“The present leadership of the various shelter agencies appears to be unable to veer away from “the long and bloody record of past administrations of flushing out so-called informal settlers from their communities to make way for big-ticket business or infrastructure projects usually under the pretext of development, city decongestion or even public safety.” – Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement of a policy of no-demolition-without-relocation has yet to happen in real life for the urban poor. In a protest action today Sept 5 in front of the National Housing Authority, over a thousand urban poor belonging to Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Anakpawis Partylist, and Alyansa Kontra-Demolisyon pressed the concerned agencies of the government to issue a detailed plan of action on how to concretely observe the “no-demolition-without-relocation mantra.”
Protesters told Bulatlat some of the more recent examples of demolitions included that of 300 families in Estero de Magdalena in C.M. Recto, Manila, and the two-day “overkill” attempt to demolish the nearly 300 fisherfolk families in Maragondon, Cavite’s scenic Patungan Cove.
The demolished families from Estero de Magdalena were hauled to a relocation site in Pandi, Bulacan, and to other sites in Cavite and Montalban. But the newly hauled relocatees recounted difficulties in adjusting to life in the area.
“There are no electricity, water or sources of livelihood there,” one of the relocatees shared to fellow protesters in a brief program in front of the National Housing Authority in Elliptical Road, Quezon City. She said their children had to stop going to school. Some relocatees were now returning to Estero de Magdalena.
In Maragondon Cavite’s Patungan Cove, 14 houses were destroyed by over a thousand combined forces of SWAT police, Air Force soldiers and demolition team last August 23. The families living in those houses were absorbed by the rest of the community who continues to resist the demolition.
The Presidential Commission for the Poor listed more than 167,000 families in Metro Manila as poor; about or more than twice that number of poor are in Southern Tagalog.
In a speech before the gathered urban poor, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said that without concrete plans of action, thousands upon thousands of urban poor will remain in constant threat of demolition and forced eviction. He noted the reports coming to their office that demolitions are in fact continuing to happen, “especially given the aggressive local and foreign proponents of public-private partnership (PPP) projects.”
It does not help that Vice President Leni Robredo started on the wrong foot, the Anakpawis representative said.
“The wrong foot” he referred to was Robredo’s shying away from fundamental policy changes to solve the country’s escalating housing problem.
Anakpawis said that so far, the present leadership of the various shelter agencies appears to be unable to veer away from “the long and bloody record of past administrations of flushing out so-called informal settlers from their communities. They push this to make way for big-ticket business or infrastructure projects, usually under the pretext of development, city decongestion or even public safety.”
Robredo asked to scrap UDHA
Casilao challenged Robredo, who is also chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), to join the urban poor groups in the campaign to junk the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). They blame this law for having served as legal justification for demolitions.
Robredo has been lobbying for the creation of a Department of Housing and Urban Development. But the urban poor groups viewed it as just Robredo’s way of trying to expand the bureaucratic turf of her Liberal Party.
Neither did the urban poor groups view as welcome news Robredo’s recent appeal to have a moratorium on the building of socialized housing units.
While the justification for the proposed moratorium was so Robredo’s office could evaluate the situation first, Casilao said it speaks of Robredo’s “passive attitude towards the urgency of providing low-cost and liveable shelter for the people.”
Also, he added, Robredo’s soundbites only evade the demand of the urban poor sector for a nationwide moratorium on demolitions. The officials of National Housing Authority NHA allowed the thousand gathered urban poor to enter the premises for a dialogue.