Fenced beachfronts, informally settled coastal easements, and messed up neighborhoods are common sights in coastal towns and cities nationwide. Informal settlers build their shanties in privately owned vacant lots. In rural communities with naturally rich coastal environments, mangroves are the primary victims of this never-ending problem of informal settlement.
Informal settlers experience poor living conditions, limited access to basic necessities like food, water, electricity, and other needs, exposed to natural hazards and health risks due solid wastes and plastic trash in coastal waters where their houses are erected. This should tell us how important and urgent it is that every Filipino family be provided with decent housing, may they be living along the coastline or elsewhere upland and inland.
In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 committed to by the United Nations (UN), Goal 11 (out of 17) is to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Among its targets is to “ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services,” and upgrade slums to greatly reduce the “proportion of the urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing.”
While the UN appears to be giving importance and focus on urban slums, in a climate change risks vulnerable country like the Philippines, where disasters and natural calamities often hit our provinces, the rural dwellings’ vulnerability and exposure to typhoons, floods and other calamities must be also addressed.
UN statistics said that people living in slums worldwide drastically increased from 807 million to 883 million from 2000 to 2014. The bulk of slum dwellers are in three regions, with East and Southeast Asia having the highest number at 332 million. Our country is certainly a major contributor to this statistic.
The national government needs to depart from its traditional approach to housing, with heavy dependence on private developers to address the country’s housing gap, while the government comes in with minimal support to financing.
The Marcos administration’s Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino Program (4PH), which targets to build 6 millions units until 2028, is in full-blast in other cities in the country particularly those cities closer to Metro Manila. We hope that cities outside of Metro Manila like Puerto Princesa, with more than 7,000 informal settlers in poblacion’s coastal areas alone, get a fair share from DHSUD. Thankfully, a MOA has been already forged between DHSUD and Puerto Princesa early this year, but as to when the project will be realized to benefit a substantial number of informal settler families of this city, is yet to be seen. We wish to know how much is allocated for this, and how many units will this project produce?
The national government through DHSUD has set this bold target of million housing units every year until 2028 in implementing 4PH which some economists described as a tall order. The budgetary requirement makes it a tall order although Sec. Jerry Acuzar said this will involve the private sector’s help. We will see if Acuzar’s acumen as a developer will prove helpful to ease our housing backlog.
Shelter, like food and clothing, is one of the three basic human needs—and definitely a basic human right. It is the perfect time for the national government under Marcos administration to put it at the forefront of the national agenda.