THE ranking opposition Senator expressed support Wednesday for increasing the Housing department’s P3.9-billion budget for 2021, which is about half its P7.83-billion budget this year.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, at a budget hearing for the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development’s (DHSUD) 2021 funding allocation, asked the department, however, for details of its program to provide housing for so-called Informal Settler Families (ISFs), and questioned the department’s lack of response to the Taal eruption in January.
The panel heard that the department had asked for a P6.9 million for the resettlement for ISFs displaced by the Manila Bay rehabilitation, but was given only P2.7 million.
“I am inclined to fill up the variance of P4.2 million, but convince at least the committee how you intend to use this. What is your program?” Mr. Drilon told DHSUD Secretary Eduardo D. del Rosario. The secretary, however, was unable to present details.
Department officials also said that the agency was not adequately funded to render aid to those displaced by the Taal eruption. “We have not received any allocation for Taal… no direct funds yet coming from DBM (the Department of Budget and Management) that went to NHA (National Housing Authority) for 2020 and 2021,” NHA General Manager Marcelino P. Escalada told the committee. Despite, he said the NHA provided 10,000 units within Batangas, Cavite and Laguna for the evacuees.
Mr. Escalda was responding to a query from Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, who urged the DBM to release funds.
“Baka we can request DBM to release kahit hindi full amount. Kasi isipin niyo dumaan ‘yung Taal, ngayon may bagyo, parang halos wala tayong nabigay na tulong sa nawalan o nasiraan ng bahay (Maybe we can request the DBM to release even a partial amount for Taal and typhoon victims, for which nearly nothing was provided to those who lost their homes or whose homes were damaged).”
Mr. Drilon said the funding being contemplated for the department is less than the Executive branch’s intelligence and confidential fund of “at least P9.5 billion,” and noted that some 1.6 million households currently require direct assistance. — Charmaine A. Tadalan