By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labor center is protesting against the reported plans of the Aquino government remove 100,000 urban poor from their homes in six major waterways in Metro Manila effective immediately. It said the government is only using arguments of flood control and the urban poor’s safety as excuses to justify the removal of the urban poor from Metro Manila.??
Recently, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas announced that 100,000 illegal settlers and urban poor community residents will be removed by the DILG, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) , and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from their homes before the rainy season begins in June.??KMU chairman Elmer Labog said Roxas “is only trying to deceive the urban poor and the public by rehashing old lies.”
“The urban poor will merely be displaced to other so-called ‘danger zones’ and Metro Manila will not be safer from floods if this plan pushes through. The Aquino government, like its predecessors, has no track record of providing safe and decent housing for the poor. Its track record is that of evicting urban poor communities so that business projects by big foreign and local businesses can push through,” he said.
?The labor group said the very premise of the relocation drive, that illegal settlers worsen flood, is contentious at the very least. It said that the continuous construction of malls and condominiums, as well as the relentless deforestation of mountains near Metro Manila, coupled with the government’s refusal to de-silt creeks and rivers are the more proximate causes of worsening flooding in Metro Manila. ??Labog also slammed Roxas’ promises of sufficient number of medium-rise buildings as relocation sites, in-city or near-site relocation, and consultations with residents. He said these are “old lies” which the Aquino government has been using in attempts to justify the demolition of urban poor communities and the removal of the “unsightly” houses of the poor.
?“We’ve heard Roxas’ lies about how the government will deal with affected communities before. These lies have been promoted while the government undertakes violent demolitions of urban poor’s homes, relocations to faraway and inhumane sites, and fake consultations with affected communities,” he said.??
Based on reports, many urban poor who were relocated to the government’s medium-rise buildings have left these structures because they are unable to pay the steep rents. The prohibitive rent in medium-rise buildings make them mere temporary shelters for the urban poor who will then be evicted and displaced to other areas in Metro Manila.
Free relocation, affordable rent
For its part, the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said the government should provide genuine relocation sites and houses for those living near canals and waterways. It said the residents should also be given full and free assistance, especially since many of them are unemployed.
Kadamay said the DILG and its adjunct agencies, which are in charge of ensuring the relocation of over 20,000 residents living near waterways in Metro Manila, should provide complete and clear explanations on the system of rent and payment for the medium-rise buildings where the urban poor will supposedly be moved to.
According to a report titled “ the Urban Housing Issues of Metro Manila” by Anne Ng, though it is less than one percent of the Philippines’ total land area, Manila is home to nearly 15.5 percent of the population.
Metro Manila continues to grow so rapidly as the most densely inhabited locale that a 2003 report of the Commission on Population stated that there are 15,617 persons per square kilometer of land. In the meantime, the United Nations Population Division ranked Metro Manila as 19th out of the 20 densest megacities in the world in 2003 (Inquirer News Service 2004).
Metro Manila’s population continues to grow at an estimated five percent annually, and the two most pressing issues affecting the housing problem in Metro Manila are congestion and poverty.
According to a report by the Asian Development Bank, (ADB), for many middle class and lower income households, urban land ownership is unaffordable. Those who belong to the lower income brackets often could not afford to rent centrally located lodging.
Average monthly rental rates for apartments or condominium units in prime business districts such as Makati or Ortigas reach up to P35,000 ($853), while the cheapest rent in older parts of Manila or Quezon City can amount to P5,000 ($121) a month. The average monthly income of middle-income level earners is pegged at P 20,000 ($487), which is still far from enough for families to buy their basic needs. Minimum wage earners who take home an average P7,500 ($182) will find rent almost impossible to pay.
Roxas has previously explained that the National Housing Authority will conduct a one-is-to-one tactic in relocating affected families. Kadamay, however, said if this is the ratio that the government will use, the government is obliged to relocate even those who have no jobs.
“How will people pay rent if they don’t have work?” said Kadamay secretary-general Carlito Badion.
Based on Kadamay’s reports, majority of the 20,000 families scheduled for relocation have no work and survive on P45 ($1.09) a day. Most of the money goes to food.
“The government should know that majority of the urban poor have no means to pay rent so this is why they are forced to live under bridges and near canals. Do you think if they had money, people would consent to live in such places where the safety of their children is threatened on a daily basis? The government should make sure that it will provide the urban poor with the means to pay for rent in medium-rise buildings, or at the least the rent should be very low so as to be within the means of the urban poor. Otherwise it’s all pointless: people will not stay in the buildings and they will be kicked out to return to their old communities,” Badion said.
In early December 2012, Roxas launched the first ever in-city relocation program in Barangay Longos, Malabon City, saying that the project was the Aquino government’s blueprint for future housing efforts for urban poor residents residing near river ways and esteros or canals that are at high risk from flooding.
The housing project called the Marangal Village involves the relocation of some 700 families who live near waterways in three Malabon barangays. The communities are scheduled for demolition as part of the Supreme Court’s order to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay by decongesting and clearing rivers and other tributaries in Metro Manila.