Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cardinal Rosales Urges Vice President de Castro to Help Railway Families Living on Toxic Relocation Site


Cardinal Rosales Urged Vice President de Castro to Help Railway Families Living on Toxic Relocation Site

Alarmed by news of chemical risks among relocatees at the Southville Housing Project, the revered Archbishop of Manila has added his voice to the brewing anxiety over the relocation of railway families near a dumpsite in Cabuyao, Laguna.

In a letter sent to Vice President Noli de Castro, His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales drew the attention on the health hazards of relocating people displaced by the Northrail Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP) next to a six-hectare dump, which tends to exacerbate the poor living conditions in the resettlement site. (The Cardinal’s letter is attached for your reference.)

Cardinal Rosales, who is highly regarded for his defense of the poor and the environment, is worried about the health risks posed by the dump to residents, especially the children, women and the elderly. Dumps, cautioned Rosales, are known sources of harmful toxins that are capable of damaging human bodies, contaminating the food supply and polluting the surroundings, including the air, soil and surface and groundwater.

“It appears to me that the current relocation program in Cabuyao, Laguna fails to take into consideration the health and environmental hazards that living next to a mixed waste dump might cause to the relocatees,” Cardinal Rosales said. Affirming that “I am one with the relocatees in seeking for the immediate resolution of their grievances and needs.”

Cardinal Rosales pleaded for Vice President de Castro’s sympathetic action, offering four action steps that will help in restoring the relocatees’ hope for a humane and secured future:

· Hasten the closure, clean up and rehabilitation of the dumpsite.
· Ensure immediate access to essential services such as electricity, safe drinking water, proper drainage and sanitation, and ecological system for managing discards.
· Complete what is required to obtain quality education at both Southville Elementary School and Cabuyao National High School Annex in Southville.
· Provide sustainable jobs and livelihood opportunities within the site and nearby places.

“The Southville residents have long suffered from health problems that they believe are caused by the leachate and the toxins in their drinking water coming from the shallow wells built next to a dumpsite. Without access to basic services, it was clear that surviving with dignity in a place like Southville is very difficult,” said the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

“We hope that the Vice President will heed the plea of our beloved Cardinal and act with urgency to protect the health of the relocatees from toxic pollution,” added the Ecowaste Coalition’s Task Force Dumps/Landfills.

This is the second time that Cardinal Rosales wrote to Vice President de Castro on the railway eviction issue. It will be recalled that on 12 May 2006, Cardinal Rosales asked Vice President de Castro, concurrent Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, to find alternate in-city relocation for displaced families and to work towards improving the living conditions in the Cabuyao relocation site. -30-

For further information, please contact the Office of Cardinal Rosales (5274153), Urban Poor Associates (4264118) or the Ecowaste Coalition (9290376).

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