When you have a Senator who wants to be President on the basis of his popularity, it’s safe to say he will be mouthing populist policies in aid of election. Senator Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao was quoted last week saying that if he is elected President, he will give each and every homeless Filipino a home. That’s a very tall order of a promise given that it is a safe estimate that 50% of Filipinos are without a decent house of the low-cost housing variety.
Housing was one of the priority programs of then First Lady Imelda Marcos in her combined posts as Minister of Human Settlements and Metro Manila Governor. Imelda focused on both in-city housing projects and off-city relocation. She ensured that relocation sites would have access to transportation, water and power. In-city relocation was accomplished by way of the mid-rise condominium developments which are still standing. These were known then as BLISS Housing or Bagong Lipunan Sites and Services. Financing was obtained either through the SSS or the Pag-Ibig fund. The Bliss units were well-designed and constructed as it is evident up to now because they have passed the test of time. Land was still plentiful in Metro Manila during that time. In fact, you could still see carabaos grazing in the vacant lots in Quezon City, near its boundary with Novaliches. It was Imelda who had the Lagro area developed along with Cogeo in eastern Metro Manila for government employees.
Unfortunately, the housing problem is another that was exacerbated by the Yellows. The master development plan for Metro Manila was thrown in the trash can after the Marcoses were ousted. What happened was uncontrolled development which continues up to now. Metro Manila is in the top five most densely-populated metropolitan areas in the world. Every available square meter is being bought up by real estate developers for condominiums development. The housing backlog is such that the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, and Cavite are also overflowing with residents who work in the National Capital Region (NCR). This is why the province of Rizal is experiencing a construction boom as low-cost housing developers are now building on the eastern border of Metro Manila.
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The term low-cost is misleading because the units are not within easy reach of the average Filipino. Pacquiao’s pronouncement shows his lack of policy experience. It is easy to say but hard to do, more so with the government bureaucracy. It’s not only the bureaucracy but the corruption in government housing agencies. Former President Cory Aquino abolished the Ministry of Human Settlements. It has been revived as the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development. Politicos like Pac-Man should stop making irresponsible statements in aid of their planned Presidential bids. Pacquiao means well no doubt but he should also be realistic in his promises. We are now seeing the effects of the politics of revenge which began in 1986.
Current President Rodrigo Duterte extended his offer of unity to the opposition after he won in 2016. The Opposition, rather than work with him, promptly proceeded to begin their efforts to oust him through whatever means. Now the Opposition claims they can do better even if Duterte has proven what he can accomplish in five years. The next President has a huge challenge before him or her. But as voters, we should also be responsible for the choices we make so it is high-time that we separate the chaff from the grain and demand a platform from candidates who are running, with a clear and concise plan of action and not the motherhood statements all of them resort to come election time. If we are to demand maturity from politicians, we should also become mature voters.
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