Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide permanent shelter to families living in streets instead of just engaging them in “outreach activities” during the week-long Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Manila.
Gatchalian recalled that DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman admitted that her agency brought 100 homeless families to the Chateau Royale Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas during Pope Francis’ 5-day visit in the country last February.
Soliman was quoted as saying the street dwellers were sent away so they would “not be vulnerable to the influx of people coming to witness the Pope” but added that the families “could be seen as not having a positive influence in the crowd.” A total of P4.75 million was spent for this “camping” activity.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker emphasized that the DSWD’s mission is “to develop, implement and coordinate social protection and poverty reduction solutions for and with the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged.”
“Instead of just activities, why not take these homeless families off the streets for good? Isn’t it that the DSWD exists to make a lasting positive impact on those who need state intervention to rise from poverty, instead of merely holding an ‘outreach activity’ that coincides with events covered by international media?” asked Gatchalian, a senior vice chair of the House Committees on Metro Manila Development and on Housing and Urban Development.
In reports, the DSWD has scheduled an outreach activity for homeless families this month, with Soliman saying such families and street children “are vulnerable and they become doubly vulnerable if they remain on the streets.”
“If the DSWD is really committed to serving the Filipino people, it would effectively protect homeless families from harm on the streets by giving them permanent shelters, not by taking them off the streets to attend activities when there are visits by foreign dignitaries. What does this say about agency that should prioritize social welfare and development, as its name suggests?” the NPC congressman pointed out.
Gatchalian has previously explained that while the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) is a long-term solution, there have to be efforts by government to address poverty in the short-term and the medium-term.
“Millions of Filipinos cannot wait an entire generation for long-term poverty alleviation programs such as the conditional cash transfer program to bear fruit or for economic growth to trickle down on them. Our fellow Filipinos need relief – not in 30 years, not in 20 years – they need relief now,” explained Gatchalian.
Under the DSWD’s Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Families, street families are given a house rental assistance of up to P4,000 per month for six months to one year.
Gatchalian suggested that DSWD partner with local government units in giving indigent families permanent homes. “If the DSWD is going to spend precious taxpayers’ money anyway, better spend it on something that would leave a long-term impact on the lives of the poor.”
The lawmaker cited Valenzuela City’s Disiplina Village housing project, whose foundation he helped lay as the city mayor in 2010.
The project seeks to relocate poor families living in danger-prone areas, including settlements near riverbanks, esteros, waterways, under the bridges, sideways, and aqueducts. For as low as P300 monthly, these families can lease condominium-type units.
The housing project, which targets zero informal settlers by next year, involves partners from both the public and private sector namely the National Housing Authority, Gawad Kalinga, San Miguel Foundation Corporation, Dakilang Handog Foundation, Valenzuela Business Club, and Filipino-Chinese Valenzuela Chamber of Commerce.
It is the first resettlement project to be initiated by an LGU and is the biggest in-city low-rise building relocation program in the country at present. (Monica Cantilero)