Friday, July 7, 2006

Church leaders, NGOs unite to help railway families

** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **
For Immediate Release on July 7, 2006

Church leaders, NGOs unite to help railway families

Empowered by His Eminence Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales and Metropolitan Bishops, Church priests and members of non-government organizations (NGOs) met yesterday at the Caritas-Manila to consolidate views on railway tracks issues for the sake of 26,000 families who were dislocated and some 100,000 families who will be dislocated due to the Northrail and Southrail Projects.
Fr. Anton C.T. Pascual, Executive Director of Caritas-Manila, opened the discussion saying that the Church will now directly appeal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because recent efforts to dialog with housing and government officials have not helped in any important way. “Dahil maraming paikot-ikot didiretsuhin na natin si Gloria! Ang kakausap sa kanya ay mga Obispo para ihain ang isyu ng home along the riles. Si Cardinal Rosales naman ay nagbigay ng matinding pagsuporta sa atin dito,” Fr. Pascual said.
The Metropolitan Bishops who will likely meet PGMA includes Bishops Deogracias Iñiguez, Francisco San Diego, Jessie Mercado and Leo Drona of the dioceses of Caloocan, Pasig, Parañaque and San Pablo, Laguna.
Recently, Cardinal Rosales sent Fr. Pascual on his behalf to visit the relocation sites and meet government officials to personally see the condition of the relocation sites and how the relocated families are doing and coping.
“Despite the efforts of Cardinal Rosales to call the government’s attention to the inadequacies of the relocation program, the officials haven’t responded positively in deeds,” according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization conducting research in relocation sites. “We have asked housing officials including Vice President Noli de Castro to defer relocation until the sites are ready, but they have refused,” the UPA added.
Fr. Benito B. Tuazon, parish priest of St. Alphonsus in Magallanes, encouraged the group together with Metropolitan Bishops to visit the relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna. “Ang nagsasalita para sa mga tao ay NGOs at negative ang tingin sa kanila ng gubyerno. But we can talk about it based on our experience on what we saw and what we have heard if we go to the relocation sites. Let’s take videos and pictures, interview people so that they can see the situation for themselves. Housing officials will give answers as if we do not know what’s really happening,” Fr. Tuazon points out.
Identified problems of the North and South relocation sites are lack of social services in terms of livelihood, sanitation, security, education, health, potable water and electricity. Hence, the following are the positions agreed upon for the relocated families: Remove the health-hazardous dumpsite at the Cabuyao relocation site; Fast track social services in the relocation sites; Have a longer grace period for the amortization of housing loans; Assign police outpost at the relocation sites. And for those who will soon be relocated: Start improving relocation sites with social services; Do not be strict with cut-off dates or census dates; Have a moratorium on demolitions until the relocation sites are ready; Find in-city or near-city relocation; Define the guidelines for ‘voluntary’ relocation.
Other priests who shared their views were Msgr. Cesar Pagulayan, Msgr. Celso Ditan, Fr. Jose Antonio Paras, Fr. Enrico Martin Adoviso, Fr. Allan Lopez of the parishes of Sto Rosario, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. John Bosco, Most Holy Trinity and San Lorenzo.
NGOs who participated at the meeting includes UPA, Partneship of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI), Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP), Damayan ng mga Maralitang Pilipinong Api (DAMPA), Grassroots Women Empowerment Center (GWEC), Homeless People’s Federation and Bantay Riles. -30-

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