Vice president lauds Iloilo City housing projects, bike lanes

Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, and veteran lawyer Chel Diokno cycle with Ilonggos during the “Ride for Leni” event at Esplanade 4 in Iloilo City. 📸 Arnold Almacen/ICMO

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Vice President Leni Robredo committed that under her presidency, she would provide economic and educational programs to help relocated families.

Robredo made the commitment during her visit to a relocation site in Iloilo City on Saturday, Dec 4, 2021.

Like her arrival on Friday, Dec 3, Robredo was warmly welcomed by residents of Brgy. San Isidro Relocation Site in Jaro district, which is home to families displaced by Typhoon Frank in 2008.

Iloilo City was one of the most affected areas during Typhoon Frank, with around 80% of the city flooded, affecting 48,836 families with 244,090 individuals, according to the nonprofit Relief International.

The site was funded in part with a Php15-million commitment from the National Housing Authority under the Gloria Arroyo administration.

Robredo’s visit also coincided with the fifth anniversary of her resignation as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council under the Duterte administration.

The vice president said that while the San Isidro community was “not that perfect”, it was endowed with opportunities compared to other housing relocation projects in the country.

“What makes me happy is that, while [the community is] not perfect, you have needs [being addressed]. The barangay captain told me that the problem here was the drainage, the sewer system needs to be taken care of. But this is better compared to housing projects compared to those in Metro Manila, where while they do have relocation of house and land in farther areas, there are no opportunities,” she said in Filipino.

She suggested that work and other economic opportunities be made available to families who were being relocated, saying that current housing projects do not solve economic woes.

“For me, when you fix housing, you need to be able to look at the available jobs, the educational opportunities for the children. You may have a house, but you would have to spend a lot on traveling. Some may even have to rent boarding houses to be closer to their work, so the problem isn’t really being responded to,” she added.

Robredo also called out the lack of proper identification of beneficiaries and correlated this to other aspects, including agriculture.

If elected president, she said she will focus on giving support to those who need them.

“With your support, the focus of government projects will target uplifting the conditions of the poor. Because sometimes, our targets for projects may be the poor, but whoever is being given isn’t even looked at. Sometimes, those who receive assistance are those who don’t even need them. (sic) Like in agriculture, sometimes it could be in the number of tractors, fertilizers, or seedlings being given out, but it’s not being measured if the quality of life has improved. So that is what I will be focusing on,” she added.


Prior to her visit to the relocation area, Robredo and 2022 election running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, joined the 1-kilometer long “Bike for Leni” cycling event at the Iloilo River Esplanade.

The vice president rode a pink Japanese bike while donning a pink helmet, the color her campaign has adopted.

After the event, she spoke to the public who attended the event, praising the Esplanade and the artwork at the Diversion Road Bridge, which she said gave her the “Singapore-like” feels.

“What we are admiring is the physical make-up of everything here, because [the Esplanade] really changed the face of Iloilo City. While we were on the way here, we passed by the bridge, and I told my staff that this gives me a lot of ‘Singapore feels’,” she remarked.

She emphasized that one of her platforms is that streets, especially in Metro Manila, would not be exclusively for cars but for people as well to improve mobility.

“Streets, especially in Metro Manila, need to be less exclusive for cars, and more exclusive for people, to improve mobility, that there would be more areas to walk on and more areas to bike, because it is also for the benefit of our health,” she said.

She also expressed oneness with the mobility community and mulled replicating the Iloilo River Esplanade and the Diversion Road bike lanes in other areas of the country.

She recalled bringing Naga City officials to Iloilo City to learn from its infrastructure developments.

“I want to assure them that I am one with them in the advocacy to make our streets friendly not just for bikers, but for people that just want to walk, or even regular commuters, because [pedestrian-friendly streets] really change the way we do things every day,” she said.

But Robredo also admitted that projects like the Esplanade would be difficult, citing funding and easement challenges.

“My dream is for the river to be the center of human living. When the river was being fixed here, the color improved. It was no longer the murky river, and the fish are thriving here as well. When I was a congresswoman, we already started this in Naga but we remained with the construction of the seawall because it is difficult to get funding, but putting up something like the Esplanade, we haven’t been able to do. There are also accompanying issues like the incursion of easements, which really require political will, but here in Iloilo when the leaders are united, we could exercise more the political will,” she said.

Robredo stopped by the city for a two-day visit from Dec. 3 to 4, where she was warmly welcomed by the people upon her arrival in Santa Barbara, to her stops in Iloilo City and the towns of Leganes and Maasin.