DBM slashes housing budget by more than ₱70B

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has disapproved more than ₱70 billion worth of projects of the Department of Housing, Settlement, and Urban Development (DHSUD).

The DHSUD has a proposed a budget of ₱76 billion for 2021, but the DBM approved only ₱3.9 billion or merely five percent of the total budget proposal. The agency has a budget of P7.83 billion pesos for 2020.

The National Housing Authority (NHA),which is under the DHSUD, got an even bigger cut with the DBM approving only P3.7 billion out of its proposed budget of P63.7 billion.

This approved amount can only finance two of NHA's proposed projects: the resettlement of informal settler families (ISF) affected by the Supreme Court ruling on the Manila Bay area clean-up, and the Emergency Housing Assistance Program.

For the resettlement project alone, the NHA would need a budget of ₱6.9 billion to relocate those living along the shorelines of Manila Bay to various areas in Regions 3 and 4A.

Only ₱2.7 billion was approved for the project by the DBM.

Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said that due to the budget slash, there would be no funding for the relocation of the ISFs in Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite.

"Manila Bay covers Region 4A and Region 3. Lahat po yan may ISF," Del Rosario explained. "Hindi lang Metro Manila ang dine-decongest natin but lahat ng nakatira along the shorelines from Region 4A to Bataan Region3. The tributaries going to the sea included."

[Translation: Manila Bay covers Region 4A and Region 3. All of those areas have ISFs. We would not only be decongesting Metro Manila but all those who live along the shorelines from Region 4A to Bataan, Region 3. The tributaries going to the sea included.]

During the budget hearing in the Senate on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon said he wanted to push for the return of the P4 billion budget cut from the resettlement project.

He noted the intelligence and confidential funds are even higher than the budget for the housing sector, which is a basic need.

"The total intelligence funds for the whole government under the 2021 budget is over ₱5 billion," Drilon said. "The confidential funds is ₱4.5 billion. The intelligence and confidential funds therefore amount to at least ₱9.5 billion in the entire budget. Contrast that with a ₱4 billion budget assigned to the housing sector."

"There is a consensus among the senators attending this hearing that you really need assistance, the housing sector needs assistance because of the meager budget assigned to you," he added.

However, after repeated questioning, Drilon got annoyed that Del Rosario could not answer his questions on the resettlement project, and had to rely on his staff for guidance.

"I must be candid with you, I am disappointed you can't answer basic questions," Drilon told Del Rosario. "It's your Director, who is answering… What you have shown so far does not encourage me to push for augmentation. It doesn't seem like you have grasp of housing needs at this point."

"I give up," the senator said. "I cannot get answers. I will just ask again during the period of interpellation."