Photo from Habitat for Humanity

With an overwhelming 254 votes, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill mandating local government units (LGUs) to establish an onsite, in-city, or near-city relocation program for urban informal settler families (ISFs) residing within their jurisdictions.

House Bill (HB) 5, primarily authored by Speaker Martin G. Romualdez and Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and Jude Acidre of Tingog party-list, seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.

The measure seeks to properly address the issues surrounding past practices of resettling ISFs in relocation areas that lack basic amenities and far from their places of work.

“While the government has been providing resettlement sites to informal settler families, these sites have been mostly off-city. These do not provide employment opportunities and livelihood, as well as social services,” the authors noted.

“As a result, many families are drawn back to the cities to find employment that would provide for their needs, ending up living again in informal settlements that are the embodiment of abject poverty, social exclusion and unsafe housing,” they pointed out.

HB 5 seeks to address such issues by providing relocation or resettlement sites with basic services and facilities, and access to employment and livelihood opportunities sufficient to meet the basic needs of the affected ISFs.

The measure defines in-city or onsite resettlement as a “relocation site within the jurisdiction of a local government unit where the affected informal settler families are living.”

“Near-city resettlement” refers to a relocation site close to the original settlement of the affected ISFs, but within the jurisdiction of another LGU that is adjacent to the implementing LGU.

On the other hand, “off-city” relocation is a relocation site developed outside, and not adjacent to the LGU where the affected ISFs originally settled.

The measure mandates that off-site resettlement may be resorted to only when in-city or near-city resettlement is not feasible. For this purpose, the implementing LGU may purchase lands outside its jurisdiction, taking into consideration its feasibility, viability, budgetary concerns, zoning ordinances and other relevant laws.

LGUs are to implement the on-site, near-city or off-city housing program for ISFs in partnership with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, National Housing Authority, National Home Mortgage Finance Corp., Home Development Mutual Fund, and Social Housing Finance Corp

HB 5 also calls for adequate consultation with the affected families.

Implementing LGUs, in coordination with the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor and concerned government agencies, shall give affected ISFs an opportunity to be heard and to participate in the decision-making process over matters affecting involving the protection and promotion of their legitimate collective interests.

The ISFs shall also assist the government in preventing the incursion of professional squatters and members of squatting syndicates into their communities.

Meanwhile, other agencies, including the Department of Labor and Employment, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Science and Technology, and Philippine Trade and Training Center, are mandated to provide skills and livelihood training to the program beneficiaries.

The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, in consultation with appropriate agencies, civil society groups, the private sector and representatives of ISFs, shall issue the implementing rules and regulations. (PNA)ĺp