Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hard quest for a living space

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October 14, 2006

Hard quest for a living space

It is not the house that counts, nor the comfort of it that is more important but survival.

Alberta Abenaza, now a widow and mother of 7, had been living for 26 years under the San Andres Bridge 1, along Estero Tripa de Gallina, a jurisdiction of Brgy. 734 and 735 in Manila.

“Kaya tumagal dito, ang hanapbuhay nasa bubong lang,” said Abenaza who is now 46 and supports her family through rug making.

Abenaza left her distant village in Leyte at the age of 11 to find a better life in Manila. Soon after graduating in High School, she was married to Everjisto, a jeepney driver. With meager income, her growing family found it hard to rent a place so they decided to build a shanty under the bridge.

“Nung una ayaw ko kasi madilim, mabaho, maingay, malalim ang ilog at walang maapakang lupa. Humanap kami ng mauupahan pero isang taon lang nasunugan kami kaya ito na ang naging bahay namin,” Abenaza said.

Some 54 families are now living under the bridge. Most of the residents are vendors along OsmeƱa Highway. Being in constant threat of demolitions, the community organized the Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT).

“Karamihan dito katulad din ng kwento ng buhay ko. Nangangarap din kaming mabigyan ng pabahay. Maiahon sa ilalim ng tulay, subukan ang buhay sa taas. Dito para kaming dagang nagtatago sa lungga,” said Abenaza, president of SAINT.

Since 2001, Abenaza have written various letters asking for relocation assistance from the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Presidential Action Center, National Housing Authority, Department of Social Welfare, Department of Public Works and Highway, Urban Settlement Office, and Manila City officials.

“Kung meron pa silang konting awa, umaasa pa rin kami hanggang ngayon na mabigyan ng pag-asa upang mabago at maitaguyod ang aming pamilya sa maayos na pamumuhay,” said Abenaza.

The residents along Estero Tripa de Gallina have been given until October 20, 2006 to evict their shanties, according to a Notice of Eviction issued by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) September 19.

SAINT sought the help of Urban Poor Associates (UPA) to save their dwellings from demolition in the absence of relocation program as stipulated in the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA).

“Cities do not comply fully with the content of section 28 of the law that says there should be no demolition without adequate relocation,” according to a research conducted by the UPA, a non-government organization working with urban poor issues. “Hence, the endless cycle of homelessness.”

In the aftermath of typhoon Milenyo, after dismantling the “killer” billboards, the government wants to immediately remove informal settlers near esteros, creeks and rivers to prevent flooding during the rainy season.

The Esteros Program of the HUDCC shows that 21,047 families will have to be relocated but it has a funding requirement of 2,253 Million Pesos. -30-

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