Sunday, September 09, 2007
City gives 40T ‘grace period’
By Rene H. Martel
Sun.Star Staff Reporter
AFTER years of being lenient, the Cebu City Government is out to make socialized housing beneficiaries pay.
They are given six months to either enter into or renew their memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the City Government, if not they will have their rights forfeited or their amortization raised by 25 percent, the Local Housing Board said.
Charmae Pyl Nercua (FORGE’s Advocacy Officer), City Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) consultant, said City Hall is now intent on the program after years of low collection efficiency.
The board, she said, resolved this month to give beneficiaries just six months to comply.
She said 29 community associations that still have to sign an agreement with the City were told to accomplish this within the period.
At least 37 more groups with expired contracts were told to renew the agreement.
Nercua said it takes political will to collect payments, which range from P300 to P600 a month, but City Hall is intent on doing it now.
With City Councilor Richard Osmeña sitting as committee on housing chairman, she said the City has shown it is serious in implementing the program by canceling the grant to 57 Barangay Apas beneficiaries.
In a separate interview, Osmeña said he will propose a resolution next week asking DWUP to provide him a list of purchased lots, and for its officials to meet with him and the housing board to formulate lot purchase guidelines.
In a presentation before the City Council last Wednesday, Nercua said some P100 million worth of properties intended for socialized housing remain idle 10 years after the purchase because they are “unlivable.”
That made Osmeña wonder why DWUP bought the lots, with a total area of 190,000 square meters, as relocation sites without inspecting them.
Seven “unlivable sites” were purchased, resulting in a waste of around P100 million in government funds.
Osmeña said that once the guidelines are drawn up, he will inspect the lots himself.
“I would volunteer to do the inspection myself, with representatives from the local housing board, and DWUP, before submitting my recommendations to the council. I would not want a repeat of this while I’m still the chairman of the socialized housing committee,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
When the neophyte councilor assumed chairmanship of the committee, he immediately looked into DWUP transactions and lamented that collections by the office are low and that its records, especially on delinquent socialized housing beneficiaries, are not up to date.
This prompted him to ask the council to intervene.
Last Aug. 8, the council told DWUP to explain how over P400 million in funds that the City used to buy lots for indigent families were spent.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama, in particular, has expressed frustration over the office’s “anemic” collection of dues from the beneficiaries.
The council told Nercua to have DWUP Chief Danilo Gabiana prepare a report, which should include a list of actual beneficiaries.
The report was discussed last Wednesday, and included the revelation that seven housing sites are considered unfit for habitation.
In an interview yesterday, Nercua asked the City to finance the site development of at least two of the sites, and suggested at least P10 million as budget.
She said that under the Urban Development Housing Act, the term “unlivable” means that minimum basic services like water, electricity, roads and drainage do not exist.
But applied to the relocation sites, she meant that no houses could be built because the areas are forested, rocky, or with a slope of at least 30 degrees.
Nercua said that if the City Council members allocate funds for housing site development in the next three years, they will end their terms having made a significant contribution to the program.
“The Cebu City Government did not strictly enforce the terms to give consideration to the urban poor. We should seriously look into that. Because of that, there is low efficiency rate (in collection) and the urban poor no longer treat the agreement seriously,” she said.
In a separate interview, City Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa, committee on social services chairman, said DWUP should be “more ingenious in partnering with nongovernment organizations and private sectors in developing the lands.”
“It must also consider selling off at prime prices acquisitions whose real estate values have gone up in order to recoup the City’s capital exposure in these lands,” he said.
City Action Officer and Councilor Gerardo Carillo agreed, saying that if the lands cannot be developed, DWUP could enter into a joint venture with real estate firms.
But whatever agreements are reached, these should pass through the City Council, he said.
“In the first place, it was really wrong to have purchased those lots…. There was no proper feasibility study on whether they were livable or not. But since the City has purchased them already, we might as well recover the amount we invested by selling portions of the idle lots,” the councilor said. (RHM)