Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Taguig City railway dwellers fight against eviction

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For Immediate Release on June 6, 2006

Taguig City railway dwellers fight against eviction

Railway dwellers along Skyway East Service Road, Tenement in Taguig City were threatened to be demolished by the FTI Satellite Office of the Camp Badminton in FTI Complex, Western Bicutan yesterday morning but the affected families refused to be demolish.

“Ito ay taliwas sa mga pahayag ng City government na walang isasagawang demolisyon kung walang sapat at makataong relokasyon,” said Rowena Gepanaga, a resident.

Gepanaga argued that the demolition of their houses will be unlawful since the FTI Satellite Office does not have certificate of compliance (COC) from the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP) and that the property is owned by the Philippine National Railway (PNR) and not within the jurisdiction of the Public Order Safety Office.

“Sang-ayon sa huling pagpupulong na ginanap noong ika-11 ng Mayo 2006 at dinaluhan ng iba’t ibang people’s organization, hindi rin ito sang-ayon sa napagkasunduan sa kung saan nabanggit ng Vice Mayor na walang isasagawang paglilikas ang local na pamahalaan,” Gepanaga added.

The informal settlers were informed on April 20 that their houses will be demolished within 30 days for the creation of the FTI Transport Terminal along East Service Road. The demolition notice never mentioned relocation sites and instead threatened that the local government will enlist the help of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to undertake the demolition if the residents did not vacate or self-demolish.

Engineer Jose Varquez of the PNR Real Estate Department, speaking in behalf of PNR General Manager Jose Ma. Sarasola II, told the residents on a meeting May 17 at the HUDCC boardroom that only the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) has been tasked as the over-all agency in charge in the demolition/relocation of settlers being affected by the Southrail project.

The Urban Poor Associates, a non-government organization working on urban poor issues, pressed on the PCUP, PNR, NHA, and HUDCC to look unto the problems of the railway dwellers. “The demolition being initiated by the FTI Satellite office is a gross maneuver to force the railway dwellers to accept instead a distant relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna which is the focus of complaints for its state of unpreparedness.”

“Is the South Korean government which funds the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP) aware that the local government is intervening with the demolition of houses along the railways without relocation which is also a violation of the international law?” the UPA asked. -30-

Informal settlers file for TRO against U.P. Diliman

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For Immediate Release on June 1, 2006

Informal settlers file for TRO against U.P. Diliman

Informal settlers within the University of the Philippines (U.P.) compound in Diliman, Quezon City have asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on May 29 for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against U.P. to forestall any further acts of eviction and demolition in the absence of an adequate relocation.

The case with prayer for TRO and Preliminary Injunction is set for raffle today, June 1, 2:00 PM, before the session hall of honorable Natividad G. Dizon, Executive Judge of QC Hall of Justice’s Branch 106.

Petitioner Fernando V. Bunuan and Rodolfo J. Rojas of Pook Dagohoy in U.P. Campus said respondents U.P., with Ida May J. La’O in her capacity as Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs, have threatened to demolish their homes without offering them relocation sites.

They argued that the demolition is in violation with the constitutional mandate enshrined in the Social Justice provisions of Article XIII, Section 10, 1987 Constitution. They said U.P. must also comply with the section 28 of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Petitioners, with the help of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Maralita (NALAMA), a people’s organization from 20 barangays within U. P. Campus, filed for a TRO after they were informed on April 26 by respondents U.P. that their houses will be demolished within 30 days to give way for the University’s campaign against dengue by clearing all legal impediments along canals and its 3-meter easement. According to the demolition notice signed by Ida May J. La’O, U.P. is exempted from the coverage of UDHA, citing the Supreme Court decision on Advincula vs. Court of Appeals, GR# 136378 (December 4, 2000). Hence, evicted families, according to the notice, will not receive financial assistance or relocation.

