Updated 10:04 AM PHT Thu, February 9, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Calamity victims now have something to look forward to: free houses to replace their homes ravaged by powerful typhoons.
This was the promise given by President Rodrigo Duterte as he spoke at a housing summit in Manila on Wednesday.
And the audience cheered and applauded over the good news.
"Yung housing nyo, after a few years you have to pay ₱200K... Basta ako pa ang presidente, libre na yan (You have to pay for your houses after a few years. But so long as I am the president, that will be for free)," Duterte said referring to victims of typhoons Pablo and Yolanda.
The President was talking about 205,000 housing units in Samar, Leyte, Tacloban, Palawan, Cebu and other areas worth about ₱50B, according to National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr.
Escalada said the NHA board had recently recommended to the President that all Yolanda projects be given free -- the logic being disaster victims needed years to recover and imposing a new obligation on them would only add to their burden.
He said the same grant had been given to typhoon Pablo victims in 2012, whose housing projects were already nearing completion.
However, Escalada explained, beneficiaries would not be able to sell or mortgage the property, or make it a collateral for any loan -- as it is still owned by the government. If they violate the deal, the government will recover the houses.
Jab at priests, columnist
The President also took time to take a swipe at former Senator Kit Tatad, who had said in a newspaper column that he had received reports that Duterte had gone to a cancer hospital in China. Duterte said he did not have cancer. Palace spokespersons had also denied the President was sick, after he admitted on Monday he had a checkup before he attending an event.
The chief executive also lashed out once more at the Catholic church. He urged the audience not to trust priests. Instead, Duterte said the faithful should confess their sins directly to God.
CNN Philippines' Anna Estanislao contributed to this report.