Friday, August 25, 2006

COHRE urged Philippine government to do better in relocation of railway families

21 August 2006

Froilan R. Kampitan
Assistant General Manager
National Housing Authority
Elliptical Road, Diliman,
Quezon City, Philippines

re: Flooding at the Southville Cabuyao Relocation Site

Dear Mr Kampitan

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an independent international human rights organisation mandated to protect and promote housing rights throughout the world.

Following our meeting on 27 July 2006, at which we discussed the situation at the Southville Cabuyao relocation site, I am writing to express COHRE's concern at the current situation there. Firstly, the dumpsite remains in operation and continues to present a serious health hazard particularly with the contamination of flood waters. COHRE has seen photographs taken by partner organisations on 5 August 2006, showing serious flooding. The water enters the houses and after heavy downpours can take up to six hours to subside. The photographs show large piles of garbage in the relocation site, which also present a health hazard.

As discussed, under international law, namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the Philippines is a signatory, everyone has the right to “an adequate standard of living for himself and for his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions” (Article 11(1)).

Furthermore, Article XIII, Section 10 of the Philippines Constitution explicitly provides that “Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

The legal process intimated by Article XIII, Section 10 was in turn adopted through statute under Republic Act No. 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). Section 28 of the provision states that “Eviction or demolition as a practice shall be discouraged.” Under certain circumstances evictions may be allowed, but must comply with eight mandatory requirements, including: “(2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;” and “(8) Adequate relocation”.

Moreover, Section 21 of the provision states: “Socialized housing or resettlement areas shall be provided by the local government unit or the National Housing Authority in cooperation with the private developers and concerned agencies with the following basic services and facilities:
a) Potable water;
b) Power and electricity and an adequate power distribution system;
c) Sewerage facilities and an efficient and adequate solid waste disposal system; and
d) Access to primary roads and transportation facilities.”

COHRE’s fact-finding mission to the Southville Cabuyao relocation site and recent photographs clearly demonstrate that the Philippines is in breach of its international and national legal obligations, due to the grossly inadequate conditions persisting in the relocation site.

COHRE urgently calls on the Philippines Government, and the National Housing Authority (NHA) in particular, to:
a) close the dumpsite immediately;
b) cease the dumping of garbage;
c) replace the existing small drainage pipes with larger ones, capable of channelling the flood waters;
d) construct a concrete wall between the dumpsite and the adjacent houses;
e) construct a canal to redirect the water from houses to a nearby creek;
f) deepen the drain canals; and
g) cover the drain canals with concrete to prevent accidents from occurring.

COHRE appreciates that the NHA is one of many agencies involved in the relocation process of the North South Rail Linkage Project. However as the key implementer of the housing and resettlement component of the project, the NHA bears primary responsibility for ensuring that the above-mentioned obligations are met. COHRE calls on the Philippines Government to urgently remedy the appalling living conditions at the Southville Cabuyao relocation site as a matter of priority.

We look forward to discussing these matters with you further and continuing to assist the Government in complying in full with international human rights law. Our Geneva staff will be contacting the Philippines Mission in Geneva and our Litigation and Media Programmes will explore other forms of human rights advocacy as necessary. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Jean du Plessis
Executive Director (a.i.)
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
83 Rue de Montbrillant
1202 Geneva
tel: 41.22.734.1028
fax: 41.22.733.8336
jean@cohre.orgAnnie Feith
Women’s Housing Rights Officer
Asia-Pacific Programme
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
PO Box 1160
Collingwood 3066
Victoria, Australia

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