URBAN POOR YEARENDER
RP is 2006 Housing Rights
(First of two
violent demolitions, and lack of social services and basic utilities
continue to plague the urban poor. And things are getting worse. In fact,
the Philippines was adjudged by the
Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) as one of three
recipients of the Housing Rights Violator Award for
violation of housing rights and continued failure to abide by their
international legal obligations.”
TONDO, Manila – Watch
your step when you go to Baseco, one of seven barangays in this
municipality. Its 18 kms. of sand and seashells in what used to be a
shipyard off the shores of Manila Bay is probably the world’s biggest
visited this community early afternoon of Dec. 21, five little boys and
girls squatted on the sand to defecate. As night falls, residents here
say, teenagers and the elderly do the same. “Pag dilim nakapila na kami
dyan,” (At night, we are lined up there), an elderly man said pointing
to the shore.
The place was named
after the Bataan Shipping Corp. (Baseco), the company that used to operate
here. It is now home to about 70,000 urban poor dwellers, one of the
biggest slums in the country. The government used garbage from the Smokey
Mountain dump site to reclaim the area in 2000.
The people live in
shanties made of old tolda (plastic sheet) and bamboo poles. The
luckier ones made use of wood scraps brought by the waves during high
tide. And, needless to say, not a single home has a toilet.
Residents pay for
bathing and drinking water at P12 ($0.24 at an exchange rate of
$1=P49.195) per container. The price goes up to P15 ($0.30) per container
during summer. "Pag walang pambili ng tubig, sa balon na lang kami
kumukuha ng pang-inom, sa dagat na lang maliligo" (If we have no money
to buy water, we get drinking water from the open well and bathe in the
sea), says Gregorio Apiag, 52. Bulatlat chanced upon him as he was
scavenging for plastic bottles and tin cans along the shore.
Baseco has been
Apiag’s home since 1984 when he left his native town in Digos, Davao del
Sur to look for a better life in Manila. He was a former security guard
but lost his job in 1998 after an accident that crippled his left leg. He
sold whatever he was able to gather at P50 ($1.01) per kilo in a nearby
junkshop. "Pag sinuwerte dalawang beses ako kakain sa isang araw,"
(When I’m lucky I could eat twice a day) he said as he excused himself to
get back to “work.”
Mary Dano, 44, came
from the island province of Bohol in Central Visayas. She and her husband,
Alec, traveled to Manila in 2000 to look for their son who left home to
look for a job in the city. She ended up as a housemaid but lost her job
after three months due to myoma.
Alec, meanwhile, was
a former construction worker but also lost his job in 2004 when he was
diagnosed with kidney failure. “Minsan hindi na kami kumakain sa isang
araw,” (Sometimes, we don’t eat for one whole day), Mary said. But she
managed to smile when she related that she finally got in touch with her
son. She said he gives her a hundred pesos every time he visits.
One of the original
dwellers in this area, Reynaldo Sena, 53, has been a fisherman since 1985.
He said he earns P35-P50 a day, “Pero hindi araw-araw” (But not
everyday.) His family of five manages to eat thrice a day, “pero minsan
walang ulam,” (But sometimes without viand) he says.
A plastic bag
gatherer, Hilario Ciollera, 40, has seven children, four of whom go to
school. He gathers plastic bags from nearby Divisoria market and cleans
them in the sea. He sells these at P20 ($0.40) a kilo and earns at least
P200 ($4.06) a day. His earnings are just enough to feed his family twice
In a Nov. 20
statement, the Social Weather Station (SWS) said the prevalence of hunger
rose from 13.9 to 16.9 percent in the first three quarters of 2006.
“Hunger actually worsened tremendously despite GNP growth of recent
years,” the statement said in reaction to the third quarter statistics
that the country’s Gross National Product (GNP) has increased by 5.8
percent. The peso is at its strongest in six years at P49.195 to a dollar.
The independent think
tank Ibon Foundation, on the other hand, said the government’s poverty
threshold set at P33.72 ($0.68) per day per person is “incredibly low.”
In a statement on
July 31, Ibon said the daily cost of living in the National Capital Region
(NCR) has reached P666.77 ($13.55) or P366.77 ($7.45) higher than the
workers’ minimum wage of P300 ($6.098). Unemployed workers numbered 4.15
With rising cost of living
and low wages in the country, more and more Filipino families are becoming
estimated that almost 83 percent or 8 out of 10 families are poor.
Aside from battling
poverty and hunger, the people of Baseco have yet another pressing
concern. They might lose their homes as soon as the privatization of the
Manila North Harbor gets underway. Residents here said their community
along the shore would be turned into a commercial district similar to that
of Baywalk along Manila Bay. In fact, construction was underway when
Bulatlat visited the place.
