MAKATI City, Oct. 6, 2013—Drawing on the Church’s centuries-long experience, two members of the religious sector presented the Catholic perspective of social justice and the integrity of creation as related to the housing issue at an international housing forum last week. 

Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) – Episcopal Commission on Youth; and Sr. Maria Vida Cordero, SFIC, chairperson of Franciscan Movement for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FMJPIC)-Luzon Commission; served as resource speakers for two of the 40 track sessions of the fourth Asia-Pacific Housing Forum (APHF), held at the Dusit Thani hotel, Makati from October 2-4.  

Social justice and the housing issue 

Garganta was one of the panelists for the track session on “Integrating Sustainable Housing Policies Into National and Local Policies” together with Nathan Sergio of the Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) Program in Naga City, Philippines and Dr. Sareth Boramy, Deputy General Director of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction; and Director of the Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development Project in Cambodia. 

Despite admittedly not being directly involved in providing housing, Garganta said as a priest, his input would be to demonstrate how the socio-economic dimension of the Gospel can guide present efforts to address the housing issue. 

“The story told by Jesus to the Pharisees is suggestive of the social iniquity as a direct consequence of the growing inequality between the rich and those who are less fortunate,” he said during the session. 

Ultimately, Garganta said, providing housing and other basic services for all cannot be adequately achieved without first recognizing and remedying the growing gap between the poor and the wealthy, like Lazarus and the rich man in Scripture — a question of social justice. 

Not just housing, but creation 

The APHF organizer, Habitat for Humanity International, also tapped Sr. Cordero to talk about “Health, Housing and the Environment: A Case for Public-Private-People (PPP) Partnership” together with architect Giacomo Butte, co-founder of Collective Studio in Cambodia; Rommel Cuenca of Public-Private Partnership Center, Philippines and Bonifacio Magtibay, a sanitation engineer at the World Health Organization, Philippines. 

Sharing her learnings from her community’s work in providing housing for typhoons ‘Reming’ and ‘Sendong’ victims in Dinggalan, Aurora; Camalig, Albay and Iligan, Cordero talked about Church teachings on caring for the environment and how housing should consider the welfare, not only of people, but of all living organisms in an “ecological habitat”.   

She also discussed their group’s efforts in devising sustainable power sources like solar energy lanterns and chargers for farmers and families in Nueva Ecjia.

Speakers for the plenary discussions included Vice President Jejomar Binay; Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Ayala Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer; Nestor Espenilla, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor; Senator Loren Legarda; Alicia Bala, Association of South East Asian Nations Deputy Secretary; Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Housing Secretary and CityView Chairman; Vikram Gandhi, CEO of VSG Capital Advisors; Efren Peñaflorida, 2009 CNN Hero of the Year; Hassan Ahmad, Mercy Relief CEO; Liu Thai Ker, former CEO of the Housing Development Board, Singapore and Center for Liveable Cities Advisory Board Chairman; Marja Hoek Smit, International Housing Finance Program Director, Wharton School and Yoshinobu Fukusawa, UN- Habitat Asia-Pacific Regional Director, among others. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]