Shelter and Wage Hike Top Urban Poor Wish List

As Ornus gears for silver anniversary next year

While the city’s urban poor remained hopeful that the demolition of their structures would end in the communities where they have settled, the current rice crisis and the rising price of oil add to the burden of their daily struggle against poverty.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 16, May 25-31, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – While the city’s urban poor remained hopeful that the demolition of their structures would end in the communities where they have settled, the current rice crisis and the rising price of oil add to the burden of their daily struggle against poverty.

“Nagtalinaed a ti kangrunaan a dawat dagiti nakurapay nga umili ket ti desente a pagnaedan iti syudad” (The demand for decent homes in the city remains a priority demand of the urban poor), Geraldine Cacho, chair emeritus of the Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) said during the alliance’s 24th anniversary assembly at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary here.

Cacho quips, however, that the urban poor campaign is now focused on the rice crisis, the skyrocketing oil price and the legislated wages.

According to Ornus, three out of four city dwellers here may be considered poor.

Ornus Chair Ignacio Pangket said the urban poor are the ones hardest hit by the rise in oil prices and the current rice crisis. He said the current wages in the city could barely support the worker himself. He said although the minimum daily wage is P235 ($5.409 at an exchange rate of $1=P43.44), many employers do not comply to the law.

“Worse, not every one is a wage-earner,” Pangket said. “Problema pay laeng ti kinakurang ti pagteggedan” (The lack of employment remains a problem) he added.

Ornus gathered its members to prepare them for the 25th anniversary next year.

Organizational growth

Formed in May 1984, Ornus started with six organizations in four communities, namely Quirino Hill, Pinsao Pilot, Poliwes and Holy Ghost Extension. This rose to 23 organizations in December that year.

At present Ornus has four sub-sectoral and nine full-fledged community organizations, making it the biggest sectoral alliance in the city. The alliance has reached out to urban poor women, youth, indigenous elders and even drivers.

“People’s campaigns then centered on the right to shelter and all efforts then zeroed in on fighting demolition of shanties. We later added another demand, which was the delivery of basic social services,” Cacho recalled.

Cacho told the gathering that from 1984 until 1987, the city’s urban poor launched marches and rallies almost three times a week demanding the ouster of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos on top of their sector’s demand to stop demolitions and the advancement of the people’s right to shelter.

Legislative gains

These mass protests by urban poor communities in major cities resulted in the passage of a presidential action that granted moratorium on demolitions when Corazon Aquino took to the presidency in 1987, according to Cacho.

In 1997, Republic Act No. 8368 repealed Republic Act No. 779, or the country’s Anti-Squatting Law penned by Marcos in 1975. RA 8368, however, affirmed another law on urban housing, RA 7279, which according to Cacho has no provision on low-cost housing.

Instead, RA 7279 provided for the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), which aimed to sell residential lots at a cost that no urban poor could afford. Ornus and its member-organizations criticized CMP as a scheme to further bleed the urban poor dry.

Social services

“Uray dagiti serbisyo ken imprastraktura ket inpinget nga naipan kadagiti komunidad babaen ti kadagiti party list nga impatugao tayo iti Konggreso” (Even the services and infrastructure were asserted through the partylists that we voted into Congress) Cacho said, referring to multi-purpose halls built through Bayan Muna (People First) in Gabriela Silang, Poliwes and Happy Hallow through representatives Liza Masa and Satur Ocampo.

Anakpawis, through the late Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, also extended funds for medical assistance at the Baguio General Hospital. Bayan Muna has earlier provided same funds at the Benguet General Hospital in La Trinidad, Benguet.

At present, community folk of Pinget Tapaw enjoy piped water made possible through lobby efforts and the urban poor’s assertion of their right to such services.


“Nakarkaro ti kinakurapay ken napaut met dagiti problema” (Poverty worsened and the problems remained) Daisy Bagni, secretary-general of Ornus said.

For more than 24 years organized communities struggled against demolitions not only of shanties in the city’s communities often tagged as blighted areas, but also of vendors’ stalls in the central business district.

These communities have also inched their way into the delivery of basic social services and the assertion of indigenous culture and way of life.

Ornus recognized founding members Manong Pinto and Ama Fangloy and Pinatud pioneer Josie Sakiwat, who were in the May 23 gathering. Northern Dispatch / (

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