I had the opportunity to be in a meeting with Vice – President Leni Robredo when I had a chance to go back to the Philippines. The International Accountability Project is assisting Community Organizers Multiversity and they invited me with the meeting with the Vice – President. It was a fruitful discussion with representatives from different sectors such as the urban poor, women, labor groups as well as the farmers.
They have presented their views and concerns to the Vice – President who won in a tight race against the son of our former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. The Koalisyon ng mga Mamayang nasa Laylayan (KAMALAYAN) is a newly formed group in Rizal championing housing rights. The Change Politics Movement is a coalition of farmers, fisher folks and indigenous peoples. The Coconut Industry Movement was also present during the meeting. Kilos Maralita expressed concern over the plans on the Php 50 billion fund allotted by the government for housing.
Accordingly by 2017, there is no budget yet for People’s Plan and for other housing programs including the informal settlers outside Metro Manila. The group highlighted that the earlier fund was supposed to benefit the entire country. Representatives from the province of Antique also shared their experience from suffering demolition. A group of farmers and fisher folks in the same province further added that they are continuously under the threat of land grabbing. Proclamation 649 also stipulates the establishment as coal mining reservations all the coal deposits and coal – bearing lands including Antique. Accordingly, this proclamation has caused severe impacts to the province. Sentro which monitors social issues in the country, questioned the previous administration of neo – liberal agenda without growth? What will be the strategy of the Vice – President and how can the groups present support her?
The Vice – President then shared some of her priority program areas under her office and as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). As Vice – President she is focused on Anti – Poverty Advocacies and Program namely on rural development, education, women empowerment, healthcare, food and nutrition. These are also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Vice – President would want to have more access to proper nutrition and healthcare programs. The country is faced with troubling figures on student growth of about 34% that is equivalent to 3.5 – 3.7 million children. The office of the Vice – President would also want to prioritize creating access to senior high school education as well as access to assets and inclusive supply chains. Developing programs to facilitate the access to jobs and livelihoods is equally important for the Vice – President.
As head of HUDCC, the Vice – President also shared some of the challenges and gaps that she would want to address. Accordingly she purposely consulted first with several groups on the ground before talking to the shelter agencies. First off she cited that as an institution, HUDCC is powerless. The six agencies under it advance its respective mandate. There is also a housing backlog for about 5.6 million households. Only 200, 000 were said to be built and it is not even for the poorest of the poor. There was a 6 – month moratorium of relocation outside the city. There are already a lot of pressing issues for those receiving the resettlers. She was firm in her stance that no relocation should take place not unless it is complete with facilities and there is access to livelihood. The President was also keen of simplifying the application process for social housing. From 27 documents needed it is now down to 9 documents. However the Vice – President would want the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) to even improve the number of days required for processing. On an average accordingly it takes 2 years and the Vice – President would want to streamline it to 15 – 30 days. The Vice – President also shared of the Anti – Poverty Summit.