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

Vol. VI, No. 47      Dec. 31, 2006 - Jan. 6, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines








Web Bulatlat


(We encourage readers to dialogue with us. Email us your letters complaints, corrections, clarifications, etc.)

Join Bulatlat's mailing list



(Email us your letters statements, press releases,  manifestos, etc.)



For turning the screws on hot issues, Bulatlat has been awarded the Golden Tornillo Award.

Iskandalo Cafe


Copyright 2004 Bulatlat



RP is 2006 Housing Rights Violator
(First of two parts)

Poverty, hunger, 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 its "systematic 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 toilet.                                                                                  

When Bulatlat 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 a day.


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 million.

With rising cost of living and low wages in the country, more and more Filipino families are becoming poor. Ibon estimated that almost 83 percent or 8 out of 10 families are poor.

Housing Rights Violator

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.

Geneva-based Centre 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.

COHRE 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.

Meanwhile, 3,000 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.

Each 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.


The 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 Southern Luzon.

In a 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.

In Kadamay’s 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 key cities.


The last 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 care centers.

Legson 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).

Urban 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 Rail project.

The 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.

Elmer 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.

It was 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 the “service.”

Water is scarce. Pipelines have not yet been set up as well.

Project 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

Railway Evictees: Dumped and Neglected (Second of Two Parts)



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.