A SENATOR yesterday proposed to realign P3 billion worth of unspent housing funds to victims of earthquake victims in the Mindanao region.

Senator Risa Hontiveros-Barraquel sought the transfer during budget deliberations on key shelter agencies, according to a statement posted on the Senate website.

The lawmaker, who heads the finance subcommittee that tackles the budget for the housing sector, noted that the National Housing Authority (NHA) and Social Housing Finance Corp. have very low budget use rates. The funds, she added, would be better used to rehabilitate damaged houses and infrastructure in Mindanao.

“We don’t want these funds to go stale, so it’s better that they be dedicated to the most urgent needs,” she said. “This is where the government should put flesh to its ‘Build, build, build’ rhetoric.”

Hontiveros cited the need for “new and better ways of doing things” to increase the housing sector’s “absorptive capacity,” according to the statement.

She said the government should not limit its options when it comes to providing poor and homeless families with decent and affordable housing. “We should link up and identify possible partnerships with institutions both public and private which are willing and able to help our people.”

Ms. Hontiveros said that the local governments have been formulating their local shelter plans for years but they have not been matched with resources. She also said both the NHA and Home Development Mutual Fund have entered into Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

“Let’s see which partnerships work and are effective in allowing us to hit more of our housing targets,” she said. “Successful ones should be scaled up and replicated in the long term.

At least 24 people died in a magnitude 6.6 quake that hit central Mindanao on Oct. 29 and in a temblor that followed two days later, according to a Nov. 18 report by the national agency on disasters.

The agency said 66,395 families consisting of 324,720 people were affected by the earthquakes, it said. — Gillian M. Cortez