MANILA, Philippines - The problem of informal settlers continues to grow in Metro Manila, with at least 517,175 families identified in 13 local government units for the past year.
Of the total number of settlers, 232,123 families are occupying government-owned lands while another 173,536 families are occupying private-owned lands.
On the other hand, 81,628 families are living in houses in danger areas, 16,890 are from areas for priority development, and 11,866 families are from areas affected by government priority projects.
The Metro Manila Development Authority said the total number of informal settlers could swell above the 2007 record of 544,609 families once they receive updated figures from Pateros, Mandaluyong, Marikina and Paranaque.
MMDA Chairman Oscar Inocentes said the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee on Informal Settlers (MMIAC) will have more teeth to deal with illegal squatting issues when the MMIAC Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) finally gets approved by the committee.
The MMIAC is composed of the MMDA as the lead agency, the National Housing Authority as vice chair, and other member agencies such as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government, Caritas Manila Housing Ministry, National Urban Poor Sectoral Council, and other agencies attached to the Office of the President.
MMIAC is the creation of the Executive Order 803 signed by President Arroyo on May 21, 2009 to carryout housing and resettlement of homeless citizens under the CSP.
Inocentes convened the MMIAC last February 26 to finalize the IRR framework, which will govern the implementation of the Comprehensive Shelter Program (CSP) in the National Capital Region.
The MMDA chief said one of the significant provisions of the draft MMIAC-IRR is the inclusion of the Department of Justice (DoJ) as the MMIAC’s prosecutorial arm against illegal and professional squatters.
“When everything is finalized, it will be the DoJ, through its provincial, municipal and city fiscals’ office, which will handle the prosecution of the illegal squatters. This way, we will be able to deal with squatters effectively and swiftly and move forward towards providing housing for qualified beneficiaries,” MMDA Chairman Oscar Inocentes stressed.
The chairman said instead of the local government units concerned, the DoJ would be the one to pursue the filing of charges against professional squatters or squatting syndicates who negate the government efforts to provide housing projects to underprivileged and homeless families.
It has been observed by the committee that some local politicians tolerate informal settlers since they rely on vote-rich colonies of informal settlers during elections.
The committee also agreed to change the schedule of its meeting to last Friday of each month, not quarterly as originally suggested, to fast-track the implementation of the its plans and programs.