House bill on on-site relocation of informal settlers approved on 2nd reading
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that if enacted, would establish an on-site, in-city, near city, or off city resettlement program for informal settler families (ISFs) has been approved on second reading by the House of Representatives.
But before it was approved via viva voce during Wednesday’s session, House Bill No. 5 which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 was questioned by Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas and Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza.
Brosas and Daza focused on the proposed amendment which includes the formation of an association that would create a “People’s Plan”, which would contain the proposals from ISFs.
“We look at consultations as a positive thing, but if this would be a requisite for on-site development — for example, we know that there could be an on-site development but the People’s Plan being submitted would not be the preference of many, right?” Brosas asked.
“So how does having a law like this resolve this issue?” she added.
Brosas was referring to the changes in the existing law’s Section 26, where on-site development — or resettlement of ISFs on the same or near the land that they have occupied — would only be possible after “the conduct of adequate and genuine consultation with affected ISFs, and in accordance with the People’s Plan formulated”.
If the proposal is approved, she fears that people representing ISFs may steer the informal settlers outside or away from the area, affecting their livelihood and jobs.
In response, bill sponsor and Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez said that they are open to revisions from Brosas if she has a proposal or a certain language that would make the People’s Plan really an accurate representation of the ISFs’ requests.
“I think there is a slight confusion, the prescription for a people’s plan actually does not make that distinction, if the good Congresswoman has provisions and language that can improve the safeguards so that in fact a proper people’s plan — kasi after all, it calls for a genuine consultation and proper people’s plan,” Benitez said.
“If that is too vague for the good Congresswoman, we would be willing to entertain language that would improve that provision in the right time,” he added.
Daza meanwhile questioned the procedures in crafting and approving the People’s Plan, and asked who would be responsible for making the plan and how this would be voted upon.
As Benitez said that the bill does not detail the processes in crafting the People’s Plan, Daza warned that this proposal might bring more delays rather than expediting the resettlement programs for ISFs.
“That’s my very point Mr. Speaker, I think we all agree, we should protect the interests of the ISFs, we should provide more benefits, livelihood, and other services, but I’m also equally concerned that in many situations, the relocation need to be done as quickly as practicable, so I’m worried that without any provisions on some specifics, that this would further delay resettlement,” he said.