(Second of three parts)
The lack of jobs, unstable income, and decent housing, as well as high crime rates – problems exacerbated by the city government’s lack of a pro-people development paradigm – are just among the manifestations that Bacolod is unlikely to grow as a “humane city”.
BY KARL G. OMBION
The capital of Negros sugarlandia has recently been praised in Manila-based Money Sense magazine as the country’s most livable city, with the article citing as main bases the costs of living, accessibility to basic services, and peace and order situation.
Aside from this, city officials have also boasted of the numerous awards garnered by the city, among them accolades for supposedly being the most business-friendly city and the most developed IT (information technology) center in Region VI.
An assessment however of the basic social and economic facts in the city show a different trend, and seem to prove only the long-standing critique of social scientists and progressive organizations that the leadership of the region’s capital city has failed to address its own internal economic and political problems, aside from failing to alter the prevailing feudal and semi-feudal conditions spurred by the region’s mono-crop, sugar-based economy.
The lack of jobs, unstable income, and decent housing, as well as the high crime rates – problems exacerbated by the city government’s lack of a pro-people development paradigm – are just among the manifestations that Bacolod is unlikely to grow as a “humane city”.
Data provided by the Bacolod Housing Authority (BHA) revealed that half of Bacolod’s estimated 41,610 households are considered as “squatters”, or those families not owning lots and houses or are living in “extreme danger zones”, and without stable jobs and income.
According to the BHA, the number could have soared to as much as 60 to 65 percent of the city’s population as the 39,921 listed as “squatters” were still lifted from 1997 database of the city. “If we consider the 1.38 percent annual population growth rate of the city and the pattern and rate of migration from Negros rural areas to Bacolod, the figure of 39,921 “squatters” is already understated as the number of squatters most probably have gone higher considering the city’s present population of 499,497,” the BHA said.
The city officials are thinking of buying 30-60 hectares of land to accommodate the existing over 1,000 “squatters” with pending court cases as well as those likely to be ejected anytime soon, and to around 200 waitlisted household relocatees with pending orders of demolition.
The city’s existing relocation sites in Barangay (village) Handumanan, Fortune town; in Brgy. Estefania, and in Vista Alegre in Brgy. Granada are already filled up and any move to allow more entry of relocatees in the said sites might only cause more troubles to the city and the “squatters”.
But even this would not be enough because the number of “squatters” continues to grow while the jobs available are so far inadequate.
The leaders and representatives of various urban poor associations in Bacolod recently reiterated their demand for an immediate moratorium on all demolitions and ejections while the city government has yet to settle the demands of urban poor for on-site development, or guarantee the provision of viable and sustainable relocation sites for all the affected communities and groups.
In an urban poor conference initiated by the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Negros chapter and its allied organizations led by Bayan Muna, which was held recently at the Redemptorist Convent hall, four workshop groups expressed collective alarm and condemnation over the wave of forced demolitions the city government has carried out the past months, leaving hundreds families scampering for temporary shelters.
Amalia Perez, Kadamay-Negros chairperson, said, “The city government has violated the Philippine Constitution, the Geneva Conventions on the Rights of Peoples, and the Urban Development Housing Act, due to its failure to provide relocation sites and the attendant support services to demolished communities, and also in carrying out violent and inhumane demolitions of houses and ejection of urban poor.