by Jarieinill Namit
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in partnership with Municipal Urban Development and Housing Office (MUDHO) is expecting the ongoing construction of 40 houses in Brgy. Maahas to be completed and be awarded to its beneficiaries before the year ends.
Families living in danger areas from Brgys. Lalakay and Bambang are the top priority of MUDHO to be relocated in the housing units. The beneficiaries will be given a Certificate of Lot Award (CELA) giving them the right of occupancy.
The said construction is part of DSWD’s Core Shelter Assistance Project with 70,000 pesos worth of construction materials and labor based on bayanihan concept or ‘Cash for Work’ or ‘Food for Work’ for the future occupants.
The said project aims to minimize the number of informal settlers in danger areas and in privately owned properties in the locality of Los Baños. One hundred fourteen families had already been relocated to housing sites after Typhoon Milenyo hit the country in 2006, 48 in Brgy. Lalakay and 66 in Brgy. Maahas.
According to Anni Dimaao, administrative assistant of MUDHO, the ongoing project is still mainly under DSWD. The beneficiaries will be chosen by DSWD while MUDHO is monitoring over the project. Currently, the local government of Maahas said they have no role yet for the project. Everything is still under MUDHO and DSWD despite the land being within their jurisdiction.
However, Dimaano said that MUDHO will fully take over the project in time and by then will give role to the local government in Maahas to monitor the construction progress and materials.
Currently, there are 66 families that were awarded and relocated in Maahas from danger areas in Lalakay and Bambang. One of them is Berces Santos. Santos is from Bambang and was awarded in 2010. Santos said he has no complain to his new house since they got the house for not even a peso worth although they do not have the title yet. MUDHO said that the awardees will need to buy the land title from PNR, however the titles are still not available yet since there are still ongoing construction within the area.
Unlike Santos, Lorena Balasa, another awardee, seem to like her house in Lalakay more. “Walang kabuhayan dito, wala pang kuryente [there is no livelihood here, not even electricity]”, Balasa said. Balasa had been relocated in 2010 and since then, she mentioned that her husband still goes to Dampalit to make money since there is no available work for him in Maahas. “Yung iba ayaw lumipat dito [some refused to move here]”, she added.
Aside from the housing, beneficiaries are also asking some help from the government. Lani Casuncad, awarded in 2011, said that government gave each family two kilograms of rice and other relief goods when they were first relocated. However, MUDHO said that they only have limited funds for the project, and they can only provide these goods for those people who will help with the construction thus the ‘Food for Work’ or ‘Cash for Work’ concept.
As of press date, aside from the construction, MUDHO is also aiming to provide electricity within the area. “May budget na, approved na ng Department of Energy, implementation na lang ang hinihintay [We already have budget, it had already been approved by Department of Energy, we’re only waiting for implementation]”, Dimaano said.
However, funding is not the only problem of MUDHO and DSWD for the project to be fully implemented. Based on the figures that MUDHO consolidated from their different studies in the year 2008, the main problem of the housing sector in Los Baños is the lack of opportunity to own home lots. Los Baños has 5,650 hectares land area, 40% of which or 2,262. Seventeen hectares constitute the vast Forestry Conservation Area. The next big chunk of the land area is devoted to agricultural use, third comes institutional use and the smallest portion of it is for residential area. The remaining two percent are used for commercial purposes like parks and open spaces.
The government, however, strategized to regularize tenurial status of occupants of certain public lands.
The government’s strategy to solve the problem is by the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 550, Series of 2004. The proclamation declared open for disposition certain lands within Camp Eldridge Military Reservation Area in Brgy. Lalakay, Bambang, and Tinmugan; which means these lots can be used by the municipality for housing projects; and the Executive Order (EO) 048 which declares non-core properties of the Philippine National Railways as socialized housing site and open for disposition to its actual occupants. The EO covered four hectares in Brgys. Maahas, Mayondon, Bayog, and San Antonio.
According to the 2012 National Statistics Office report, there are 21, 749 households in Los Baños. Twenty-one percent of these households are informal settlers, excluding the families residing along the lakeshore. The length of Los Baños shoreline covers six barangays and the number of informal settlers there can be approximately at 700 families, according to MUDHO’s partial report in 2012.
About 699 informal settlers from Military Reservation Areas (MRA) and 528 informal settlers from Philippine National Railways Non-Core Property were awarded with either Land Title or CELA in pursuant of PP550, Series of 2004 and Executive Order No. 048, Series of 2001. After awarding these titles and CELAs to 1227 families, the number of informal settlers from 8,052 dropped to 6,825 as of 12th of March 2012.
Other than the funding and home lots issued, another major challenge for MUDHO is the existence of private claimants and land titles covering big tracts of land issued prior to PP 550. Because of this, MUDHO cannot issue CELA or titles to the awardees thus cannot give the beneficiaries their right to occupy the land.
In Brgy. Bambang, no title had been rewarded yet because of private claimants. There are about 50 families facing eviction cases in court.
In the relocation site in Timugan, a five-hectare land is under the name of Cesar Lopez. The case had been filed to the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) to nullify the said land title. April last year, court had favored Lopez but just recently, the beneficiaries had been granted by the motion to present evidences. “Umusad yung kaso konti lang nakakaalam, [the case progressed with few people being aware of it]” Dimaano said, “nagulat na lang kami may desisyon na yung court [we were surprised that court already has a decision]”.
To date, there are already two closed eviction cases. The first one was Kayumanggi Press, Inc. against the residents in Purok 5 of Brgy. Bambang. The court decided in favor of Kayumanggi Press. However, DENR has requested OSG to file nullification of title and revision of land to public status so the implementation of the court decision has not been implemented yet. The other case is between Paraducho-Ramos against 20 residents in Tuntungin-Putho. The court had favored the landowner and the decision is for implementation. There are also three cases filed by Eric Cuevo against 50 residents in Purok 5 of Bambang that are still going through court trial.
The Office of the Mayor is offering assistance to these families who are involved in eviction cases through MUDHO in form of legal aid, technical, and administrative support.
With all the challenges MUDHO is facing in their ongoing housing project, MUDHO has three proposed projects and activities.
The first project is to conduct inventory of landless and underprivileged families. Even with the current number that they have, MUDHO stated that the current number would be underestimation of the informal settlers because other families had not been part of the survey like those who are living in privately owned properties. There are also families residing by Boy
Scout of the Philippines and the upland farmers living at the foot of Mt. Makiling. If formally surveyed, the figure is being expected to rise by another thousand.
The survey would also need to have the exact number of families living in danger areas, the economic profile of the residents and also to come-up with a shelter plan that will cover relocation of the beneficiaries.
The second proposed activity is to come up with a Municipal Shelter Plan. As provided for Republic Act 7279, which also states the areas of danger areas in the local municipality, it states that every municipality should come up with Municipal Shelter Plan that shall serve as guide in implementation of housing projects.
Third is acquisition of housing site. The possible relocation sites within the areas covered of PP 550 cannot be easily be taken in possession by the municipality because of the private claimants who had been paying taxes due to the lands.
Dimaano said that once the construction in Brgy. Maahas is completed, the next project will be in Brgy. Putho-Tuntungin. Currently, MUDHO is also looking for lots that the municipality can buy and use for further shelter assistance.