Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 43      Dec. 3 - 9, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Modernize and Demolish
Port privatization to displace 849,000 Tondo residents

Around 849,000 individuals face eviction due to the privatization of the Manila North Harbor, the urban poor organization Kadamay said. Yet, the port modernization project’s Terms of Reference is silent on relocation plans for the soon-to-be evicted families.


FACING DISPLACEMENT: Around 849,000 residents of Tondo, Manila are threatened with the demolition of their shanties due to the privatization of the Manila North Harbor


TONDO, Manila - It is survival day as usual with all the hustle and bustle in this crowded municipality: heavily-built porters and stevedores carry heavy loads to-and-from the North Harbor; men and women tend to sari-sari (variety) stores, turo-turo (streetside canteens), tapsilogan (an eatery that serves fried rice with egg and a variety of processed meat and fish), and mini hamburger stands. Joining the mad rush are barangay (village) officials, fish, meat, and vegetable vendors in nearby Divisoria market. Everyone is trying to make a living with some peeling sacks of garlic the whole day.

Children walk to school or take their snacks of fish balls, quek-quek (boiled eggs coated with flour and seasonings and fried), ice candy, buko (coconut) juice and an endless variety of chichiria (chips and crackers).  Out-of-school youths join their parents vending, beg in front of the huge church or just roam around town.

Beside the church where the tricycle terminal is located is a graffiti which reads: “Tondo man ay may langit din.” (Even in Tondo there is heaven.)

Tondo is ubiquitous to many who have passed by the urban poor communities along the North Harbor since it became populated in the mid-1950s. Some of the nation’s great revolutionaries were born here. In current times it has been the target of police saturation drives in running after “subversives.” Sensational stories also paint its dark side: an urban squalor of gangs, street thugs and drug users.

Elder settlers here say more than half of the neighborhood came from the Eastern Visayas provinces of Samar and Leyte, two provinces comprising one of the poorest regions in the country. Theirs is the same old story of poor farmers who inhabit the busy streets of Manila in search of a better life but end up as what they are insensibly called today as squatters or, to the class-conscious observer, urban poor.


Looming ahead is something that will change their lives: Their simple efforts to earn a day’s earning in Tondo may be put to a halt by a demolition plan under government’s privatization plan for the Manila North Harbor gets underway.

Justifying the impending demolition of houses, Ver Padua, Executive Assistant to the Port Manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), said in an interview with Bulatlat over the weekend that the community eviction along the Manila North Harbor is inevitable to make way for the port’s modernization and privatization. Government agencies such as the PPA, the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which are all involved in the project are jointly responsible for the relocation of the affected families, he also said.

Padua said that the PPA is responsible for the relocation of only around 300 affected families – identifying them as those living along the sidewalk of the port called Collectors’ Road.

Other families live along Radial Road-10 (R-10) that consists of seven barangays (villages). Padua said it is the DPWH which is responsible for relocating these families to make way for the road-widening project. Under the privatization cum modernization plan, the present six-lane-road will be widened to make it into an eight-lane expressway for the fast transportation of cargos from various ports in the country, Padua said. 

Exmila Rabano, Barangay 39 chairperson, said there is also a plan to construct a skyway from Pasay-Edsa to the Valenzuela Exit to hasten traffic from the Batangas Port to the Bataan Port.

No relocation

However, Rabano said she has yet to receive a notice of demolition from the city mayor. She and other residents fear that the demolition will start soon as 5,000 houses in neighboring barangays have been demolished since April this year.

Ronaldo Cordova, a tanod (village security) of Barangay 110, said around 1,500 families were evicted from their village last April. Problem is, he said, no relocation site has been provided by the DPWH or the city government. “Yung matagal nang nakatira dito binigyan ng financial aid na P15, 000. ($302.05 at an exchange rate of $1=P49.66)  Pero yung karamihan walang natanggap” (Long-time residents were given a financial aid of P15,000. But most residents received nothing.), he said.

Some of the evicted families, he said, have reportedly gone home to their provinces while most just built their houses in nearby barangays.

The urban poor-based group Kadamay (Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap) estimates that around 141,500 families or roughly 849,000 individuals living along the Tondo foreshore area would be evicted by government’s north harbor privatization plan. Included are Navotas Area (75,000 families); Parola (37,000 families); Breakwater and Isla Putting Bato (6,000 families); Road 10 and Happy Land (5,000); Baseco (6,000 families); and Collector’s Road (500 families).


In the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Manila North Harbor Modernization Project (MNHMP) dated January 2006, there is no clear provision for relocation of the affected families.

Section 7.04 (page 13) of the Concession Agreement of the MNHMP states that “the owner (here referred to as the PPA) shall undertake, in coordination with other government agencies, the relocation of the squatters at its own account or on the account of the government.”

Although it says the “relocation of the affected squatters shall be given priority by the owner and to be completed prior to the Commencement Date,” no relocation sites have been made available.

Bulatlat tried to get the side of the NHA and DPWH but was given the run around. No official from the two government agencies were available for interviews as of press time.

The ToR is yet to be approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Permanent, in-city relocation

Sixty-year-old Josefina Aldiano, an old-time organizer in Tondo, said they have faced the same fate during the early years of Martial Law (1974-75).  Their demand then was to be granted permanent residence. Aldiano said the demolition plans did not prosper.

They had to confront another demolition during the latter years of Martial Law (1983-85) when the Marcos government constructed a railway along Slip Zero (now known as Parola, the Tagalog word for lighthouse) just in front of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

Militant protests notwithstanding, the demolition pushed through to make way for the railway. Thousands of Tondo residents were sent to relocation centers in Bulihan and Dasmariñas in the province of Cavite, Sapang Palay in the province of Bulacan, Bagong Silang and Dagat-Dagatan in the municipality of Caloocan. This was the second time that the Aldianos were relocated.

The Aldianos came from the province of Leyte. They migrated to Manila in the early 1950s but their first home in Binondo was demolished in 1955. They were paid P10, 000 ($201.36 computed at current exchange rate).

In 1962, Aldiano and her husband started piling kusot (wood shavings) and balat ng troso (tree barks) on the grounds of Slip Zero, then a dumpsite for crushed bottles of SMC. Together with some 60 other individuals, the Aldianos made this their home.

Aldiano said she became a full-time urban poor organizer in Tondo during Martial Law. She also served as a member of the Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO) medical team. She suffered three arrests, the first in 1975 when she was caught bearing acupuncture needles. The last two arrests were in 1983 and 1984 when she was an organizer in the town of Sapang Palay, province of Bulacan, where her family along with others were relocated because of the construction of the railway along Slip Zero. 

Now a lupon (village arbiter) of Barangay 39, Aldiano said they still have the same demands: permanent and in city-relocation. “Yung hindi na gigibain,” (One which will never be demolished.) she said. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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