“While the government has no concrete plans for informal settlers, no demolition should take place in communities.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap filed House Resolution 120, July 29, to call on the government to impose a nationwide moratorium on forced evictions and demolitions.
“The government should immediately impose a nationwide moratorium on forced evictions and demolitions of urban poor communities in order to protect thousands of urban poor families from violent attacks pending provision of livelihood, adequate housing and social services by the government,” Hicap said.
The Aquino administration is set to demolish about 20,000 homes of urban poor families residing in eight major waterways in Metro Manila. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino’s primary concern is the family’s safety and to relocate them in a safer place.
But Hicap said displacing families from “danger zones” to these relocation areas would mean transferring them to a “death zone.”
“The government just wants to sweep them out of danger zones and transfer them to death zones where there are no livelihood opportunities, jobs, social services and further expose them to calamities such as earthquakes and flooding,” Hicap said. “While the government has no concrete plans for informal settlers, no demolition should take place in communities.”
In House Resolution No. 120, Hicap cited the memorandum of the Department of Interior and Local Government Technical Working Group on Informal settlers dated March 15, 2011, which deemed off-city resettlement as “not pro-poor” and that the hardship they are confronting there have led them to go back and live in the city’s urban poor communities.
The government, in this DILG report, recognized that there are gaps and issues in off-city relocation areas that include the following: shortage or absence of accessible employment opportunities which poses problems in the payment of amortization, non-reliable and inadequate supplies of potable water and electricity, distance from school and health facilities and defects on housing structures.
Gabriela, the country’s biggest women’s group, said in its statement that the local government of Quezon City did not look into the situation of the urban poor residing in Bagong Silangan, one of the communities that was heavily devastated during Typhoon Ondoy.
“The city hall never listened to the recommendations of the community such as the dredging of the river and constructing a retaining wall (to protect the families from the flooding) even before they thought of displacing the families,” Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador said.
Salvador, during the protest action outside the House of Representatives, said the government wants to remove the families from these so called danger areas because they are after the big profits they would get from it.
She said that in most cases, urban poor homes are being demolished to give way to big companies to step in and build malls, high-rise condominiums, among others. On top of this, progressive groups also have long criticized how the supposed socialized housing has become a business for concerned government agencies.
These socialized housing projects, which were reportedly built from low quality materials and are being constructed in far-flung relocation areas, are not for free. Hicap said urban poor families could not afford these housing projects because of the lack of jobs.
“Urban poor families are mostly composed of unemployed persons, workers with odd jobs and those with insufficient livelihood and economic opportunities. They are vulnerable to various calamities including fires and floods. They are also perennially afflicted with poverty, hunger and lack of social services,” he said.
He added, “They are the poorest of the poor.”
“The Philippines has been named by the international human rights organization Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) as one of the countries in the world with worst housing rights violations,” House Resolution No. 120 read.
PPP behind demolition
Hicap said he does not believe that the government is after the safety of families residing in waterways. He said urban poor families would always be under threat of displacement due to government infrastructure and decongestion projects, creation of tourism destinations, land disputes, public private partnerships, among others.
Anakpawis Partylist said there are about 50 public private partnership projects that Aquino is pursuing. This includes the North Bay Boulevard Business Park, National Government Center, Quezon City Socialized Housing Program (Bistekville), National Bilibid Prison, Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Reclamation Project, Quezon City Central Business District, among others.
In all these projects, Hicap said, urban poor families would be affected.
“It seems that the government wants to ‘flush out and decongest’ Metro Manila of urban poor families but it has no concrete solutions on how to provide affected families with affordable housing, livelihood and services,” Hicap said, “The government only wants to clear the Metro Manila cities of urban poor settlements to give way to various public-private partnership projects.”
Kadamay, an urban poor group, said they welcomed the resolution filed by Anakpawis. It would, they said, provide a sense of relief to thousands of urban poor families who are confronting threats of demolition. They urged the members of the House of Representatives to immediately look into the resolution.
Hicap, in a protest action outside Batasan, said, “This is just one arena where we can fight. But organizing and making the organization stronger is the most decisive force in our efforts to defend our homes from demolition.”