The Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 was passed twenty years ago supposedly to solve the problems of housing and urban congestion while protecting the rights and welfare of the urban poor. It supposedly aims to “uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas.” However, last year, the country has witnessed the most violent demolitions of urban poor communities in history.
What made these possible? What is in the law that, instead of protecting the rights and welfare of the urban poor, has made them victims of violent demolitions and has made it possible to throw them to far-flung areas with no livelihood opportunities and basic services? Are there flaws and loopholes in the law or is it not being implemented properly? To help answer these questions during the 20th year of the UDHA, Bulatlat is reposting this article, which we published last year.
MANILA — For urban poor communities, a threat of a demolition is a threat to their lives and their livelihood. Naturally, they would fight it, by all means possible and whatever is at hand, including picking up rocks, bottles, and, in other circumstances, “t-bombs” (or plastic bags filled with human feces), and fire it to those who dare quell their resistance.
Usually news reports covering demolition of urban poor communities highlight the violent confrontations between the residents and the demolition teams. This normally elicits negative reactions from the public. Were the residents ignorant of the law? Were they too poor to pay for legal services? Or, worse, are they simply uneducated? Why are they fighting for something that is not theirs?
There is a law, actually, that supposedly ensures the welfare of poor families living in communities: Republic Act No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992. It was passed to supposedly “uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas” through the provision of “decent housing at [an] affordable cost, basic services, and employment opportunities. Its program, as stipulated in the law, covers “all lands in urban and urbanizable areas,” which includes existing “priority development sites” and those which the local government identifies as “suitable for socialized housing.”
But urban poor groups and advocates said that for the past 18 years, the UDHA “did not serve the interest of the poor but that of capitalists,” said Bea Arellano of urban poor group Kadamay. Projects like building a Central Business District that drives away the Filipino masses from their homes, she added, would only protect and serve the interest of the few ruling classes.
Arellano added that the UDHA only reiterates the “steps on how to drive away poor families from their homes.” Worse, in a consultation between the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and urban poor groups, they have confirmed what they have long suspected: there is a big disparity between what is stipulated in the law and what is being implemented on the ground. (Click here to read more)