Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada will soon grant amnesty to property owners who have been negligent in paying their monthly amortization fees under the city government’s Land-for-the-Landless Program or LLP.
Estrada has asked the City Council to hasten the passage of Draft Ordinance No. 7834 that seeks to provide an opportunity to delinquent land awardees to easily settle their unpaid obligations.
“We understand that life is hard for many LLP beneficiaries, who are mostly poor, so we deemed it necessary to grant amnesty or condonation to the qualified awardees,” said Estrada.
“These delinquencies and delayed payments could be due to the least priority accorded by some beneficiaries to the program, preferring instead to part with their hard-earned money on expenses like food, clothing, and schooling,” Estrada noted.
He added that there is also a misconception that land awarded under the program is free.
LLP is based on City Tenants and Security Committee Resolution No. 16-A that aims to provide the landless and homeless residents of Manila decent and affordable homes and lots.
It is mandated by Republic Act 409, or the Revised Charter of the City of Manila.
Through expropriation, the city government buys private properties that are distributed to qualified awardees, who in turn are given 20 to 25 years to pay for the lots at affordable rates.
Under the proposed ordinance the city council recently passed on first reading, the amnesty covers land awardees that have outstanding amortization payments for more than three consecutive months. These are the contracts that are already due for cancellation.
For those who have unpaid obligations for three months flat or less, they could apply for a restructuring of their accounts, according to Danny Isiderio, chief of the city’s Urban Settlements Office.
With the condonation in effect, the city government stands to forego some P30 million in penalties and charges, Isiderio added.
“Under the condonation program, the (land) awardee will no longer pay the outstanding penalties and charges, only the principal amortization fees,” Isiderio said.
The law providing for the LLP allows only the payment of 50 percent of the total delinquency, including penalties and charges, and that the remaining 50 percent may be restructured and paid for three consecutive months, explained Councilor Rod Lacsamana, chairman of the committee on urban development and housing.
This provision, the councilor admitted, is “very prohibitive” and hard to comply and will only place the beneficiaries of the program under perpetual state of delinquency.
Estrada’s decision to implement an amnesty program is “a big sacrifice,” Lacsamana stressed.
“P30 million is a huge amount. But this does not need to be paid. Only Mayor Estrada has this kind of program,” he said.
USO manages 98 private estates, 37 of which have already been expropriated by the city government and distributed to awardees. Occupants of the remaining 61 estates are experiencing problems in the payment of monthly amortizations, according to Lacsamana.
Once approved, the condonation program is expected to reenergize the beneficiaries and jumpstart the payment of monthly amortization hopefully leading to the payment of the total obligation under the LLP, the draft ordinance stated.
Only last week, Estrada identified 470 families that have been illegally occupying five privately-owned lands as the latest beneficiaries of the program.
One such property is the 28,789-square meter estate that covers the streets of Jose Abad Santos, Solis, and Antipolo in Barangays 215 and 216 in Tondo. The landowner, Vargas Realty, Inc., wants to sell it to the city government at P1.3 billion.
Under the program, the lot awardees should have the capacity to pay and have no landholdings elsewhere. Within two years from the awarding of the lot, the beneficiaries should occupy the area and vacate the premises not included in the award.
The lot awarded cannot be sold or rented for 20 years without the written consent of the Office of the Mayor, and it should be used for residential purposes only.
Estrada awarded lots to 78 families in September 2013; 57 in April 2014, and another 40 in February 2015, followed by 29 more families on June the same year.
On March 2016, another 65 families were given lots under the LLP, 53 of whom were at Villafojas Estate located along Villafojas Street, also in Tondo.