Tuesday, April 3, 2007

COHRE with International Human Rights Experts Urged the Philippine Government to Respect the Human Rights of the Poor and Halt Mass Forced Evictions

**COHRE/UPA Joint Media Release**

COHRE with International Human Rights Experts Urged the Philippine Government to Respect the Human Rights of the Poor and Halt Mass Forced Evictions

3 April 2007. Mass human rights violations such as forced evictions and the destruction of housing continue unabated in the Philippines, warns the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), and its team of international human rights experts at a joint media conference in Quezon City this morning.

COHRE, the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), and experts from Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia and South Africa are concerned about widespread housing rights violations, after visiting residents at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna yesterday. The team of experts also visited families evicted from their homes along the waterways and railroad tracks in Manila.
More than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan province since early 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railway system, referred to as the ‘Northrail-Southrail’ Linkage Project. A total of 914 families living along waterways have also been evicted by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) since February this year, and another 500 families face the threat of imminent eviction.

Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of COHRE’s Asia and Pacific Programme, said, “All those who participated in the COHRE-led fact-finding mission were visibly moved by the desperate circumstances of the affected communities. It is clear that basic international human rights on forced evictions, and the law of the Philippines, have not been complied with. We trust that the relevant Philippine authorities will look into prosecuting those responsible for breaches of the law.”

Nicholson added, “Philippine governments at both national and local levels have repeatedly chosen to overlook the human rights of citizens by carrying out arbitrary forced evictions. The evictions have caused thousands of urban poor to lose their homes and livelihoods, and left them destitute. It is of great concern that these evictions continue to take place throughout the Philippines.”

Teodoro AƱana, Deputy Coordinator of UPA, said, “Greater engagement is needed between government, NGOs and urban poor communities to develop alternatives to evictions and to encourage development that promotes basic human rights in the Philippines.”

Last December, the Government of the Philippines was given one of three Housing Rights Violator Awards for 2006 by COHRE, for the forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of people in the name of ‘beautification’ and ‘development’, with the urban poor being the worst affected. COHRE, and its team of international experts, stand by these findings, despite the denials of the Philippine government.

COHRE, UPA and the international team of experts call upon all levels of government in the Philippines to:
Halt all evictions along the railway lines, unless adequate relocation sites are found with the consent of affected communities;
Ensure that existing relocation sites are safe, secure and healthy, and that undertakings previously made by government to affected communities are fully implemented;
Halt all evictions along the waterways in Metro Manila unless domestic and international housing rights standards are fully complied with;
Invite the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to conduct a mission to the Philippines immediately. -30-

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UPA: +632 4264118 / 4267615

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