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Partnerships With Governments And Others Create Greater Impact In The Philippines* *Habitat CEO Sees Positive Results Of Tie Ups With Government Entities

November 10, 2005

MANILA, 10th November 2005: Strong partnerships between governments, as well as traditional corporate donors, are a great way for Habitat for Humanity to provide decent homes for thousands more people in need.

That was the clear message from Habitat chief executive’s visit to the Philippines as part of his first Asian tour.

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Aiming to be Number One: President Arroyo with Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford

“The value of partnering with non-governmental organizations, local and international corporate partner and local and national governments is clear,” said Jonathan Reckford at the end of a short visit to the Philippines.

During his stay, the final stop on a tour that took in Thailand, Hong Kong and tsunami-ravaged parts of Indonesia, Reckford saw the results of partnerships in action while visiting Habitat for Humanity Philippinesํ projects in the capital, Manila.

He also heard Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her vice president and housing chief Noli de Castro laud a tripartite approach of government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations as a practical approach to tackling the Philippine’s huge housing need.

“Major urban renewal has to be undertaken in Manila. We cannot allow the metropolis to deteriorate,” the president said during a formal audience with Reckford in the presidential Malacaาan Palace.

Land not jobs is the issue, she said, and welcomed Habitat’s ambition and desire to be a partner in solving the problem.

The issue of land was raised again by de Castro when he made the guest speech at a dinner of HFH Philippine donors, supporters and affiliate representatives that evening. De Castro combines the role of vice president with the chairmanship of the Housing & Urban Development Coordinating Council.

He called for government-owned land to “socialized” their unwanted land so it could be built on by partners like Habitat. He noted the way Habitat engaged home owners and the local community to keep building costs low and affordable.

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Making an impact: CEO Reckford lends a hand at the BASECO site

The vice president, who was from a poor family of squatters, called housing a non-partisan issue that required co-operation. “Let’s not have mud slinging, but throwing cement and concrete blocks to build houses.”

Traditionally, Habitat for Humanity has been wary of getting being closely linked to local and national governments because of concerns over alleged partisanship and fears of lack of control.

The new 2006-2011 strategic plan endorsed at the November meeting of Habitat’s international board of directors calls for achieving greater scale and impact by partnering with private sector, NGOs and government bodies.

During his two-day stopover in the Philippines, Reckford saw examples of Habitat-government partnerships. On the first day, he visited the former BASECO shipyard in central Manila for the dedication of 46 of 120 homes being sponsored by ING Bank, part of the Netherlands finance group.

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A government partnership: Habitat’s Jonathan Reckford with Manila mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr and a Habitat homeowner in BASECO

An estimated 6,000 low-income families live illegally on the BASECO site in 4,000 structures (/ap/pdf/basco_primer_2005_pdf.pdf). As part of the redevelopment, the city authorities are granting land-use rights to rehoused families.

HFH Philippines is one of several groups working on the site. It is committed to building 1,000. The ING dedicated brought the number of completed homes to 520.

Once completed, HFH Philippines hopes to be awarded another site in the shipyard.

The Habitat homes are a row-house design of eight units using metal frames designed in New Zealand. The walls are made on concretized sheets and sheet roofs. Each 24-sq.m. home is tall enough at one end for the interior to include a 12-sq. m. hanging sleeping loft.

Laying concrete slab to completion takes 15 days and costs 40,000 pesos (about US$740) per unit to build. The structures are easy for volunteers to erect and finish.

At a welcoming ceremony for Reckford, Manila’s mayor, Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr., described the project as “democratic” as it was “a partnership between Habitat, the city government and community leaders partnering for a common effort.”

The second day, Reckford visited medium-rise apartments built by HFH Philippines in Taguig, a city within the Manila metropolis. In all, seven three-storey medium-rise buildings, each with 12 units, was financed by a European Union grant and others. The 30 sq. m. units were built with low-cost concrete interlocking blocks. Each cost about 135,000 pesos (about US$2,400).

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Celebrating working together: CEO Reckford at the BASECO welcoming. Behind him (from right) are HFH Philippine board members Margie Floirendo and Francisco Ferrer and (partly hidden) Manila mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr.

Homepartners repay about 1,500 pesos (about US$28) a month, half that many were previously paying in rent. Habitat home partners have a 50 year right to use with a 25 year extension. “This is not letting public assets become private assets, said Sigfrido Ting, mayor of Taguig, a city of some 300,000 residents. “The public doesn’t lose the asset.”

The mayor is keen to see government-owned land transferred so Habitat can build further similar units. The first such project could be starting in 2006.

HFH Philippines has assisted some 12,000 to date including 3,480 in the year to June 2005. It plans to assist 5,000 more this financial year, rising to 10,000 a year by the 2009/10 financial year.

During the official audience, President Arroyo welcomed Reckfordํs comments that through its ambition, leadership and innovation HFH Philippines was the largest producer of Habitat homes outside North America.

“We are glad to be number two, but we want to be number one,” she said.