Sunday, February 3, 2008

Housing for public servants comes in trickles

Poor return on investments.

That is, perhaps, the primary reason why the national government is reluctant to develop mass housing projects for the lowly soldiers. Worse is that some of the military generals may have been influenced by big developers not to push through with these projects considering the high costs involved in developing the area and constructing the housing units.

What the Retirement Service and Benefits System (RSBS) did was to finance the construction of a cluster of condominium projects along C-5 Road in Taguig City, just a stone's throw away from the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio. But when the project was completed, ordinary soldiers could not move in despite the invitation to occupy the units because their basic salaries are barely enough to pay for the monthly installments, which are payable in 25-30 years.

The catch was that the condo units are not really meant or designed for the pockets of the ordinary soldiers but for military officials from the ranks of 2nd Lieutenant up to general. Now where would the lowly soldier would go but to erect their houses on public lands. But squatting on public lands is not forever. Once the government needed the land, the squatters have no choice but to move out. If they resisted, surely the government has no choice but to force them out. And sometimes, the demolition turns out to be bloody.

In short, the government's sincerity in providing affordable low-cost housing units to ordinary soldiers is now in question. It is public knowledge that there are vast tracts of public lands that have remained undeveloped. For example, the patches of grassy strips of public lands that are parallel to the C-5 Road in Taguig is a testament to this fact. If you pass along the route, you won't miss to see patches of shanties that have been erected there for a long time.

Everybody knows that these public lands are worth millions when fully developed into a housing project. But it seems there's not much enough efforts to explore the possibility of developing these areas into a housing project that could satisfy the demands of the poor and the ordinary soldiers alike to co-exist together in harmony. If not, there are other places that the national government can tap so that thos who less in life can avail the true spirit of the government's national shelter program.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) may be tasked to identify ideal spots wherein the private sector, in partnership with the national government's financial institutions, can work together to transform this noble idea into reality. In its absence, the Gawad Kalinga is taking its place through the bayanihan spirit in order to build homes for the poor and the socially disadvantaged majority, picked to benefit from it.

Because allowing the private business contractors to come into the picture to develop these public lands will most likely mark up the price of developing the property in cahoots with some government officials who may resort to shady deals and render the projects unaffordable to many. Perhaps, all the government has to do is to tap the genuine bayanihan spirit of the Gawad Kalinga, whose sincerity in helping the poor build their own homes, is untarnished.

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