By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Urban poor communities in Bacoor and Dasmariñas in Cavite are stepping up protests against demolition plans of the local and national governments. On November 29, the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in Cavite put up protest camps in Kadiwa Market in Dasmariñas and in Talaba 6 in Bacoor.
Kadamay-Cavite chairwoman Elvie Luza said the various ‘development projects’ of the local Cavite government and the Benigno Aquino III administration are posing severe threats against the urban poor. She said hundreds of urban poor families risk losing their houses and livelihood because of the projects. Many of the residents in the urban poor communities in Bacoor and Dasmariñas are small and itinerant vendors, jeepney and pedicab drivers, sari-sari store owners and small fishermen. The various projects will displace a minimum of 44,OOO people, majority of whom are members of the urban poor.
In 2011, a part of the Kadiwa Market was demolished to give way for the construction of a branch of SM Hypermall. In August this year, about 11 houses were demolished in Talaba 6, Bacoor in the wake of the devastation of Typhoon Sendong and Habagat in the province.
Luza explained that the implementation of various reclamation projects including the R1 Extension Expressway, the extension of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the province and the establishment of various eco-tourism zones are causing the destruction of hundreds of urban poor houses.
Roads built for the rich at the expense of the poor
Earlier last year, the local firm Malaysian firm UEM-MARA invested P5.55 billion ($1.32 billion) for the construction of the 21-kilometer Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project (MCTEP). The expressway has three phases: Phase 1 is the R1 Expressway of the Coastal Road, Phase 2 is the R1 Extension and Phase 3 is the C5 Link Expressway.
The R1 Extension Expressway is a seven-kilometer, dual lane expressway connecting Zapote and Kawit. Last April 27 this year, President Aquino led ceremonies to open the expressway for public use, but the project itself was in line with the previous Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s 10-point program for the creation of a transport logistics system to decongest Metro Manila. The Board of Investments (BOI) provided the project tax perks because it fell under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law.
In June 21,2OO7, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 629 directing the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to convert Sangley Point in Cavite into an international logistics hub with modern seaport and airport through the R-1 Expressway Extension Project. The project is part of the Cavite Business Economic Zone (CBEZ) and a joint venture between the Public Estates Authority (PEA) and UEM-MARA. It was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 1996.
Affected sectors in Cavite complained that UEM-MARA violated numerous conditions of the ECC particularly the relocation and compensation program, implementation of alternative livelihood program, ensuring coastal communities’ sufficient access to the source of livelihood, adequate sanitation and pollution mitigation practices.
They also said the reclamation activities are in violation of Supreme Court decision (GR Nos. 171947 -48, MMDA vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay, December 18, 2008) on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay adding that the reclamation is destructive to the marine environment.
“The local and national governments say that these projects will benefit the poor, but the contrary is true. Our houses are being destroyed and along with them our livelihood. The construction projects go through our communities, demolishing our houses to literally pave the road for the expressway. We have received no assistance from the government, no help at all. Many of us have lost their houses and were reduced to deeper depths of poverty. Is this progress? Is this development? If it is, then it’s being done at our expense,” she said.
The road networks are a set of infrastructural projects extending or building new roads, such as the Cavite-Laguna Highway, Coastal-Noveleta Extension Road, DaangHari Road, the Tanza-Muntinlupa Highway, the Noveleta-Tagaytay Centennial Road and the Ternate-Nasugbu Tourism Road. The last leads to the Hamilo Cove, an ecotourist spot in Batangas.
The R1 project specifically leads to prime lots set to be developed under the Manila Cavite-Coastal Road Reclamation Project (MCCRP) of the Philippine Reclamation Authority. Various people’s organizations and environmental groups are also against the reclamation project.
As for the LRT 1 extension project, it entails the construction of additional 10 stations for LRT line in Bacoor. The road networks are a set of infrastructural projects extending or building new roads, such as the Cavite-Laguna highway, Coastal-Noveleta extension road, DaangHari road, Tanza-Muntinlupa highway, Noveleta-Tagaytay centennial road and Ternate-Nasugbu tourism road, with the latter as the way to the famous Hamilo Cove, an ecotourist spot in Batangas.
‘What do all these projects have to do with us? They do not have any immediate benefit for us except maybe cut down travel time from Cavite to Manila. But what use is this if we don’t have houses to go home to? If we lose our jobs near the areas where our houses are standing? It seems clear to us that these projects are for the rich and their businesses. These projects are meant to bring in more money, more profits for them. If the government really wants genuine development, it would see to the welfare of the poor who comprise majority of Filipinos. Instead of helping us improve our quality of life, instead of providing us with means to make a decent and stable living, the government is conniving with foreign-owned and local big businesses to drive us out of our communities,” Luza said.
In 2009, groups also questioned the release of P814, 000 ($19,300) public funds by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the rental of backhoe and tug boats used to demolish livelihood structures of the urban poor in Manila Bay. They said public funds should not be used to destroy the houses and livelihood of the urban poor to build private infrastructure projects like the R-1 Expressway Extension Project.
Scrap fees against mussel growers
In a related development, small-scale fishermen and mussel growers in Bacoor, Cavite continue to raise protests against the decision of the Bacoor City government under Mayor Strike Revilla to impose fees on small mussel farm operators. They say that majority of the operators cannot pay the prescribed fees of 50 centavos per square meter
Myrna Candinato, chair of Alyansa and convenor of the KKK-Manila Bay group said Revilla should impose a moratorium on the said fees because many mussel growers are already in dire straits in the aftermath of this and last year’s typhoons that destroyed many parts of their small farms.
“Mayor Revilla should impose a fee moratorium, or better yet, write off existing debts of small mussel farm operators and growers. We hope that the local government can be extra sensitive to the plight of Cavite’s coastal workers, Candinato said.
Candinato said grants and subsidies should be given to small fisherfolk and mussel grower operators in Bacoor and other fishing towns of the province to enable them to continue to fish for daily livelihood and ensure fish supply of Cavite and the National Capital Region (NCR).
For its part, Pamalakaya is also asking Revilla to scrap the project converting some 68 hectares of Bacoor Bay into an eco-tourism area. The group said the eco-tourism project will further destroy Bacoor bay marine resources and displace no less than 5,000 fishing families in Barangay Maliksi III alone.