Baseco is only one of
seven communities affected by the privatization of the Manila North
Harbor. The urban poor
group Kadamay (Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Mutual Help Association
of the Poor) estimated that about
849,000 individuals would be affected by the said government project.
on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) this year named the Philippines as
one of three recipients of the Housing Rights Violator Award “for
their systematic violation of housing rights and continued failure to
abide by their international legal obligations.” Nigeria and Greece
likewise received the dubious distinction.
said in a statement issued last Dec 5 that
145,000 individuals or 29,000 families
from Metro Manila and Bulacan province have been evicted from their homes
since early 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippine National
Railways, called the North Rail-South Rail Linkage Project. No less than
80,000 families (400,000 individuals) would be evicted and displaced by
the project – the largest government-initiated displacement of
communities in the history of the Philippines.
people have been left homeless in Metro Cebu since September in
preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be hosted by the
Philippines in January.
Forty two families (210
people) were left homeless when their houses situated in front of the
Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort and Spa in Mactan Island, were demolished
by the police in preparation for the summit.
COHRE also reported that more than 600 homes were also demolished in
Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City since September 2006, also in preparation
for the summit. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by
these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation
site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as
electricity and water.
year, COHRE bestows its Housing Rights Violator Awards on three
governments or public institutions guilty of particularly serious housing
rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator
Awards since 2002.
urban poor group Kadamay, meanwhile, estimated that about half a million
urban poor dwellers would be affected by the government’s privatization
and modernization projects in the National Capital Region, Central and
statement, Kadamay said 80,779 families living along the railways from
Central to Southern Luzon would be affected by the North Rail-South Rail
Linkage Project. For the port privatization, the homes of 65,000 families
near the Manila North Harbor would be demolished, while 65,216 individuals
would be affected by the Batangas City Port Expansion.
Thousands of families are also expected to be evicted when the
rehabilitation of the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa is implemented
while about 100,000 families would be affected by the privatization of the
Laguna Lake and the C-6, STAR and CALABARZON projects.
conservative estimate, the number of dislocated families along the
railways of Bulacan, Makati City, parts of Caloocan and Manila has already
reached 18,500. Added to this are the 500 families who were rendered
homeless after their houses were violently demolished in Taguig City
middle of this year.
This number, Kadamay said, did not include
“pocket demolitions” in several urban poor communities in the country’s
quarter of 2006 marked the entry of government troops in urban centers
particularly in communities planned to be demolished by the government,
Kadamay said. In a press conference held last Dec. 23, Kadamay secretary
general Ed Legson said their group has monitored at least eight barangays
in Metro Manila where soldiers are holed up in barangay halls or in day
said their local chapters have monitored the presence of soldiers in full
battle gear in four barangays in Quezon City (Holy
Spirit, Payatas, Batasan, and Commonwealth) and four others in Manila (Pandacan,
Baseco, Parola, and Smokey Mountain).
poor dwellers fear that soldiers in the communities would be used to “tame
the villagers” and worse, serve as “demolition crews,” Legson said. He
added that soldiers may also be used against progressive partylist members
who will be campaigning for the 2007 mid-term elections.
Relocation sites have been opened in the towns of San Jose del Monte and
Balagtas in the province of Bulacan for families dislocated by the North
Rail project while the Southville Housing project in the town of Cabuyao
in the province of Laguna was opened for families affected by the South
relocation sites are being populated by evictees from Makati and Cabuyao
because of the South Rail project; and from Caloocan, Valenzuela and
Malabon in Metro Manila and the town of Meycauayan and Malolos City in
Bulacan due to the North Rail project.
Meanwhile, the government, in cooperation with Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for
Humanity project and Gawad Kalinga, built 3,000 20 sq. m. housing units
for the families in Baseco.
Balondo, 45, was awarded a unit by the Gawad Kalinga in 2005 and
transferred there in January, 2006. “Ang binigay lang sa amin ay susi
at ID, walang titulo,” (They gave us keys and IDs, but no land
titles) he said.
only on Dec. 20 that project organizers started to connect electricity in
the houses. Meantime, almost all houses have illegal connections for their
electricity for which residents pay more than P2, 000 ($40.65) a month for
scarce. Pipelines have not yet been set up as well.
coordinators, Balondo said, told them they are allowed to stay there for
only five years. “Pagkatapos ng limang taon hindi na namin alam kung
saan kami pupunta” (After five years, we don’t know where to go),
Balondo said. With reports
from Angie de Lara/Bulatlat
Dumped and Neglected
(Second of Two
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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