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The Philippines is currently experiencing a major housing crisis, with the most affected being informal settlers and low-income families. According to the United Nations, informal settler families (ISFs) are estimated at 3.7 million, and half a million of them are living in slums and high-risk areas in the National Capital Region. These communities often inhabit dangerous areas such as riverbanks, steep slopes, and even cemeteries.

In addition, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) stated that most households can only afford socialized housing in highly urbanized cities, which is often located far from employment or livelihood centers. In fact, the 30% income standard commonly used to measure housing affordability in the country may too high for low-income households.

The United Nations in their own reports projected that housing needs in the Philippines will continue to increase from a 6.5 million housing backlog in 2022 to 22 million by 2040, highlighting the urgent need for action to address the housing crisis in the country.

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To address this problem, the government has launched several initiatives aimed at providing affordable housing to low-income families in the country. One such initiative is the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH) Housing Program by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Launched in September 2022, the program aims to address the country’s 6.5 million housing backlogs by building 1 million housing units annually until 2028. Through it, the government aims to reduce informal settlers in the country to zero by 2028.

In accordance with Executive Order No. 34 issued by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., the government shall identify idle lands suitable for housing to provide decent and affordable housing to underprivileged and homeless Filipinos through the flagship housing program of the current administration.

The housing program is available for informal settler families and low-income workers who don’t have their own homes. The local government units (LGUs) in the housing project areas will identify eligible beneficiaries for the 4PH program. According to the DHSUD, those who are interested in applying should coordinate directly with their respective LGUs for identification and registration.

The program aims to provide affordable housing to Filipinos with prices range from P580,000 to P1,150,000, depending on the site location and the type of housing. The DHSUD has also lowered the preferential interest rate on loans from 6% down to 1% to address the housing shortage and provide affordable housing to beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the program is intended to create smart cities nationwide and is expected to generate about 1.7 million jobs every year from 2023 to 2028.

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In April 2023, President Marcos revealed that construction has started on 1.2 million new housing sites. The President led the “mega groundbreaking” of six housing projects in Bulacan, which could generate up to 30,000 shelter units. During the initial phase of the six projects, a total of 12,563 housing units will be constructed, providing much-needed shelter for those in need.

The Residencia de Legazpi housing project in Legazpi City, with 372 residential units and 31 commercial spaces, is part of the 4PH program and is being developed in collaboration with the Pag-IBIG Fund and a private developer.

Earlier this year, the City of Himamaylan in Negros Occidental announced that it is gearing up for the implementation of its housing project under 4PH. During an interview, Mayor Rogelio Raymund I. Tongson shared that the first phase of the project would amount to about P5.5 billion, with 3,000 condominium-type housing units to be initially constructed.

Furthermore, a partnership with the DHSUD and a local developer is being finalized to build the initial 10,000 units inside the New Clark City in Bamban, Tarlac, according to Joshua M. Bingcang, the president and chief executive officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

Meanwhile, Asenso Yuhum Residences in Bacolod City, which is headed by Mayor Albee Benitez, is preparing to hand over approximately 300 units. The housing secretary has stated that the delivery of these units is expected to take place soon, with additional units expected to be delivered in the upcoming months.

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In a report published by the DHSUD in December 2023, Housing Secretary Jose Rizalino “Jerry” L. Acuzar revealed that there are 17 projects under the flagship housing program that are currently in various stages of development and construction throughout the country. Some of which are located in Isabela, Nueva, Ecija, Batangas, Laguna, Naga City, Bacolod City and Tagbilaran City, Davao City, Zamboanga City, and Misamis Oriental.

“I am confident that 2024 will be a milestone year for our President’s Pambansang Pabahay. Slowly but surely, we are now reaping the fruits of our labor,” Mr. Acuzar said in a statement.

President Marcos also expressed his excitement about the day when he can finally inaugurate and award the finished houses to their intended beneficiaries. During his site inspection of the 4PH project in San Fernando, Pampanga on July 3, 2023, President Marcos made it clear that the project is one of his top priorities.

“We have already had a lot of groundbreaking ceremonies. This site inspection is just part of the process to ensure the implementation of the 4PH,” he said in Filipino during his speech.

Secretary Acuzar also believes that the 4PH Program can help the country achieve the global standards of smart city development and create sustainable communities that provide a decent quality of life for its people.

In November 2023, the housing chief spoke at a business forum about the important role of smart cities in the 4PH master plan. He emphasized that the program is committed to using innovation and technology to improve the quality of life for Filipinos by creating sustainable communities and providing decent housing.

To achieve this objective, Mr. Acuzar referred to the Digital Cities Index (DCI) 2022, which evaluates the digitization efforts of 30 global cities based on pillars such as digital connectivity, services, culture, and sustainability. Although Manila may currently lag behind, the 4PH Program offers an opportunity to bridge this gap and propel the Philippines into the realm of smart city development. — Mhicole A. Moral