Saturday, August 5, 2006

International NGOs calls North and Southrail relocation inadequate and violative of international human rights standards


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International NGOs calls North and Southrail relocation inadequate and violative of international human rights standards

Officers from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), namely Annie Feith and Lisa Giufre, came to the Philippines a 9-day visit (July 18 to 27) to find out the housing rights situation of those affected by the Northrail and Southrail Project.

They visited families facing eviction and those already evicted in three relocation sites (Towerville, Northville IV in Bulacan and Southville in Cabuyao, Laguna) as well as Philippine National Railways and National Housing Authority officials. They discovered the following:

People do not have access to electricity and potable water. This means that drinking water must be bought.

It is extremely difficult for families to earn a livelihood being located so far from Metro Manila. Up to 70% of relocatees go back to the city to live and work during the week, returning to their families only on weekends. A significant proportion of income is spent on transport.

In Southville, the adjacent dumpsite produces a foul smell and many health hazards. Some houses are within a few meters of the dump. The poor drainage and close proximity to the dump means that when flooding occurs, polluted water floods the houses. At least 6 children have died of diarrhea this year.

Schools and health services are inadequate in each location visited. For example in Southville, part of the school is housed in a tent, there is no water for the two small toilets, children must pay for drinking water, and the teachers work 3 four hour shifts because both human and physical resources are not sufficient to serve the 3000+ children attending.

While conditions in slums along the railway are far from adequate, the people said that it was much easier for them to make a living in the city. “It was clear that surviving with dignity in a place like Southville is very difficult”.

The Philippines got the attention of the participants at the World Urban Forum III in Vancouver, Canada when it opened on June 19. Habitat International Coalition, an international NGO with consultative status at the United Nations, cited the Philippines as one of the governments who conducted massive forced evictions and committed human rights violations in the name of development, such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and India. Mr. Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, emceed the activity. “The Northrail and Southrail project in the Philippines will, when completed, have evicted and displaced an estimated 150,000 families, with inadequate relocation alternatives,” Kothari said. A Philippine delegation of housing officials led by Vice President Noli de Castro attended the WUF. In one of the WUF forums, a HIC delegation told VP de Castro that his so-called “incremental development” of relocation sites which means transferring people to sites that are not prepared and inadequate violated international housing standards as well as the Philippine government practice of making affected families sign “waivers” to their rights.COHRE is an international human rights organization working in the field of housing rights. Together with its Philippine partners, Urban Poor Associates (UPA) and Grasroots Women Empowerment Center (GWEC),

COHRE works closely with the United Nations, advocating that governments fulfill their international and national legal obligations to ensure adequate housing for all. -30-

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