Days after Ondoy struck, the government declared that it would no longer allow these poor Filipinos to return to their shattered homes.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – In the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy, many were quick to blame the urban poor living along the creeks, waterways and riverbanks of Metro Manila. Their shanties and their garbage block these sewage systems, hence worsening the impact of the typhoon, so goes the familiar criticism.
Days after the disaster, the government declared that it would no longer allow these poor Filipinos to return to their shattered homes. Vice President Noli de Castro, who also chairs the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council, confirmed in a news report that the families who were living along waterways and riverbanks would no longer be allowed to rebuild their homes in those areas. He said government-acquired lands outside of the metropolis are more than enough to give homes to the displaced victims of Ondoy.
De Castro offered 1,400 houses that may be utilized as relocation sites for displaced victims of Ondoy. Of these, 400 units are located in Towerville Resettlement in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; 250 units in Southville 4 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna; 500 units in Southville 5 in Biñan, Laguna; and 250 units in Southville 5-A, also in Biñan. He said there are 5,721 lots that may be developed to accommodate the displaced families.
“Technically, there is nothing wrong with the relocation of the families living along the areas that the government deems as danger zones,” Jon Vincent Marin, spokesman of the urban-poor group Kadamay, told Bulatlat. Marin emphasized that their organization understands the direct and immediate threat that storm surges could bring to these families. “But if they will be relocated to areas where there are no social services and job opportunities, then there is something wrong with the relocation,” he pointed out.
“The government thinks that the only solution to the problem is to relocate urban-poor communities outside Metro Manila where they would not survive,” Marin said. He said these families would eventually return to the metropolis and live along the riverbanks and waterways because their condition in the relocation areas are worse than what they would be leaving behind in Metro Manila.
In a recent relief operation, the Citizen’s Disaster Response Center found that most of the houses in the resettlement area in Marilao, Bulacan, had been washed away. “The houses there were made from substandard materials,” deputy executive director Carlos Padolina told Bulatlat. He said the walls were mere layers of hollow blocks and without the steel rods inside that would have supported these.
Marin said the mere location of the resettlement areas pose problems to the families. “Most of these relocation sites are located in remote areas. They would have no source of income there. Naturally, they would want to go back to the metropolis, where at least they would have something to eat.”
Should those who were relocated continue working in Metro Manila, they would have to spend so much for their fares to go home to their new homes, the transportation cost eating into the little income they have. Marin added that most of the relocation sites do not have access to basic services such as hospitals and schools.
And since the framework of the housing services of the government is profit-oriented, the resettlement units are not given free. Only this week, de Castro said that the resettlement for the victims of Ondoy will be offered at an “affordable” package of two-year moratorium on their payments, with a monthly amortization of roughly P200 at six percent per annum that is payable in 30 years.
But Marin said that “even if it’s just P300 to P500 a month, we have to consider the kind of jobs that they have. They have children to feed and to send to school.”
“For a genuine housing services for the poor,” Marin said, “a big fund is needed.” But he told Bulatlat that these projects of the government only receive 0.4 to 0.6 percent of the total budget for the expenditure of the government.
He added that these houses should be given for free or at least through a package that is more affordable than what it is now. “Relocation should not only include houses. It should include social services and livelihood for the people,” Marin said.
In a statement, Kadamay reiterated that the devastation that Ondoy has brought could be the perfect opportunity for the government to change their housing projects for the poor. “We should all remember that the poor communities living along the riverbanks and waterways are only there because of poverty, lack of job opportunities, source of livelihood and social services,” he said. “They are not dusts that the government can sweep under the rug.” (Bulatlat.com)