MANILA - Sen. Francis Tolentino on Wednesday urged the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) to have all housing-related budgets turned over to the agency to increase its "meager" P3.97-billion proposed funding for 2021.
The DHSUD has been asking Congress for an additional P12 billion for next year's budget after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved only 5 percent of its proposed P76.19-billion funding in 2021.
"They (other agencies) don't have a housing mandate... You can ask them to transfer it to you," Tolentino, who chairs the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, told DHSUD Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario.
Tolentino was referring to the following departments which supposedly included housing funds in their respective 2021 budget proposals:
- Department of Transportation (P18 billion)
- Department of Social Welfare and Development (P4.11 billion)
- Department of Agriculture (P1.9 billion)
- Department of the Interior and Local Government (P87.28 million)
While Congress has the power to realign items in the budget, Tolentino said lawmakers should not act as "referees" among department heads.
"We will not toddler you... The law authorized you to talk to each other," he said.
"We are not supposed to referee. We can do that but it has to be you," he said.
The Housing Secretary should be "proactive enough" to demand funds to help sustain the operations and mandates of his agency, Tolentino said.
"I wanted Secretary Del Rosario to invoke first... to his colleagues in the Cabinet," the senator said.
"Sila muna mag-usap and then submit to the plenary," he said.
(They should talk among themselves first and then submit to the plenary.)
Several senators agreed that it was important to increase the Housing department's budget as shelter is considered as the "first line of defense" against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"How can you implement a lockdown if you don't have a house?" Tolentino said.
"Parang nakakaawa naman itong budget ng housing agency natin," Sen. Nancy Binay said.
(The budget of our housing agency is such a pity.)
"Kaya nga natin siya ginawang department para bigyang halaga ang ahensya pero pagdating sa pondo parang naiwan pa din siya," she said.
(The reason why we made it a department was to give importance to the agency especially when it comes to funding, but it's still left behind.)
Binay's father - former Vice President Jejomar Binay - served as the country's Housing chief from 2010 to 2016.
At that time, the Housing agency already had 1 percent of the total budget, but its funding for 2021 dropped to 0.08 percent of the Philippines' P4.5-trillion fund, Sen. Binay said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar also backed proposals to hike the DHSUD's 2021 funding.
"Our biggest problem is the relocation site of informal settlers especially those along the rivers," said Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change.
Del Rosario said he would comply with Tolentino's suggestion to write to other Cabinet Secretaries to have their funds for housing programs incorporated into the DHSUD's coffers.