Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PHILIPPINE GOV'T COMMITS MASSIVE HR VIOLATIONS IN RAILROAD PROJECTS by Ms. Alicia Gentolia-Murphy,Urban Poor Associates


The Philippine Government has begun massive evictions since early last year to implement its Northrail and Southrail Projects. The two projects will evict an estimated 150,000 families, which will be the biggest in the country’s history. A total of 22,000 families have already been evicted. Last year the Philippine government implemented phase one of the Northrail project, evicting some 18,000 families from from three cities in Metro Manila and 6 municipalities in Bulacan province. Funds for the Northrail project comes from a $1billion loan provided by the People’s Republic of China for the actual construction of the railroad. This year the Philippine government begun implementing the first phase of Southrail project, evicting some 4,000 families mostly from Makati City. Some 50,000 families will evicted by the Southrail project. The funds will come from the Korean government via a $200 million loan for the construction of the railroad. The railways project will push until the Southern tip of Luzon and will be funded by the People’s Republic of China via $1billion loan for the construction of the railroad. While most of the affected residents are not opposed to the two railroad projects, they are demanding that the government comply with national laws such as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 and international standards such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other treaties which the Philippine government has ratified.. While the relocation sites in the Northrail are near the original residence of the evicted families (in-city or in-municipality), the relocation sites, one year later, are still inadequate, according to a survey conducted last month by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) and the local Catholic church. There is no potable water, electricity is unstable and in five relocation sites the temporary electrical connections were cut by the developers because people say the government told them to pay only when permanent connections are installed, there are no schools in the relocation sites but classes will open early this month. There are no clinics. One manifestation of the bad situation is that although some 70% of the 20,000 families have built their houses, only 50% have occupied them, preferring to go back to where they originally came from,eithedr staying with relatives or renting some small rooms. In the Southrail, the government has transferred some 4,000 families to the Cabuyao relocation site, 30 kilometers away. There is no potable water, electricity is available only between 6:00 PM to 6:00AM but there are no street lights. There are some school classrooms but these cannot be ready for the class opening this month. There are no clinics. There are no jobs near or in the relocation site, so breadearners have to commute each day to Metro Manila where they have work. The affected families say the relocation package of the government is presented as a house and lot loan worth P150,000 to be paid in 30 years. The government does not always observe the subdivision regulations on mandatory provision of paved roads, availability of water and electricity in the relocation sites. Aside from the inadequacy of the relocation sites, many affected families complained that they had to sign waivers, which Atty Bienvenido Salinas of the St Thomas More Law Center, legal arm of Urban Poor Associates, says absolves the government of its obligations to provide decent and adequate relocation. The situation is so bad that the evictees and those to be evicted have held protest actions at the office of the Vice President Noli de Castro , chairman of the Urban Development and Coordinating Council and designated by President Arroyo as overa-all in charge for Northrail and Southrail resettlements. Catholic clergy have voiced their concerns in support of the people’s complaints about the inadequate relocation sites of the government. Last year, the Catholic bishop of Bulacan province wrote to President Arroyo saying the resettlement sites in his province are not fit for human habitation. This year’s survey has shown the situation has not improved. And in May 12, 2006 new Cardinal Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila wrote a scathing letter to Vice President about the inadequacies of the Southrail relocation site which received wide media coverage. The affected families and NGOs, in particular the Task Force Housing Rights along the Railways, call on the government to comply with its own housing laws as well as international treaties which the 1987 Philippine Constitution (Article II, Section 2) says are part of the law of the land. They also call on the Chinese and South Korean governments to observe General Comment No. 2 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states that international agencies should “scrupulously avoid involvement in projects which, inter alia, involve large-scale evictions or displacement of persons without the provision of all appropriate protection and compensation.” South Korean embassy officials, in meetings with representatives of peoples organizations and UPA, have maintained that they have no responsibility regarding the provision of adequate relocation, that this was the sole responsibility of the Philippine Government. -30-

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