However, the claim of U.P. that they are not covered by R.A. 7279 is false and incorrect, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization dealing with issues directly affecting the lives of the marginalized and underprivileged. “Hindi totoong naglabas ng desisyon ang Korte Suprema na nagsasabing ang U.P. ay exempted sa batas ng UDHA, sapagkat hindi nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na maisampa ang kaso sa takdang panahon ayon sa batas,” said Atty. Bienvenido A. Salinas 2nd, coordinator of UPA’s legal unit, St. Thomas More Law Center.

The Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP) has rendered on November 19, 2003 an opinion to the effect that U.P. is not exempted from the coverage of R.A. 7279 (UDHA).

According to the Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO), there are currently about 25,000 informal settler families occupying 11% to 15% of the 493-hectare University. -30-

PGMA urged to discuss extrajudicial killings with the Pope

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For Immediate Release on June 30, 2006

PGMA urged to discuss extrajudicial killings with the Pope

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to inform His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI of the numerous extrajudicial killings taking place in the Philippines and see if he congratulates her with another “well done”.

In a letter to PGMA dated June 29, AHRC stated that the percentage of killings in the Philippines ranks among the highest in Asia and Pope Benedict will naturally have a keen interest in this matter, with the first commandment being 'thou shall not kill'.

“Your government deserves to take credit for the abolition of the death penalty, together with the many persons, in the Philippines and elsewhere, who have fought for many years to abolish the death sentence. It is a mark of respect for life and recognition that the right to take away life does not belong to any individual or institution. The significance attached to this is lost however, when the same government continues to engage in extrajudicial killings,” the AHRC said.

Pope Benedict will also be interested to know, AHRC added, that priests, nuns and activists from Christian organizations have been among the persons killed.
“The AHRC urges you to bring this matter to the attention of Pope Benedict even at this late stage, and to inform him whether you, as the head of state, are determined to end these killings immediately,” the AHRC’s letter read.
The letter, signed by AHRC Executive Director Basil Fernando, was written after he saw a press photograph of PGMA with Pope Benedict. The caption said the President informed the Pope about the abolition of the death penalty. The AHRC is a regional non-governmental human rights organization of lawyers that has been pressing the Philippine government to effectively stopped extrajudicial killings.
Since the beginning of 2004, it is said that approximately 290 people have been killed in the Philippines in extrajudicial processes.
Human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the Saint Thomas More Law Center of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), have received death threats for filing cases against government officials violating housing rights. -30-

U.P. workers, teachers, students, urban poor united to stop evictions

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For Immediate Release on June 29, 2006

U.P. workers, teachers, students, urban poor united to stop evictions

Hundreds of people from several community organizations at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) in Diliman, Quezon City joined forces to form the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan Laban sa Demolisyon sa U.P. (ALMADEM) on a protest rally held at the U.P. Campus this morning. About 500 people marched from Vinzons Hall to gather at the Oblation of the U.P. Administration Building in Quezon Hall. They condemn the on-going demolitions and evictions of informal settlers inside the U.P. Campus.
Present at the rally to express outrage on the U.P Administration’s policy in demolitions are leaders from Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Maralita (NALAMA), U.P. Campus Neighborhood Association (UPCNA), University Hotel Worker’s Union (UHWU), All U.P. Workers Union, All U.P. Academic Union, Anakbayan and University Student Council (USC).
The University is known for its activists that safeguard the rights of marginalized sector. However, in this case, the University is a housing right violator, according to the leaders. “Nasaan na ang mga ideolohiyang itinuro ng Unibersidad sa karapatang pantao? Tinatalikuran ng administrasyon ng U.P. ang kanyang responsibilidad sa mga apektadong pamilya ng kanilang proyektong nais gawin. Iba na ang posisyon ng U.P. sa usapin ng pagbibigay ng katarungan para sa mga maralita,” said Fred Ajero, spokesperson of NALAMA.
The community organizations believed that there is an urgent need to find workable alternatives to this most impoverishing practice. “Dapat nang itigil ng Administrasyon ng U.P. ang ginagawang pananakot at pagdedemolis. Dapat kilalanin ng Administrasyon ng Unibersidad ang R.A. 7279 (UDHA). Dapat magbaba ng TRO ang korte para sa mga naaapektuhan ng mga demolisyon. Dapat maglaan ng lupa para sa mga maralitang naninirahan dito.”
“The University of the Philippines (UP) is not exempt from complying with the requisites for eviction provided in Section 28 of Republic Act No. 7279, also known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). Hence UP is not exempt from complying with EO 152 since it provides a mechanism to ensure compliance with Section 28 of the UDHA,” according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working with urban poor issues.

