HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Displaced Cebu slum dweller asks:
What Caring, What Sharing?
“One Caring and Sharing Community.” This was the theme of 12th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), held recently in Cebu. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said there are strong prospects that the vision behind this theme would be realized. Those who lost their homes in preparation for the Summit late last year, however, say they could not feel the theme’s meaning.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was beaming with pride as she spoke at the Sugbo Summit Hall at the Summit Complex in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu on Jan. 14. She was speaking of the prospects of building “One Caring and Sharing Community” – the theme of the 12th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – in Southeast Asia.
Jan. 14 marked the opening of the ASEAN Plus Three Summit – which gathered the leaders of the ASEAN countries and its dialogue partners China, Japan, and South Korea.
“This year’s summits are set to break new ground towards greater solidarity, cohesiveness and cooperation in the whole East Asia,” Arroyo said. “The unequivocal commitment of the regional leaders to peace, stability and economic prosperity for their peoples will continue to mark One Caring and Sharing Regional Community, sailing through challenging seas. The prospects are bright. The visions have become even grander with every meeting and discussion among the movers and shakers of ASEAN and East Asia.”
The Summit’s official theme had earlier been rendered into a song by rock musician Ramon “RJ” Jacinto, a known Arroyo ally. His song is contained in an audio CD distributed to accredited reporters by the Summit’s Media and Communications Secretariat. Sings Jacinto:
And the countries of Asia
They’ve gathered here in our land
To do some caring and sharing
The community of beauty
But Rosalinda Romas, 48, a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, says she could not feel the meaning of these words in what transpired before and during the Summit.
“Hindi naman nakabuti sa mga Pilipino ang ASEAN Summit,” (The ASEAN Summit did no good for Filipinos) Romas told Bulatlat in an interview. “Nawalan kami ng tirahan” (We lost our homes).
Romas was one of the residents of Barangay (village) Guizo, Mandaue City whose shanties were demolished as part of the preparations for the 12th ASEAN Summit.
She had lived in Brgy. Guizo since 1997. Many of her neighbors had been there much longer – with some having lived there for as long as 25 years – before the demolitions, Romas told Bulatlat.
Their shanties were situated a few hundred meters away from where the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) now stands.
The construction of the CICC, which served as the venue for several of the Summit events – including bilateral talks among ASEAN leaders – had cost at least P650 million ($13,792,293 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.895) and could have used up as much as P800 million ($16,361,591), based on estimates by Cebu Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, Jr.
Based on data from the Geneva-based Centre On Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), more than 600 homes in the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu were demolished from September to December last year.
In September alone, 42 families comprising almost 210 people lost their homes which were standing in front of the Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa, COHRE data further show. These demolitions were carried out to give way to a parking lot that was used by Summit participants.
The COHRE counts 600 families, making up a total of 3,000 people, displaced by the demolitions in Cebu in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit.
COHRE data further shows that of the 600 displaced families, only 100 were moved to a temporary relocation site.
The temporary relocation site, located in Cebu City, has no basic facilities such as water and electricity, COHRE’s research shows. Romas confirmed this.
“Sabi nila, pagdating namin doon, ready na ang mga titirhan” (They told us that there were ready structures waiting for us at the relocation site), she added. “Pagdating namin doon, wala naman” (But there were none when we got there).
“Binigyan kami ng materyales para makapagtayo ng bahay, pero kulang ‘yon” (We were given materials to construct our houses, but these were not enough), she further said. “Kaya ang mga tao doon, maraming nagkasakit” (Because of that, many among us got sick).
Many of them also lost their means of livelihood, she says. Brgy. Guizo, she said, was near the marketplace so many of their neighbors earned a living by vending or by driving tricycles.
The demolition of their shanties and their consequent relocation took that away, Romas says. “Marami tuloy sa amin, walang pera, walang makain” (As a result many of us have no money and are going hungry), she said.
Romas considers herself and her husband, a retired soldier, among the “luckier” ones, with two of their five children already working and only one still studying.
During her speech at the opening of the 12th ASEAN Summit on Jan. 12, Arroyo said that social justice would be among the objectives of the gathering.
“I hope we can make progress on issues of energy independence, human rights, economic integration and social justice,” Arroyo said in her opening speech. ““As the theme of the summit, ‘One Caring and Sharing Community’ suggests, we want to advance the sense of community in our shared interest to look after each other in terms of social justice, economic development and common security.”
But Romas said she cannot see social justice in what happened to her and thousands of others during the Summit preparations.
“Paano nila sasabihing kasama ‘yan sa adyenda?” (How can they say that is part of the agenda?) she said when asked to comment. “E tinanggalan nga kami ng tirahan. Hindi totoo ‘yan, nanloloko sila.” (We were driven away from our homes. That is not true, they are fooling the people.)
Formed in 1967, the ASEAN was established purportedly to accelerate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in Southeast Asia. It is presently composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The founding ASEAN member countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined on Jan. 8, 1984, Vietnam on July 28, 1995, Laos and Myanmar on July 23, 1997, and Cambodia on April 30, 1999. Bulatlat
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