Intervention
of
Hon. Rodolfo G. Biazon

Senator of the Philippines and Head of Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Habitat Agenda New York,
7 June 2001

The Philippine government reaffirms its support to the Habitat Agenda on the provision of adequate shelter for all and the promotion of sustainable development.

Enshrined in Article XIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is the right to adequate shelter of the Filipino people. In translating this mandate into concrete initiatives and measures, the Philippine government forged linkages with the civil society, the private sector and the academe. This is in order to transform the underlying government philosophy of building on the initiatives and capabilities of the people as well as making them partners instead of mere recipients of development.

Beyond paying lip service to the Habitat agenda, the Philippine government, since 1996, has installed policies and legislations aimed at implementing the Habitat agenda.

The passage of these important legislations may be credited to the synergism in the tripartite cooperation among government organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and people's organizations (POs).

To complement the efforts of the legislature, the executive branch issued Executive Orders on the curtailment of professional squatters and squatting syndicates, formulation of comprehensive land use plans by LGUs, reformulation of the National Urban Development and Housing Framework for 1999 - 2004 and streamlining of the process for issuance of permits on housing and subdivision development projects.

Moreover, the Philippine government also devised many programs to provide security of tenure and regularize informal settlers occupying public lands.

Taking note of the housing requirements of the formal sector as well, the Philippine Government also established a home lending program with fund contributions coming from the social security institutions as well as other government financial institutions.

MAJOR OBSTACLES ENCOUNTERED

There have been many impediments encountered by the Philippine government in the provision of adequate shelter to its people. These include governance problem, the El Nino and La Nina phenomenon, the Asian Financial Crisis and the continuous influx of people from rural to major urban centers.

The Philippines has one of the highest levels of urbanization among the Asian countries, estimated recently at 52% as against 48.6 in 1990.

The Philippines accession to the GATT-WTO has in a way further exacerbated our urban problems. The GATT-WTO was expected to bring some benefits to the country in the form of improved market access, increased prices of commodities through the reduction or elimination of trade-distorting domestic supports and subsidies to agriculture and a more efficient allocation of resources in agriculture and across sectors of the economy.

However, these optimistic predictions have yet to materialize. Our agricultural sector, wanting as it already is in government assistance through land reform, farm to market roads, irrigation facilities, sufficient credit, high quality seeds and far greater capital, has yet to benefit from our country's accession to the GATT-WTO.

The produce of our farmers cannot simply compete against the subsidized products of developed countries. Due to reduced earnings of Filipino farmers and limited employment opportunities in the rural areas, the Philippines experienced an exodus of migrants from rural areas to major urban centers. Our farmers, ironically, are slowly being driven to search for greener pastures in the asphalt jungles.

Continuous increase in population in major cities and towns in the Philippines has exacerbated the housing shortage as manifested in the proliferation of informal settler colonies.

As expected, this increasing migration magnified other urban problems such as traffic congestion, difficulties in urban administration and management and the lack of employment opportunities. Be that as it may, our country affirms its commitment to resolve these problems.

GOVERNMENT TARGETS AND DIRECTIONS

In the next four years, our country's human settlements institutions will continue to establish programs towards the provision of adequate shelter and the promotion of sustainable development.

The Philippine government will pursue the enactment of laws that would strengthen the policy environment and to facilitate the implementation of strategies aimed at the general goal of providing adequate shelter to its people and promoting sustainable development.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

In the interest of improving international cooperation, we urge the international communities to extend support in the following areas:

First, review the impact of the GATT-WTO to the less-developed countries. This is but a reiteration of the request by heads of state and governments during the 1995 World Social Summit in Development held in Copenhagen. It is paramount that we revisit the disciplines of elimination and prohibition of export subsidies, improvement of market access for developing countries through reduction in tariffs and the elimination of tariff peaks and tariff escalation on products of interest to developing countries. The rules on differential treatment and modalities for developing countries in all three pillars should also be reviewed to enable them to address their development goals, including non-trade concerns such as shelter and food security, which should not be confused with the issue of food safety.

Second, urge developed countries to comply with the allocation of 0.7 percent of their GNP for overall official development assistance.

Third, support the millennium reforms on the Istanbul+5 Declaration.

Fourth, strengthen the capabilities of LGUs in resource mobilization, investment programming, among others.

Lastly, develop sustainable and viable sources of funds for basic social services.

TOWARDS THE PROVISION OF ADEQUATE SHELTER AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, WE REMAIN

The Philippine government is optimistic that this activity will not only serve as a venue where the member countries can express their agreements and disagreements on issues affecting the provision of adequate shelter and sustainable development. Rather, let us take this opportunity to forge a consensus and address the housing problem and formulate doable solutions in our fight against poverty.

The Philippines as a state party to the Istanbul Declaration and other sustainable development conventions fully commits itself to relentlessly pursue its pledges in Habitat and actively participate in the conduct of a review and appraisal of the implementation of Habitat II.