It is clear from the law that eviction and demolition involving the underprivileged and homeless citizens shall be in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner. Article XIII, Section 9 and 10 are two significant provisions in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that protect and promote the interest of the urban poor. UDHA was enacted to implement the two Constitutional provisions.

“While it is true that Section 5 (e) of UDHA provides that lands actually and primarily used for educational purposes are exempt from the coverage of UDHA, the owners/administrators are not exempt from observing the mandatory constitutional requirement. To interpret the law differently would be giving UP administrators a license to evict the poor families in a less than humane and just manner,” the UPA said.

Exemption under Article II, section 5 of UDHA is not absolute. This Section also states that exemption under this section shall not apply when the purpose of these lands has ceased to exist.

Evictions are increasing algebraically, causing a colossal displacement of people. Once demolished, evictees are forced to settle on other lands and may be subject to demolition once again, a hopeless cycle of homelessness. Such is the situation of hundreds of thousands of Filipino families in Metro Manila, according to UPA. -30-

PROTEST RALLY IN U.P. TO STOP FORCED EVICTIONS

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2006

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

PROTEST RALLY IN U.P. TO STOP FORCED EVICTIONS
U.P. workers, students, urban poor united

Community organizations at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) in Diliman, Quezon City are joining forces on a protest rally June 29 (Thursday) to condemn the demolitions and evictions of informal settlers inside the U.P. Campus.

The Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Maralita (NALAMA), U.P. Campus Neighborhood Association (UPCNA), University Hotel Worker’s Union (UHWU), All U.P. Workers Union, Anakbayan and University Student Council (USC) formed the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan Laban sa Demolisyon sa U.P. (ALMADEM) to fight against the U.P. administration’s policy in demolitions.

Thousands of people will gather to express outrage in Vinzons Hall at 8:00 AM. They will march from Vinzons Hall going to the Oblation of the U.P. Administration Building in Quezon Hall at 9:00 AM. The program will start at 10:00 AM.

The community organizations believed that there is an urgent need to find workable alternatives to this most impoverishing practice. “Dapat nang itigil ng Administrasyon ng U.P. ang ginagawang pananakot at pagdedemolis. Dapat kilalanin ng Administrasyon ng Unibersidad ang R.A. 7279 (UDHA). Dapat magbaba ng TRO ang korte para sa mga naaapektuhan ng mga demolisyon. Dapat maglaan ng lupa para sa mga maralitang naninirahan dito,” the community organizations said in a statement.

Photo ops: A cultural presentation will show how forced evictions destroy people’s lives.

What: PROTEST RALLY in U.P.
Date: June 29, 2006 (Thursday)
Time: 8:00 AM to 12:00 NN
Venue: Oblation, Quezon Hall, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City

FORCED EVICTIONS IN U.P. CAMPUS AND ITS SOCIAL IMPERATIVE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2006

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

FORCED EVICTIONS IN U.P. CAMPUS AND ITS SOCIAL IMPERATIVE

Leaders of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Maralita, U.P. Campus Neighborhood Association, University Hotel Worker’s Union, All U.P. Workers Union, Anakbayan and U.P. Student Council will have a PRESS CONFERENCE on June 28 (Wednesday), 10:00 AM at the All U.P. Workers Union Office to question the on-going demolitions in the community.

