Legarda: Address Housing Woes to Maximize Asia’s Growth Potential

October 5, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda today said that governments and citizens of Asia-Pacific should make good use of the region’s growth potentials and start addressing homelessness among Asians.


Legarda echoed the call of Former US Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, who said that Asia-Pacific is steering the world in growth and prosperity, which must be used to eliminate poverty.


In a meeting with Sen. Legarda at the sidelines of Habitat for Humanity Asia Pacific Housing Forum, the former US housing secretary said that an important tool in addressing poverty is ensuring decent shelter for all citizens. Quoting a pastor from the Ebenezer Baptist Church, he said, “The homes you build will last beyond your time. The children will realize a future beyond your time. The creation of a vibrant part of the world by providing opportunities for people and eliminating poverty is a cause beyond your time.”


“I am inspired by Mr. Henry Cisneros’ positive outlook on Asia-Pacific, notwithstanding its many challenges. I share his view that addressing poverty housing, which afflicts 581 million people in Asia Pacific, should be a priority of governments in Asia,” Sen. Legarda said.


Asia is home to 4.3 billion people.  UN studies estimate that it will be home to 12 of the world’s largest cities by 2020.  UN data show that that many of Asia’s poor live in slums in urban areas. These demographics have led a number of experts to coin the phrase “urbanization of poverty.”


“The numbers speak for themselves.  More effective housing interventions, urban planning, land use management, and implementation of environmental laws have to be at the forefront of efforts to battle the pervasive housing and poverty issues in the region,” Legarda said.


The Senator cited that the Philippines has a backlog of four million houses, affecting about a fifth of the population.


“It is this fact, together with the increasing urbanization rate, which is projected to account for 70% of Philippine population by 2015, that led me to introduce a measure that will create a Department of Housing and Urban Development,” she explained.


“Mr. Cisneros also highlighted the need to build sustainable homes—those that are climate- and disaster-resilient, so that we can escape the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities when extreme weather events occur,” said Legarda.


The Senator has also proposed a National Land Use Act that will create a general long-term framework for proper allocation, use and management of the country’s land and other physical resources, while local government units (LGUs) will have to develop and implement their respective comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs).


Legarda also said that she will look into the proposal of Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, presented during the Asia Pacific Housing Forum, to create a government facility, similar to Singapore’s Drainage Department, that will be primarily responsible for planning and maintaining the public drainage systems.


“We have a disintegrated and poorly planned drainage system that leads to clogged waterways. This is borne out of a complex web of issues related to poverty housing, poor environmental compliance, and weak urban planning.  We have to improve our drainage systems so that these can effectively convey flood water to the sea and not to the streets and our communities,” the Senator said.