“Because of extreme poverty, the government should create and provide regular jobs to enable the poor majority to live decent lives.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – More than a month after their successful occupation of idle government housing units in Bulacan, the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said they demand direct connection to water and electricity for the houses. They said these are basic utilities, which they will pay for when made available, and should be made available.
The urban poor group has been the subject of bashing in social media after corporate media reports portrayed them as being “whiny” at the April 18 bicameral hearing on housing in the Senate.
Kadamay pointed out that direct connections to water and electricity companies ensure its safety and affordability, a service that residents in most relocation sites do not get, as these are routed through the National Housing Authority or the developer.
The group compared the cost of 10 cubic meters of water, which, for those with direct connection in Metro Manila, is at P97 ($2), but this costs double in St. Martha Homes in Bulacan at P209 ($4). In an in-city relocation project in Camarin Residence in Caloocan City, the same costs P285 ($6).
“Why take more from those who already have so little?” the group said in a statement.
The group also cited the deaths of two children, aged three and nine, in St. Martha in September 2016, which were attributed to drinking contaminated water provided by Centennial Water Resource Center. It was after the provider assured Saint Martha Relocatees Alliance (SMRA) that the water was safe and potable.
The group also clarified that Kadamay national chairperson Gloria Arellano was only stating facts that the housing units are substandard, smaller than the standard, broken down, and lacking in basic utilities.
A transcription of what Arellano said was, “Ang nakakatiis lang po sa ginawa ng NHA e mga mahihirap lang po e, ang liliit at sira-sira na. Baka sa inyo, kwarto lang ng alagang aso ‘yung mga ginawa nila doon (Only the poor can bear to live in the NHA houses, which are small and deteriorating. Maybe for you (senators), these will only fit your dog).”
“However, news reports imply that Kadamay is being whiny about the units, when in fact, they are the only ones making do with the homes that have been deserted,” the group said.
Meanwhile, Arellano said the National Housing Authority (NHA) should be further investigated after the agency disclosed during the senate hearing that 83 percent or 55,124 out of 66,184 housing units remain unoccupied. She said the NHA knew all along that the houses were not being utilized.
The group also said the funds that were used to construct the houses were sourced from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) , which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“We call for further investigation on the criminal neglect of the NHA in the construction of so many housing units that remain vacant. Aside from the lack of consultation with the intended beneficiaries, the agency must account for the DAP funds channeled into the project,” said Arellano.
During the hearing, representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police attested that they were not consulted during the planning of the housing project that were supposedly for them. In a report, Police Supt. Antonio Taylan, PNP engineering service director said that a big family will not fit in the 22-square meter housing unit.
Kadamay said it is now even more committed to pushing for free mass housing as well as jobs and fair wages for all Filipinos. Arellano said for the urban poor and their families to have a decent life, they need regular jobs.
She belied the notion that the urban poor are lazy free riders. In fact, she said, they want to work but there is no regular work available for them.
“Malaking kabawasan sa gastusin ang libre at pangmasang pabahay, pero dahil sa tindi ng kahirapan marapat lang na lumikha ang gobyerno ng trabahong regular para mabuhay ng disente ang mamamayan, (Free mass housing would be a big help in stretching the meager income of the urban poor. But because of extreme poverty, the government should create and provide regular jobs to enable the poor majority to live decent lives.)” she said.