Following the press conference, at least 3,000 people are expected to participate in a PROTEST RALLY on June 29 (Thursday). Beginning 8:00 AM, they will march from Vinzon’s Hall to the Oblation at the U.P. administration building to condemn the forced evictions.

Informal settlers are seeking a temporary restraining order against the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, to prevent their eviction and the demolition of their houses. However, the U.P. Legal Office is also seeking for the outright dismissal of the petition in the case filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on the following grounds: 1. that the petition states no cause of action because it states no right violated. 2. that assuming that petitioners are beneficiaries under R.A. 7279, respondent U.P. is not covered by said law.
There are currently about 25,000 informal settler families occupying 11% to 15% of the 493-hectare University.

Amidst the looming weight of Philippine traditional property rights provisions and jurisprudence, where the owner and/or legitimate possessor reign supreme in relation to claiming possessory rights, the need to recognize and realize the evictees’ right to adequate housing and right against forced eviction provide a crucial counterweight.

The mandate to recognize and realize every person’s right to adequate housing and right against forced evictions traces its legal moorings to international covenants, conventions, declarations, the 1987 Constitution, and several statutes. Suffice it to say that these instruments, when juxtaposed with the more appropriate framework for addressing the phenomena of urban poverty and homelessness, point to a balancing of property and housing rights.

Photo ops: The Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Maralita (NALAMA), U.P. Campus Neighborhood Association (UPCNA), University Hotel Worker’s Union, All U.P. Workers Union, Anakbayan and U.P. Student Council will form an alliance against forced evictions and it will be shown by leaders holding a shattered picture of a home that will be put together.

What: Press Conference
Date: June 28, 2006 (Wednesday)
Time: 10:00 AM
Venue: All U.P. Workers Union Office, J.P Laurel corner Roces Street, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City (across the U.P. Post Office)

FROM URBAN SETTLER TO VICTIM A relocation story by Magi D. Nicolas


Annie* and husband Lino had good plans for when they would be relocated to the relocation site in Cabuyao from their home along the tracks in Pio del Pilar, Makati. He works for a group that delivers to a food stall offering lunch meals and snacks to people in Makati. Before the relocation, Lino had planned to teach his young wife how to cook; they would run a carinderia, a small eatery, in Cabuyao to augment their income.

But after the move, the couple stays in Cabuyao only on weekends. Lino and Ana have decided to stay in Makati the rest of the week to earn a living while their infant child is cared for by Ana’s mother in Cabuyao. The wife helps her husband sell food and gets P100 (less than two dollars) for a day’s work, but she says that is better than staying in Cabuyao and earning nothing. Putting up a small eatery in the relocation site would have been perfect: people there are in need of food, but their neighbors do not have the means to buy food -- many have lost their jobs. Ana’s dream of a small business has vanished.

In another block, Regina, also from Pio del Pilar, is being consoled by a group of neighbors, all women. Trying vainly to stifle her sobs, Regina is extremely distressed and is considering giving up the three youngest of her five children for adoption to a religious foundation. Her family has been starving from the time they relocated to Cabuyao in March. Her husband, who was staying in Makati on weekdays to search for income, seems to have given up. One day in May when he left, he simply told her to fend for the family. He has not been heard from since. Just a month after giving birth to her fifth child, Regina is thinking of going back to Makati and working as a cashier for P100 a day, to support herself and the two children who would remain with her.

The Southrail project promises efficient transportation through Metro Manila and south to Calamba, a distance of 70 kilometers. The construction requires that 48,000 families be removed. It is a segment of the North-South Rail Project that will cover 700 kilometers and evict 130,000 to 150,000 families, the largest planned eviction in Philippine history.

