The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) VIII, together with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) VIII and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) VIII, will spearhead the drafting of a proposal for the possible resettlement of informal settlers along national highways, as part of the agreements during the small group meeting of regional line agencies (RLAs), private sector, and local government units (LGUs) on 10 August 2021.

The proposal aims to quantify and address the presence of informal settlers along national highways. Housing agencies argue that this endangers not only motorists, but also those living near the highway.

Engr. Angelita Obedencia of DPWH VIII supported the proposed action saying that this issue has long plagued the implementation of the agency’s projects and hoped that the proposal will help put an end to the issue.

To address the delay, the monitoring team asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) VIII to require the contractor to submit a catch-up plan and closely monitor the implementation of the project to ensure it meets the revised timeline.

Preliminary data from the DPWH VIII show that the agency has identified 72,916 illegal structures along the national highway in the region. Between 2016 and 2021, DPWH was only able to remove more than 25,000 illegal structures, meaning that more than 46,000 still remain along national highways.

The housing agencies were similarly supportive of the proposal.

DHSUD VIII Regional Director Evelyn A. Bobier shared that her agency has already taken steps to create an inventory of government lands in all LGUs so that they can be utilized as relocation sites for informal settlers.

Similarly, National Housing Authority VIII Regional Manager Constancio Antiniero, stated that the housing agencies are simply waiting for LGUs to request assistance in the development of resettlement sites.

The DHSUD VIII and the DPWH VIII will lead a Technical Working Group (TWG) to help draft the proposal, while NEDA will help gather measures, data, and information to assist the TWG in crafting appropriate recommendations to address the issue.

The initiative was raised by Regional Development Council (RDC) VIII – Private Sector Representative Atty. Roy Bernard C. Fiel who pushed for the conceptualization of a proposed resettlement program for informal settlers along national highways.

Article and Photos by:  Knulp Aseo, DRD/ Joshua Vincent C. Araba, PDIPBD