Published on September 27, 2013, Philstar.com:

Written by Jose Rodel Clapano

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday urged private home developers to help the government rehabilitate Zamboanga City, where business and residential structures were destroyed in the attacks launched by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said at least 15,000 families were left homeless when the Misuari-led faction of the MNLF attacked and held some city residents hostage since Sept. 9.

“I am seeking your support and assistance, particularly in our initiative to deliver housing to our fellow citizens affected by natural or man-made calamities,” Binay said during the Socialized Housing Developers Association convention.

He said the government’s housing sector is looking at the possibility of channeling the compliance projects of private developers to Zamboanga.

“I have instructed Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) Commissioner Tony Bernardo to discuss this with you and come up with a partnership project between the government and the private developers for this purpose,” Binay said.

Earlier, he ordered the shelter agencies to prepare assistance packages for Zamboanga residents displaced by the armed conflict.

The National Housing Authority (NHA), he said, would offer a housing program to residents whose homes were destroyed, while P5,000 worth of building materials will be given to those whose houses were damaged.

Binay said the Pag-IBIG Fund or the Home Development Mutual Fund started processing calamity loan applications in its Zamboanga office since Sept. 18.

He said the government alone could not solve the housing issue given its limited resources.

The Vice President said the housing sector would help private developers secure the incentives due them as a result of their housing investments.

Zambo banks get relief

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has granted regulatory relief to banks in Zamboanga City affected by the conflict.

The BSP will exclude existing borrowings from the computation of past due loan ratios. It said the banks should keep records of the loan transactions and should pass the relief measure to the borrowers.

The BSP will not penalize the banks for the delayed submission of supervisory reports.

“Non-imposition of monetary penalties for delays in the submission of all supervisory reports due on Sept. 9 to Nov. 8 will be granted to banks in the said province,” the BSP said.

P10-M aid from Australia

The Australian government said it would provide up to P10 million in emergency aid for families displaced by armed conflict in Basilan and Zamboanga City.

Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell said the conflict in Zamboanga and Basilan has created a humanitarian crisis deserving an Australian response.

“We are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Mindanao and the effect this has had on the local people,” Tweddell said.

At the request of the Philippine government and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Australia will provide emergency aid including food, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, blankets, water containers, kitchen and hygiene kits for the evacuees.

The United Nations said the situation in Zamboanga City has become a humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines Luiza Carvalho has expressed alarm over the situation and the needs of people caught in the violence.

“We are particularly concerned for the most vulnerable, especially the well-being of women and children,” Carvalho said.

DSWD denies padded food packs

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has denied allegations that the prices of food packs for Zamboanga evacuees were padded.

DSWD Assistant Secretary Teodulo Romo made the denial after complainants claimed that the agency favored certain food caterers.

Romo dared the complainants to prove their claims, as he admitted that the DSWD set up its operation center in a commercial food establishment. He said the center is located near the grandstand where the evacuees are sheltered.

The food packs were for the 101,018 evacuees housed in at least 34 shelters. – With Kathleen Martin, Pia Lee-Brago, Evelyn Macairan, John Unson, Roel Pareño