Death of “Diskarte”

The relocation has aggravated the pains of the poor. In the Cabuyao housing project (about 48 kms. from where the Makati relocatees originated), those who volunteered to be resettled are now complaining of economic dislocation and hunger. Relocatees report that conditions in Cabuyao kill the opportunity for “diskarte”, Filipino slang for resourcefulness, creativity and street smarts (the Third World nuance is lost in the translation).

The irony is that for decades, except for the small piece of land on which they had their shacks and raised their families, informal settlers did not depend on the government to survive. People living on the tracks are among the most “ma-diskarte” of the poor – they clean taxicabs, operate railway trolleys, wash clothes, sell fruits and snacks, make doormats and do a hundred other things to earn a living. Today, despite finally having homes to call their own, they are stuck in limbo, waiting for the “incremental improvements” that the government promised.

Mang Fred, a furniture upholsterer in San Antonio, Makati before the relocation in Cabuyao, recalls with hurt how a government official, hearing of their jobless plight, derided them with a plain and simple, “Maghanap kayo ng trabaho!” (“Look for a job!”), as if they are bums.

In a speech delivered in May before the Cardinal and representatives of People’s Organizations, sociologist Mary Racelis talked of degrees of vulnerabilities. Problems arise when government administrators and planners with technocratic orientation regard the urban poor as more or less the same. They pay little attention to varying levels of risks and shocks that displacement brings, preferring to look at baselines and averages and apply very standard planning concepts to a very diverse urban poor. She points out that something is very wrong when policies are crafted by people, highly educated here and abroad, based on assumptions inherited from Western societies that have very different government systems, very different institutions, and very different poverty. This perpetuates the facelessness of the urban poor, which is perhaps one reason why many in the middle and upper classes refer to the national law ensuring the proper and humane relocation of informal dwellers as “that stupid law”.

The lack of study and preparation, plus a one-size fits all approach to the issue of informal settlement has led to dismal results: preliminary findings show that in the six relocation sites in Bulacan in the North, livelihood training has been offered in most but only 5% of the 200 families interviewed report attending the training, according to a study made by the Diocese of Malolos and the NGO Urban Poor Associates. Of those who attended, only three of the five now apply the newly learned skills.

Transit To The End Of The World

One relocatee, a mother of three, ponders living in the “Promised Land” of Northville in Bancal, Malolos where there is an acute lack of basic services: “Para kaming itinapon sa dulo ng mundo (It seems like we were thrown at the end of the world).” They feel forsaken and forgotten.

Hundreds of families still live in tents in Northville, a year after eviction took place. Tent families await money to build their homes; others are losing hope of ever receiving housing allotment because of census problems and missing documents. Working heads of households have lost their jobs; remembering the trauma of a problematic census and fearing that they will get passed over if they went back to work or searched for jobs outside, they stay near their tents and earn a few pesos from construction work within the area.

As of early June the six relocation sites in the North lacked light. Some of the families in the sites have been there a year. Developers have stopped paying for the light. There is an argument over who is to blame. Some say Vice President Noli de Castro is to blame since he promised free light until permanent fixtures were in place. Others say this is not so, that it was always understood the people would pay some of the light bill. Meanwhile all agree there is no light.

In Cabuyao, relocatees from Makati are offered a free 5:30am train ride to Manila (travel to the city regularly costs about P100). But according to Mang Fred, husbands who crowd the train station early mornings are sometimes left behind by the train because, he speculates, the operators do not want to give them a free ride. He says the free-ride badges good for three years offer little consolation because no one else in the family can use the train pass aside from the signee.

Government administrators have argued that with or without the railways project, people along the tracks would still be relocated to keep them from a hazardous, subhuman environment. But in Cabuyao, the situation literally stinks. If Mount Makiling, when viewed from the tracks in Cabuyao, forms a lovely backdrop to a farmland vista, at the relocation site, walking distance from some housing blocks, there stands a stinking mountain of trash that leaks dirty floodwater whenever it rains.

