Living in shanties better than their life in relocation sites — urban poor families

“I thought that our struggle would end when we accepted the offer to relocate. But now I realized that it is not yet over.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

RODRIGUEZ, Rizal — The rows of houses in government relocation sites, such as in Rodriguez, Rizal, look good from the outside. But for its residents, living in a relocation site that is far from their jobs and sources of livelihood makes them wish they were back to their shanties in the Metro Manila.

“Even if our homes back in Agham road did not look nice, I would never trade it for this. Back there we were near to everything. There are hospitals, and our jobs and sources of livelihood are also there. Here, we just have a house but nothing to eat,” Jennie Espacio, 30, told Bulatlat.com.

Espacio was among the residents who accepted the offer to relocate to Rodriguez, Rizal. His former home back in Agham road was among the 81 houses that were demolished on Jan. 27, 2014. About 100 more houses were removed a day later, according to Tadeo Palma, secretary to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

The demolition would supposedly give way to the 11.3-meter road-widening project. Residents resisted resulting in a scuffle. They said the demolition was conducted not for a road-widening project but for the Quezon City Central Business District, a 256-hectare business and residential project.

(Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
(Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

There were 242 families who relocated to Rodriguez, Rizal, while 34 opted for three other relocation sites in Bulacan province, north of Manila.

Espacio said families who agreed to be relocated were given a P5,000 ($111) financial assistance each. But those who agreed to be relocated used the money to make their houses livable. Espacio said the houses were turned over to them with just walls and nothing else.

Bare and done haphazardly

When they arrived in the relocation site, Espacio said, there was no electricity and water supply. The house they were assigned to had no windows, doors and toilet bowl. The septic tank was not covered, which, he added, could pose a danger to children.

Espacio said they had difficulties installing the doors provided to them. “Some were too big, some were too small to fit in the house. The houses were done haphazardly,” he said.

Edcel Mendez, another relocatee, said the houses in the relocation site do not seem to be in mint condition. “There are already cracks on the walls. One earthquake and it would be gone,” he said.

“The walls are too thin that two-inch nails could penetrate it without any effort. The galvanized iron sheets they used are also too thin,” Espacio said.

Espacio said relocatees have the right to demand for better housing units because the houses, after all, would not be for free.

“It would be free on our first year. But we have to pay for it and the price depends on our age and our income,” he said, “We need to pay P140,000 ($3,111) in 13 years for our house.”

Almar Pradel, another relocatee, said they would also need to clarify with officials of the National Housing Authority if the payment would include the land title.

No livelihoods, no jobs

Mendez aid they spent P600 ($13.33) from the financial assistance to secure a notarized permit so they could build a store in front of their house.

“It is the only livelihood that we could try here. But would our neighbors have money to buy from our store?” he added.

The impoverished conditions in the relocation sites, Mendez said, have pushed some residents to steal from their neighbors. “Just the other day, someone broke into the house of our neighbor. It was a good thing that nothing was stolen,” he said.

Espacio, a construction worker, lost his job when he failed to report to work for a few days due to the demolition of their home in Agham Road.

Like Espacio, Pradel also lost his job in a construction site. If he would manage to find another job, Pradel said, they would spend more on their transportation than for the food they would eat.

“We normally earn P390 ($8.74) a day. Here at the relocation site, our round-trip fare to Taguig or to Makati would probably cost us P180 ($4),” Pradel said, adding that they only used to take the MRT and jeepney to get to their work site.

“They said it would only be hard at first and that it would get better in the days to come. As soon as development takes place in the area, we were told, we would be able to get a job here. But when would that happen?” Espacio said.

Not getting any better

Angela Ramoso, 53, said she was among those who volunteered to relocate. They were promised, she said, by NHA representatives that she would have a choice as to which unit they prefer.

“When I first arrived here, I did nothing but cry,” Ramoso, a resident of the relocation site for three years now, said.

She said they were assigned to a unit that was in a far, dark corner of the relocation site. She wanted to be transferred to another unit but was told that they were not allowed to.

Ramoso said she felt betrayed. “I did what I was told and they were not true to their words. The relocatees who arrived later on got the better units,” she added.

But the bigger lie is that their life would get better once they are used to the new environment they are living in. But with her husband Enriquito, a former carpenter, who is sick and could no longer work, life even became harder, she said.

“Back in San Roque, I cooked and earned as much as P200 ($4.48) a day. But here, flies would get to the food first before I could earn P100 ($2.24),” Ramoso said.

Their family’s only source of income is her measly earning from sewing curtains.

With their income now, only her three children who are still going to school could eat breakfast.

On top of this, Ramoso said, during their first 14 months, residents were asked to pay a flat rate of P345 ($7.73) for their electricity even if they did not consume that much electricity.

Fight continues

Espacio said the fight of the resident did not end when they were forced to accept the relocation program.

He believes that for now, residents still feel complacent about their situation because of the financial assistance they received. But one to two months later, he said, residents might start considering going back to communities in Metro Manila, where, at least, they have sources of livelihood.

“I thought that our struggle would end when we accepted the offer to relocate. But now I realized that it is not yet over,” he said. ()

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