No housing funds for Taal evacuees under 2021 budget: Housing agency

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2020 05:59 PM

Residents affected by the Taal Volcano eruption rest in Padre Pio Shrine, Santo Tomas, Batangas, Jan. 15, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters/file

MANILA - The National Housing Authority on Wednesday said it has no funds for the rehabilitation of houses damaged during the Taal eruption earlier this year.

Of the NHA's proposed P63.70-billion budget for 2021, only P2 billion was allowed to be included in the national government's P4.5-trillion spending bill, the agency said during budget deliberations in the Senate.

"In 2020 and in 2021 we have not received any allocation for Taal," NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr. told senators when asked about housing units for those displaced by the rumbling of the dormant volcano.

"We are on the dilemma as to the fund source," he said.

There are at least 2,600 totally damaged houses near the Taal volcano, while 14,565 other were partially damaged, according to data from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

"We were supposed to receive P1 billion from Department of Budget and Management (DBM), but as of now we have not received that yet," Escalada said.

To remedy the funding problem, the NHA allowed Taal evacuees to be listed as beneficiaries of existing housing programs, he said.

At least 600 evacuees have "decided to relocate in Ibaan, Batangas," while 2,200 families will be resettled within the same municipalities, DHSUD Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario said.

While the NHA operates on a P73-billion budget, most of the funds are already earmarked for other housing projects, Escalada said.

The DHSUD has been asking Congress to increase its 2021 budget by P12 billion, saying only 5 percent of its proposed P76.19-B funding was included in the National Expenditure Program.

"You really need assistance because of the very meager budget that is being assigned to you," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said, noting that the agency needs P30 billion a year to construct 6.57 million homes in the next few years.

The government's P9.5-billion intelligence and confidential funds is even higher than the DHSUD's 2021 budget, Drilon said.

"Contrast that with a P4-billion budget assigned to the housing sector... These show the priorities that we are confronted with in this sector," he said.

The Taal volcano's eruption in January displaced 736,802 individuals, and incurred P3.40 billion worth of infrastructure and agriculture damage in Batangas, Cavite, and nearby areas.

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