At the relocation site in Bocaue in the North, a thin wall separates the relocation site from a factory that emits dark, nauseating fumes. People complain of dry throats, of mysterious sicknesses that they say result from ingesting noxious vapors. A father and his family sleep with a damp towel covering their faces so they will not suffocate in the night. People feel helpless because the factory has been there long before they were relocated in the area. Out of desperation, angry relocatees throw bottles and stones at the factory’s fence.

Since the relocation sites are far from schools, hospitals, marketplaces, and places of work, leaving home to earn a living means using up cash that could have been appropriated for food. The expanded, expensive transportation costs represent a big cut in income that very poor families can ill afford.

People are said to move “voluntarily” to these sites. Actually, they volunteer to move into unprepared sites because they are threatened by government officials: “If you don’t move now, you will get nothing.” Government describes this as a voluntary act. His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila says the practice is “illegal.” Threats are used to get people to give up their constitution rights to a just and humane relocation. The law interpreting the constitutional requirement calls for prepared sites with light, water, etc.

Suffer The Children

Children are not spared the cruelty of eviction. Along with grown-ups, they, too, bear the burden of rushed, ill-planned evictions.

Another magical solution akin to “voluntary demolition” is seen in the handling of the school children. School was on when most evictions took place. The solution was for every pupil to receive a passing mark to the next grade level, even if their lessons were not completed, and there were months left in the school year.

Lemo, at a ripe old age of 12, knows the pain that his parents have been experiencing since the relocation. Heads of households are mentally anguished because their unemployment imperils their children’s education and chance for a better life. “Mas maganda po sa Makati. May trabaho. (It is better in Makati; there are jobs there.)” Lemo says he does not know if his friends will be able to attend school this year. He quickly changes his mind and says there is a big chance some of them will not be able to go to school. When asked if he is happy in Cabuyao, he says “No, life is tough here.”

The money that a schoolchild used to receive for food now goes to pay for costly transportation, which is why many have stopped going to school. This is indeed very painful because Filipinos, no matter the economic class, dearly value education. Schools in relocation sites in the North and South are far from ready and school started June 5. Government expects a serious shortage of classrooms and teachers. In one case, twelve barangays are supposed to fit in one school along with children along with children already living nearby.

This, then, is the situation from a child’s point of view: no electricity means enduring heat and mosquito bites, day and night. When Lemo and some friends went wandering after a summer storm, they noticed that some houses in the site have crumbled. His father explains that people, in a desperate attempt to keep construction costs down, contract cheap labor. Young ones like Lemo have simple wants: that drinking water be made available because water sourced from the pipes is not fit for consumption. As a result the poor are forced to buy distilled water.

Children have to be kept healthy and, most importantly, alive. But in the resettlement areas, no clinics and doctors are available; children are rushed to hospitals far from the relocation sites for minor and major injuries, incurring transportation costs that add insult to injury.

One-Way Ticket To Hunger?

Threats and/or impossible promises are being made to people on the tracks to get them to leave, as was mentioned above. Now many volunteer relocates tell of stories of uncertainties and regret. Even the people have grown weary of their own misery: “Puro daing ang tao dito (People here are filled with grief)”.

The informal settlers have found an ally in the Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. The Cardinal has communicated to the Vice President, who is also housing czar, his request for a moratorium on relocations so that the government can “complete the unfinished tasks in the Cabuyao relocation site and to look more closely for in-city relocation sites.”

Construction of the railroad has been delayed for months. Informal settlers are regarded as the cause of delay but the people are not the principal cause. The tracks from Caloocan to Malolos in the North have been free of urban poor for six months. No construction has been started.

It is imperative to ask: at what cost are they building the railways? Will the modern train that brings the Philippines into to the next century be built on the sufferings of the poor?

