De Lima seeks Senate probe of ‘debt crisis’ for informal settlers

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Senator Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate investigation into the worsening mortgage crisis facing the more than 600,000 informal settler families in the 69 Northville and Southville resettlement areas from Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

De Lima, a known human rights activist, filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 535 urging the Senate housing and resettlement committee to look into the plight of the residents of Northville and Southville resettlement areas.

“There is a need to investigate the looming debt crisis that is threatening to deprive our countrymen of their residences, and to look into possible legislative measures that would assist them in complying with their financial obligations,” she said.

From 2005 to 2014, there are more than 600,000 informal settler families (ISF) from Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna who were residing along railroad tracks affected by the Northrail and Southrail projects.

These ISFs who have been relocated to 69 Northville and Southville resettlement areas of the National Housing Authority (NHA) are now in danger of being evicted due to the NHA Memorandum Circular No. 2506 removing occupants from their housing units.

Under NHA MC No. 2506, illegal occupants are defined as those whose contracts were cancelled due to arrearages of more than three months and those with contracts that matured or expired but who have not fully settled their obligations.

The Senator from Bicol, however, noted that NHA has commissioned collection agencies and law firms to help the government in collecting arrears from the informal settler families without regard to their living conditions in the relocation sites.

“These collection agencies and law firms do not consider the challenges the residents are facing, most of which arose from, or are directly related to, their relocation to these remote areas,” she said.

“Due to the strict implementation of the penalties due to the amortization arrears, most of the Northville and Southville residents are facing an increasing debt that are fast becoming insurmountable given their current conditions,” she added.

Leaders of the Homeowners’ Federation of Northville and Southville Inc. (HFNSI) came to Senator de Lima to bring to her attention the pitiful plight they have to endure in the housing units they occupy in these relocation sites.

They told her about the substandard living conditions in these resettlement areas, including the absence, if not at all lack, of basic facilities, such as water, electricity, streetlights, sewerage and access roads.

The former justice secretary assured them that she will look into the feasibility of empowering the NHA to condone outstanding debts under certain conditions, and reviewing existing policies which might be compounding their financial difficulties.

“There is also a need to investigate the living conditions that hamper the development of our countrymen in these relocation sites,” she said.

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