Contemplating Poverty

The run-down shelter of the impoverished

A decent, peaceful abode is one of the primary needs of a family. Ideally, this is a place where the family members could rest and further strengthen their bond. Further, it provides security and safeguards them from imminent dangers.

However, in the government housing projects in the Smokey Mountain and in the nearby place called Vitas, the case is very much different. Paradise Heights and Katuparan (Fulfillment), both housing projects of the National Housing Authority (NHA), are separated by a dead river of thick, black water and are surrounded by rows of makeshift shanties of the rest of Tondo’s urban poor population. The situation in these places prohibits decent living and brings its residents to dangerous situations.

Katuparan in Vitas is composed of 27 four-story buildings. All in all, these buildings house about 1,600 units of some few square meters each. Each of these small units shelter two or more families. These buildings are literally deteriorating: rust-ravaged staircases suspended by rope, collapsing ceilings, frequent floodings on the top floors. Behind it is the Manila Slaughterhouse which awakens the residents in the morning and likewise rouses them from sleep in the middle of the night with the foul odor it produces.

The deteriorating structures of Katuparan Housing Project offer a dangerous living condition to the thousands of its occupants . (Photo by Anthony Stabile)

The water supply has a fixed, limited schedule and the residents use sub-meters for electricity because they can not afford a meter of their own.

Most of the residents are “relocatees” from demolished communities in Delpan, Malate, Paco, Paralo and other places in the city of Manila.

While Katuparan stands in obvious misery, the Paradise Heights towers with playful colors in the midst. Yet, going closer to the housing project composed of 22 five-story buildings, one would see the same miserable situation: the residents having the same living conditions as those in Katuparan. This housing project was built in a portion of the former dumpsite and has been the home of the evicted Smokey Mountain settlers.

There are buildings with only one water meter in each floor to be shared by at least 30 families. Annabelle Borromeo recently had her electricity supply cut because of bills she has difficulties paying.

Aside from the hazards and difficulties of living in these two housing projects, the residents are subjected to high monthly amortization payments with interest for their housing units. The monthly dues and the interest, usually double the principal cost of the units, and are beyond the capacity of the residents to pay. Currently, a petition by the residents’ associations and the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) is already at the Senate Committee on Housing. Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the head of the committee, said that he will bring together the NHA and residents’ association in a decisive dialogue. The residents reason out that they find it hard to pay the amortization because they have no regular jobs.

Meanwhile, the case is similar in other government housing projects and relocation areas such as those in Montalban, Rizal, Commonwealth in Quezon City and in Cabuyao, Laguna where the relocatees suffer from the lack of basic utilities and their distance from their workplaces. They also find it hard to pay the monthly amortization for their new homes.

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