Next Stop: In-City Relocation

Many would wonder why relocatees feel that they are better off living in shanties, so dangerously close to speeding trains and without security of tenure, rather than in their own lots and homes in resettlement sites. Perhaps it is because the old, rundown homes provided a true sense of shelter as people chased their hopes in the city. Today, relocatees live in unfinished, low quality concrete structures, deprived of the dignity of being productive human beings.

The government promised “incremental development” is another magical situation. This is how the phrase translates in real life: a child goes without food for days; a distraught mother decides to give up her children for adoption so they will be kept alive; and families are broken up because the spouse who works in the city and comes home only on weekends sometimes finds reasons not to go back to his family and their life of despair.

Globalization creates high-speed trains that bring people to their destinations, but if unchecked, also tramples on the rights of the very poor. Urbanization means developers make retail and structural investments that ensure comfort and convenience to people who can afford them, while the have-nots are pushed further and further out.

Socialized housing must be incorporated in city planning. A percentage of urban land must be shared with the country’s homeless instead of allocating practically all city spaces to wealthy investors. Business and urban development must ultimately redound to benefit members of society who need help the most.

We recognize that rapid urbanization is truly a challenge for the government. Given this, we urge government administrators and planners to take a step back and carefully and compassionately review existing policies. Making the most vulnerable members of society an important part in crafting policies will truly make the railroad project a social service FOR ALL.

###

Magi D. Nicolas conducted North-Southrail Case Study for Urban Poor Associates until June 2006. A freelance writer, Magi is an AB Philosophy graduate of Ateneo de Manila University and is now taking a Masters degree in Anthropology at the University of the Philippines.

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-

Philippines cited as a violator-country at the UN’s Third World Urban Forum

** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **
For Immediate Release on June 19, 2006

Philippines cited as a violator-country at the UN’s Third World Urban Forum

The country can face international sanctions and embarrassment at the Third World Urban Forum (WUF III) in Vancouver, Canada, June 19-23, said a coordinator of the Eviction Watch of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), a regional network of grassroots community organizations, NGO's and professionals actively involved with urban poor development processes in Asian cities.

Teodoro Añana, the ACHR’s watchdog on housing rights in the country, said the international community may stop turning a blind eye to forced evictions of informal dwellers caused by prestige construction projects, once the Philippines is cited as a housing rights violator-country at the WUF III.

In a People’s Tribunal Order which Añana will present to the WUF III at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, he points out that the government led by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has violated the international standards laid down by international treaties. These treaties are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the UN guidelines on the right to adequate housing and forced evictions contained in General Comments No. 4 and 7 respectively.

Añana is concerned about the forced evictions of more than 20,000 families along the North and South railways since last year. “The government plans to forcibly evict another nearly 100,000 families, the country’s largest-ever evictions of poor communities. However, it has failed to provide adequate relocation in terms of decent housing, basic services such as water and electricity, schools and clinics. It justifies the slow pace as incremental development,” he said.

“The governments of South Korea and China are accomplices in these massive violations of human rights by ignoring UN General Comment No. 2 on avoiding involvement in projects which, inter alia, involve large-scale evictions or displacements of persons without the provision of all appropriate protection and compensation,” Añana added.

He points out that the implementing agencies excluded 20-30% of the evictees on the railroad because they did not comply with some requirements or because of cut-off dates, thereby rendering them homeless or badly-housed, citing the studies done by the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working on the urban poor issues. Government also made many evictees sign waivers or quit claims, believing that in this manner the Philippine government may be absolved from observing its obligations imposed on it by Philippine housing laws such as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), Añana said.

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations through UN-Habitat to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies. It is a biennial gathering that provides for effective participation of non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, urban professionals, academics, governments, local authorities and national and international associations of local governments.

It is projected that in 2007, the majority of the world’s 6 billion people will be urbanized. One-third of them will be slum dwellers, many trapped in a cycle of poverty but overlooked by governments and with no prospects of improvement. The trend is accelerating, it is said, because by 2030, nearly 4 billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s urban dwellers, will live in cities of the developing world. -30-

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