro Manila.

“Three thousand plus hectares of land are all located in Metro Manila, and half of these are idle. The majority of these lands are owned by government centers in Quezon City,” Benitez told reporters.

Benitez said 1,234.85-hectare land is government-owned and currently being occupied by informal settler families (ISFs), while the 2,185-hectare public land is idle and ready for housing programs.

“[Under the law creating the DHSUD] the new housing department can now acquire all those government lands and facilitate the disposition of unused properties that are owned by the government for socialized housing. We need areas as the prime ingredient for successful housing program is land,” he said.

According to Benitez, housing needs of Filipinos could balloon to 6.8 million before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in 2022. He said at least 1 million units should be constructed every year to address the country’s backlogs.

Joint effort

Benitez said the government can tap the help of private sector in addressing the country’s housing problems.

He said these lands or properties are “perfect sites” for government and private-sector socialized housing programs.

“The private sector can now participate through a joint venture and as codeveloper of certain properties,” he added.

Also, Benitez said the government should push through with its plan of transferring government offices to the provinces to spur development while addressing the country’s housing backlogs.

“Overpopulation, traffic congestion and high vulnerability to natural disasters have made Metro Manila or the National Capital Region a pariah among world cities,” he said.

“The Department of Transportation is already in Clark, all other departments’ administrative offices should also be relocated to decongest Metro Manila. That’s also the only way to develop the  countryside if we bring government outside the capital,” he added.

According to Benitez, it is only the government that can afford to go in an area that is not developed. He said medium-rise buildings could be constructed in the areas that will be vacated by these government agencies.

The lawmaker also stressed the need to rethink and develop a master plan that will decongest Metro Manila.

Benitez noted that several countries that relocated government agencies have flourished. These include South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil.

“Relocation of capitals has already been done by several countries. Malaysia, for instance, built a new administrative capital to ease decongestion in Kuala Lumpur. Putrajaya is envisioned to be ‘green’ and ‘intelligent’ city, with wide parks and open spaces, and strong ICT infrastructure. Its aesthetic design also shows distinct Islamic character to reflect Malaysian identity and heritage as predominantly Muslim country,” he said.