Senate to restore Binay’s housing budget
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate will restore the National Housing Authority’s budget for the assistance of disaster victims after opposition senators questioned the NHA’s getting zero allocation for the very same item under the proposed P2.26-trillion budget for 2014, according to Sen. Francis Escudero.
“We will restore the item. We realized and it is rather clear that after the calamities that happened, the NHA needs that kind of fund,” said Escudero, chair of the finance committee.
Escudero said the proposed P20-billion Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Fund, a proposed Senate amendment, already includes such funds for the NHA.
Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday night also questioned the allocation of P1.24 billion to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for its program on the relocation of informal settlers in Metro Manila.
The opposition lawmakers asked if the administration was playing political favorites, pointing out the lack of support for “housing czar” Vice President Jejomar Binay and favored treatment for the DILG headed by Binay’s bitter rival, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Binay edged out Roxas in the 2010 vice presidential race. Many expect them to face off again in 2016 as standard bearers of the opposition and administration coalitions, respectively.
“May we know how much funding does NHA have to help victims of calamities at present?” Sotto asked Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who sponsored the budget bill during the floor deliberations on Wednesday night.
“P620 million for 2013,” Guingona said.
“Zero, Mr. President,” Guingona said.
“From P620 [million] to zero? Mr. President, I’m sure you know where I’m going,” Sotto said.
Estrada was more direct in pointing out the political implications of the NHA getting less under the proposed P2.26-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2014.
Estrada asked Guingona why the NHA was given only a P10.9-billion budget for 2014 when its allocation in 2013 was P21.3 billion.
Estrada also managed to get from Guingona the NHA’s backlog of housing units needed for families living in danger areas— 100,000 in Metro Manila and 500,000 outside of the National Capital Region.
Asked if a budget had been allocated for the housing backlog, Guingona said there was in 2013 and none in 2014.
“What does this government want? They do not want the NHA to succeed? They don’t want it to have a housing program that’s why it was given a zero budget?” Estrada said.
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