“The residents would prefer to live along danger zones than relocating to death zones.” – Kadamay
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – An alliance of urban poor settlers and progressive groups criticized the government’s plan to relocate nearly 20,000 families living along the major waterways in Manila.
“The residents would prefer to live along danger zones than relocating to death zones,” Carlito Badion, one of the conveners of Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon, said, referring to the off-city relocation areas in provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.
Early this year, Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas announced that the government would remove about 100,000 families residing along major waterways in Metro Manila. Their target is to remove these homes before the rainy season begins in June.
Urban poor residing along rivers and its tributaries have long been blamed by government officials for clogging the waterways and causing the heavy floods in Metro Manila, especially during rainy season. Public works Secretary Rogelio Singson was even quoted in media reports saying that the government would utilize all possible resources to get this done – even “blast” their homes if necessary.
Recent news reports say that Local Government Undersecretary Francisco Fernandez said the government will now start their clearing operations, which would affect about 20,000 families along San Juan River. This, he said, is part of the government’s plan to keep urban poor out from danger zones during the typhoon season.
“Every time there is a typhoon, many get killed,” Fernandez told GMAnews.com in a telephone interview.
The major waterways identified for this project are San Juan River, Manggahan Floodway, Estero Tripa de Galina, Maricaban Creek, Tullahan River and the Pasig River.
Urban poor groups such as Kadamay, however, believe that urban poor dwellers would not be transferred to in-city relocation sites. In a protest action in front of the office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Quezon City, residents from various urban poor communities and members of Alyansa Kontra Demolition called on the government to put a stop to the impending demolition of homes in their respective areas.
Kilusang Mayo Uno, also one of the conveners of Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon, said in a statement that the Aquino government is using the lie that flooding is being caused by the poor in order to demolish their homes.
“That propaganda lie has no scientific basis whatsoever,” Roger Soluta, secretary general of KMU, said.
In city relocation?
Interior secretary Mar Roxas promised last January that affected families will be relocated within Metro Manila and, if possible, near their communities.
“They will not be thrown away to far-flung areas. This will run smoothly because we will be transparent and relocation would be more affordable,” Roxas said in a report. He added that the National Housing Authority is busy finding suitable relocation sites for the affected families.
Roxas also assured that the government has sufficient resources to fund this project.
But months later, Badion said all these plans have remained “on the drawing board.” He said that the medium-rise housing project that Roxas has been referring to has been planned years ago and “should not be counted as part of the in-city housing announced last January.”
He added that even with the $250 million fund, the DILG cannot proceed with its in-city housing because of “lack of land within the cities to accommodate such buildings.”
“The land must be the counterpart of the (local government unit) for the in-city housing to materialize,” Badion said, “Since not one among the local governments unit has donated a piece of land within their jurisdiction, the fund from Malacañang has been diverted for the construction of off-city relocation in Bulacan and Rizal provinces.”
These relocation sites, according to urban poor group Kadamay, is also a “danger zone,” citing the heavy flooding in Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, Rizal during Typhoon Ondoy in 2010 and the heavy monsoon rains in 2012. There are also no livelihood opportunities in these relocation sites.
In a consultation with DILG’s Francisco, members of Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon were able to secure a temporary “ceasefire” on the said demolition. Progressive organizations forged an agreement with Francisco that they will “jointly implement on-site or near site relocation for those residing in danger areas in the NCR.”
The two parties also agreed that there “will be no forcible demolition until another meeting on the subject matter” will be held.
Among the signatories is Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap. He also urged Francisco to look into the massive reclamation program of the Aquino government, which, he deemed, is the real culprit behind the heavy flooding in Metro Manila.
“It is not right that you will put the blame on the victims,” Hicap said during the latter part of the consultation.
Badion said their communities under the umbrella group Alyansa Kontra Demolisyon will continue their resistance against demolition. “No demolition should take place until all our concerns have been ironed out.”