Dwelling woes hamper ‘Balik’ plan—solon

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said on Sunday the administration cannot possibly ensure balanced regional development with the Balik Probinsya Program, as dwelling issues continue to hound the country due to insufficient supply of affordable housing.

Brosas said the country’s current housing backlog stands at 3.9 million households.

“With the average production of housing units of only 200,000 units every year from 2012 to 2030, the backlog would still persist and hit 6.5 million households by 2030,” she said.

She added that as the government continues to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the poorest of the poor remain the hardest hit.

Brosas also said that even if the entire Metro Manila eventually transitions to general community quarantine soon, the daily struggle for the urban poor, composed mostly of informal settler families, remains the same or has become worse due to the effects of the pandemic—lack of decent and safe housing, low-paying jobs, lack of livelihood opportunities, and the constant threat of criminal elements lurking in busy streets.

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go earlier called on concerned government agencies, particularly the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to facilitate a comprehensive assessment of the population and situation of informal settler families, especially in Metro Manila, and provide better opportunities for them to start anew after the COVID-19 crisis.

Go said that if the urban poor are provided better opportunities in the countryside, they will be motivated to relocate back to their home provinces which would help solve problems in the metropolis related to congestion, such as poor quality of life, inefficiencies in the delivery of services, and environmental degradation.

Recently, PCUP has conducted its own survey with results showing that many ISFs are willing to return to the provinces. PCUP expects that as soon as the government finalizes various programs under the BP2 program, more Filipino ISFs will consider applying for the program and opt to return to the provinces.

As this developed, a party-list lawmaker, has called on the government to include the seafarers in its social amelioration program in the wake of the pandemic, as well as to prioritize the sector in the Balik Probinsya Program.

Rep. Sandro Gonzalez of Marino party-list group filed House Resolution No. 842 after the group’s action center received communications from seafarers themselves who either lost their jobs during the COVID-19 or were not able to acquire a green light for their overseas employment due to the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila.

“ln the maritime sector, the pandemic has seen severe restrictions put in place on the deployment of Filipino seafarers worldwide. Shipping has been crippled as large swaths of the global economy shut down for extended periods,” Gonzalez said.

Based on the data provided by the Maritime Industry Authority, there were 28,443 Filipino seafarers who were repatriated as of May 8 while 27,272 others are expected to be repatriated in the coming days.

This brings the number of seafarers who lost their jobs to 55,715. This is on top of the thousand other seafarers who are stuck in Manila due to the community lockdown, pleading for government support in this time of adversity.

According to Gonzales, remittances from the Filipino seafarers have abetted the country’s economy, especially during the years it struggled the most. It is therefore fitting that the government should layout appropriate policies and programs to give back to the seafarers in these trying times.

“It is the duty and obligation of the government to lay out appropriate policies and programs that will provide comprehensive financial and non-financial assistance to unemployed seafarers as a deed of reciprocity and in recognition of their sacrifices and hardship in keeping our economy robust through their enormous remittances,” Gonzalez said.

Topics: Arlene Brosas , Balik Probinsya Program , COVID-19 , Maritime Industry Authority , Sandro Gonzalez
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