Vice President Jejomar C. Binay Friday urged the housing sector to involve slum-dwellers in the decision-making process in projects for slum upgrading and sustainable urban development.

During the National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategies (NISUS) Conference at the Manila Hyatt Hotel, Binay noted that decision-makers and stakeholders are resistant to upgrade policies because of their negative perception of informal settlers.

The housing czar said informal settlers are seen as “too poor to pay for infrastructure and improvement of services.”

“This (NISUS conference) is about shifting paradigms to collectively generate doable solutions to the urban housing problem,” he said, adding that such change should involve the empowerment of the beneficiaries of slum upgrading.

“Kailangan nating bigyang dignidad silang mga kapos sa yaman. At dapat na sa pagbibigay nito, kabahagi sila mula pagplano hanggang pagsasagawa ng mga programa at proyektong laan para sa kanila, at hanggang pagtalaga ng mga responsableng taga-monitor ng progreso at pagtatapos ng programa at proyekto,” Binay emphasized.

Binay cited examples of successful applications of informal settlement upgrading strategies which, according to him, attest to the possibility of effectively implementing the NISUS.

Among them are the Upscaling Urban Poor Community Renewal Scheme (UUPCRS) and the Urban Partnerships for Sustainable Upliftment, Renewal, Governance, and Empowerment (UPSURGE), which were initiated by the Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies Inc. (PHILSSA).

UUPCRS highlighted the effectiveness of community-based and demand driven approach. UPSURGE, on the other hand, showed the success of LGU-NGO partnership and incorporation of shelter concerns into the city development plan and government structure in informal settlement upgrading projects.

“When communities are fully involved in the identification, design, and implementation of
projects, they prove to be effective partners in informal settlement upgrading work,” the Vice President attested.

The NISUS conference was part of the preparatory activities leading to the development and adoption of the informal settlement upgrading strategy in the Philippines. In May 2011, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chaired by Binay entered into a partnership with Cities Alliance to implement the NISUS.

The Cities Alliance granted HUDCC with US $455,000 to develop a strategy that would provide reference and support the key thrusts of the government in developing sustainable communities and the formulation of a National Government Resettlement Policy.

The NISUS project will also support the implementation of the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan by promoting awareness, involvement, ownership, accountability, and partnership in informal settlements upgrading initiatives among the concerned stakeholders.

This will help LGUs identify policy and program options for local informal settlements upgrading that should be integrated into the local planning documents such as the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan.

The NISUS conference featured Andre Bald, Senior Infrastructure Specialist from the World Bank, and Anaclaudia Rossbach, consultant for World Bank on housing and metropolitan governance, who talked about informal settlements upgrading in Vietnam and Brazil, respectively.

Meanwhile, local speakers included Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City, National President Ofelia Bagotlo of the Homeless People’s Federation Philippines, Inc., and Wilfredo Prilles Jr., coordinator for the City Planning and Development Office of Naga City.