Tuesday, 15 December 2009

BM Editorial: Enduring ‘love’

Monday, 14 December 2009 21:11
Business Mirror

OFTEN, it’s been said, the best things happening in life are the ones least noticed. That truism applies to the remarkable work done for nearly three decades by the Pag-IBIG Fund, which marked its founding anniversary in simple rites on Monday.

Since the early 1980s, Pag-IBIG (the acronym translates to “love” in Filipino) has helped millions of Filipinos (it has 7 million members) achieve their fond dream of having their own house and lot, and doing so without being dragged into any megascandal or controversy. That thread of achievement was lengthened this year, with the initial data showing a record of sorts in 2009 in terms of members served and funds released.

Addressing the crowd at Monday’s anniversary rites, Vice President Noli de Castro, concurrent chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-IBIG Fund) board of trustees, said: “For the first 10 months of 2009, Pag-IBIG has assisted over 1.5 million members by extending P29.0 billion in multipurpose loans. As of December 7, 2009, the fund has also approved P11.67 billion in calamity loans serving almost 700,000 members, up by a substantial 174 percent over last year’s figure of P4.26 billion, making the fund the biggest calamity-loan provider in the country,” de Castro said.

In the area of housing, Pag-IBIG released nearly P37 billion worth of housing loans to more than 61,000 members in 2009—figures that may reach as high as P44.17 billion benefiting over 73,000 borrowers when the full-year data are in. That would make it the highest total loan amount and the biggest number of borrowers for a single year in the fund’s entire history.

But it’s not all a bed of roses for the fund, says its chief. Among other challenges the fund will face next year is the implementation of its new charter under Republic Act 9679, or the Home Development Mutual Fund Law of 2009, enacted into law in July 2009.

Its mandate is to provide universal coverage; starting 2010, all workers earning P1,000 and above are already covered by the new law. Another challenge—major, in de Castro’s view—is the increase in membership contribution rates, which needs to be done “to further improve the delivery of services to our members.”

Formidable as such challenges may seem, the people behind the fund have no choice—not only because of the mandates laid out by their charter, but more important, because Pag-IBIG is one of those few, reliable safety nets that the public looks to in order to get by. Take note that, within 24 hours after Ondoy and its record rainfall flooded 80 percent of Metro Manila and left huge parts of Luzon looking like Venice—minus the romance—for weeks, Pag-IBIG was the first state entity not directly involved with disaster-management work but which made its presence felt. It announced it would open its offices nationwide, and promised speedy turnarounds, for members to access calamity loans that at that point were pretty much the only lifeline for many households. Of course, other agencies providing social security to the public later made similar announcements, but for the record, Pag-IBIG was there first. And true to its promise, it helped members quickly, leaving one office wag to say, “Ito ang pag-ibig na maaasahan.”

But de Castro on Monday didn’t hog all the credit for Pag-IBIG’s success. He cited as well the “champions,” including lawmakers, instrumental in the passage of the new HDMF law.

“Through your efforts, Pag-IBIG is now in a better position to meet the growing demand for affordable housing. It is now in a better position to bring greater benefits and services to its members. It is now in a better position to make a bigger contribution to nation-building,” he said. To this “love” that endures for all, three cheers.

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