Symbiotic ties between housing and education

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    THERE is some sort of symbiosis in the sectors of education and housing that won’t easily surface in day-to-day life, but in a Senate committee hearing where socialized housing, dormitories, living quarters for students and teachers and physical conditions of state colleges and universities were discussed, the relationship becomes apparent.

    Problems such as where should teachers temporarily stay when the schools where they teach are several towns away from their permanent homes cropped up. Another is the need for a national law – not just local ordinances – to regulate the operation of dormitories for students, make these establishments safe from fire and other disasters and conducive for studying.

    These topics and many more were discussed at the hearing of the Senate Housing and Human Settlement committee last Monday, and the fact that both the traditional and social media only gave it a modicum of coverage (as compared to the highly incendiary ABS-CBN franchise), the topics discussed had more bearing on the lives of Filipinos than the business licenses of the wealthy Lopez clan.

    To the credit of committee chairman Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino, problems of the newly created Department of Housing and Human Settlement vis-a-vis the private housing developers were unraveled, too, at the hearing. Three representatives of private developers’ organizations led by Charlie Gorayeb pointed out that based on their experiences, the housing department’s implementing rules and regulations for the new housing law had been more stringent and harsher than what the law itself requires.

    Particular mention was made about the HLURB in this regard, and Housing Secretary Del Rosario had to explain how the IRR was drafted, and luckily, the private housing sector had been consulted in the process of its drafting.

    Sen. Tolentino asked the representative of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) if the state colleges and universities based in the provinces such as Iloilo, Negros and Marawi, which have tens of hectares of land in their campuses, could spare some space for the housing needs of teachers and students. The reply was that these entities have their own board of directors or trustees who will have to decide on such matters. We say Sen. Tolentino should pursue this idea with the state universities to provide on-site housing to teachers and students, just like at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

    In committee hearings like this one, we happen to know that there are concrete plans to set up a Housing Bank of the Philippines to take care of the financing side of the housing sector, and the proposal is being taken up with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. If this pushes through, more socialized housing projects could be made across the nation and the housing backlog could somehow ease.

    As a final note, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the only other senator in the room, should be cited for his presence in the committee hearing although he stayed just for an hour.

    Senators Lito Lapid and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. were absent although discussion on their separate bills on dormitories was on the agenda.

    Committee work in the Senate is done amid boardroom-like atmosphere in small meeting rooms, and senators like Tolentino and Dela Rosa, both new to the job, are exhibiting verve and enthusiasm not seen in their more senior colleagues.

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