September 3, 2015
Mr. Charlie Ayco, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Philippines,
Architect Jose Recio, Chairman of the National Board of Trustees, Habitat for Humanity Philippines,
Civil society partners,
Partners from the government, academia, private sector,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak at this important forum. Today I’d like to speak about how affordable housing for the urban poor helps the Government achieve inclusive growth in the Philippines.
Urbanization of Poverty
Globally, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas today. Asia is urbanizing faster than other regions, and Philippines is one of the fastest urbanizing countries. As of 2014, about 45 percent of the total Filipino population lived in cities, and by 2050, over 56 percent are expected to be living in urban areas.
With more than 80 percent of national GDP generated in Greater Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities, urbanization can contribute to reducing poverty and boosting economic growth, if managed well.
Yet, the speed and scale of urbanization brings challenges. Demands for housing, basic services, functional transport systems, and jobs continue to surge. And as cities fail to keep pace with the rapid urbanization, informal settlements grow. Metro Manila is a case in point.
National Housing Authority (NHA) estimates that there are about 1.5 million informal settler families or ISFs across the Philippines today. Metro Manila alone hosts around 600,000 ISFs or about 3 million people. This means that one out of every four people in Metro Manila live in informal settlements.
I have visited some informal settlements myself. They are overcrowded, littered with garbage, exposed to recurring floods, and often lack basic infrastructure and services. Most of the people are engaged in poorly paid jobs that prevents them from moving out of these settlements. It is hard to imagine how the Philippines can achieve inclusive growth without addressing the precarious situation of the ISFs and providing solutions to lift them out of poverty.
The Government has taken commendable steps to tackle the ISF issue under Oplan Likas, the 50 billion peso national resettlement program, which aims to move over a hundred thousand ISFs out of danger zones in Metro Manila. LGUs such as Cebu, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Quezon City have also undertaken innovative initiatives and have succeeded in addressing this particular issue.
Making In-City Resettlement Work
But we need to do more, and we need to do better. Even under Oplan Likas that advocates for in-city resettlement, to date, close to 70 percent of the ISFs have been resettled off-city, away from their jobs, services, and social networks. And because many families struggle to find jobs around these off-city sites, some return to Metro Manila. We need to work harder to realize in-city resettlement for the existing ISFs, and deliver affordable housing to prevent new slums from forming.
How do we do this? I believe this requires addressing four key areas: land, housing finance, institutions, and sustainable urban development.
First, availability of land especially in Metro Manila is a major constraint in providing affordable housing in-city. We need to consolidate information on land and develop an accurate land information system that is accessible to all. Rules and regulations need to be streamlined to facilitate the use of government land for affordable housing.
Second, lack of sufficient affordable housing hinders supply of affordable housing and limits access for the poor. We need a well-designed subsidy scheme that helps make housing affordable to the poorest segment of the society; utilize alternative land tenure arrangements, allocate more funds for affordable housing; and expand non-traditional financing channels such as private sector and microfinance institutions.
Third, the magnitude of the ISF problem requires everyone to work together. National government, LGUs, civil society, private sector, and communities must collectively adopt innovative solutions. But to be effective, our efforts must be coordinated. We need a comprehensive policy framework that all stakeholders follow to avoid inconsistencies or redundancies. LGUs need to play a bigger role and citizens must be fully involved in the shelter planning and implementation.
Finally, cities need to plan for a growing population. We can’t continue to react to the problems. We need to preempt them. We need a well-planned urban development that fosters inclusive growth supported by an effective mass transportation system to improve people’s access to jobs and houses. Promoting mixed land use and making cities resilient to natural disasters are also urgent issues that need to be tackled.
We at the World Bank, have been helping the Government provide affordable housing in cities and promote inclusive urban development. We are working on flood management in Metro Manila to reduce the cities’ vulnerability to floods and move ISFs to safer grounds by providing decent housing in cities, close to their jobs.
We’ve also been providing technical assistance on issues related to land, housing finance, and institutions over the last 5 years. Our latest endeavor is to provide technical support to the National Summit on Housing and Urban Development led jointly by the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development and the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement. The Summit, which is an eight month process, aims to come up with tangible actions to make in-city resettlement work.
Today we look forward to an active engagement by everyone here, and arrive at meaningful ways to bring about affordable and safer housing for the poor.