The much-debated Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (Republic Act No. 7279) is a piece of legislation that essentially calls for the provision for a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program, and to establish the mechanism for its implementation.

Also informally known as the Lina Law after its author, former senator Jose D. Lina, the law mandates the local governments, with the support of the national government, to undertake urban development and renewal, paying attention to underprivileged and homeless citizens. It also sets the guidelines and the procedures in the eviction of informal settlers and demolition of their dwellings.

The law, unfortunately, is one of the most misunderstood. Certain media practitioners have wrongly interpreted or commented on it, contributing to its misunderstanding. National and local government officials have failed to understand its philosophy, and at certain times intentionally twisted the law to suit the interests of informal settlers, professional squatters, and syndicates.

But whatever are the reasons for the misconceptions, the ultimate result is the government’s failure to spur an inclusive and comprehensive urban development and renewal, one that addresses the needs of the homeless poor as stipulated by our Constitution. These misconceptions have indirectly led to the all-too-familiar clashes between informal settlers and the police whenever demolition of informal settlements is carried out.

Below are some of the most common misconceptions about R.A. 7279:

1. That under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, informal settlers shall own the land after squatting on it for more than 10 years.

This is not at all true and has no basis in the law.

2. That private landowners are legally required to pay informal settlers “disturbance compensation” prior to eviction.

Private landowners are neither legally required to pay informal settlers any form of compensation nor are they required to oversee the informal settlers’ relocation. However, there is nothing wrong if private landowners voluntarily give some financial assistance to the squatters on their land when they are evicted and their dwellings demolished.

3. That the consent of the squatters or informal settlers is needed with regards their relocation site.

The law requires that the government must consult with the squatters on their eviction and relocation, but consultation does not mean consent. It is still the government that finally decides where the relocation site shall be, but the government must exhaust all alternatives to relocate informal settlers near their job sites before moving them out.

4. That socialized housing always includes a house and lot.

Socialized housing could be in the form of lot only, or house only, as in the case of medium- or high-rise building, and not necessarily house and lot. However, I suggest that the law be amended to expand the meaning of socialized housing to include house and lot in case of row, duplex, or single detached houses.

5. That the government has to provide free housing to the squatters or that squatters are entitled, as a matter of right, to free housing.

This has no basis under the Constitution or R.A. 7279. There is no country yet that provides free housing to its citizens.

Misconceptions also abound over what defines a professional squatter. The law qualifies squatters as “professional” if they:

have sufficient income for legitimate housing, have previously been awarded home lots or housing units by the government but who sold, leased, or transferred the same to other parties to settle illegally in the same place or in another urban area, and [are] non-bona fide occupants and intruders of lands reserved for socialized housing.”

While misconceptions over provisions and intent of the law apparently contributed to the continued failure to abate squatting, let it not be said that R.A. 7279 caused the proliferation of illegal settlers. To say so would be the greatest misconception.

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  • Leo Collado Ramirez

    just want to know about the following:
    1. The rights of the informal settlers in private landowners.
    2. The process of demolation of the informal settlers in private land owners.

    • Rizza Estoconing Sta Ana

      Hi Leo Collado Ramirez!

      To answer your queries, there should be due process and dialogue reached between informal settlers and the landowners. If there are rights violated by either party, the local government is oftentimes tasked to mediate.

      I doubt that we can be of help regarding your inquiries, but we will be happy to come up with more updated topics about affordable housing for Filipinos :D

      I believe we have done an article about socialized housing for Filipinos:

      Good luck!

    • Rizza Estoconing Sta Ana

      You can also contact the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council for assistance too: