Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cardinal Rosales concerned on plight of urban poor


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Cardinal Rosales concerned on plight of urban poor

15 April 2007. With only one month left before the midterm elections, thousands of urban poor families are once again plagued with the problems of distant relocation, forced eviction and of demolition by fires, and so are trying to solve the problems they face by seeking the help of Catholic Bishops from Malolos, Bulacan to San Pablo, Laguna.

Among those who have offered to help the families along the railways, waterways and R-10 Navotas is His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. At a meeting this afternoon held at the Manila Archbishop's residence in Arzobispado de Manila, the Cardinal was asked to write a letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and urge her to meet with representatives of the people affected.

The poor families will ask the President to order the national agencies involved, especially the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to stop evicting poor families if there is no relocation.

“If you cannot relocate, do not evict. It is clear that the national government agencies and some mayors are evicting poor families by the thousands without providing relocation. This happens more frequently now than at any time since the passage of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA),” the urban poor families said in a statement read at the end of the meeting.

Such a practice violates the Constitution, the UDHA, and the United Nations covenants that the government has signed, according to the statement read by Alicia Murphy of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that accompanied the people. “It causes terrible suffering: poor families are forced to live literally on the streets. Their children fall sick with colds and rashes. The children and the aged suffer most of all. It is a traumatic experience for school children.”

The families also oppose distant relocations. The main relocation site on the Southrail is in Cabuyao, Laguna which is 50 km. from Manila. Wage earners cannot commute because the one-way transportation cost is P70. They either give up their jobs in Manila, or divide the family between Manila and Cabuyao—workers and college students in Manila, women and children in Cabuyao. This causes extra expenses of two households and has bad effects on family life. On average, families in Cabuyao now have P2,000 less each month than they did in Manila. Many problems persist in the Cabuyao relocation area after nearly 18 months occupancy. Only 5% of families have deep well, metered water, for example, and some people do not feel it is safe to drink the water (See Southville, Cabuyao Update on http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17).

The poor families will ask the president to order the National Housing Authority (NHA) to allow alternative sites and transfer the needed funds.

Peoples’ groups in Taguig and Manila destined to be transferred to Cabuyao have taken initiatives to find alternative relocation sites. In the case of Taguig it is the cluster housing of Mayor Sigfrido Tiñga. In Manila the alternative site is Montalban. “Mayor Tiñga and Mayor Pedro Cuerpo of Montalban have agreed to accept the families from the railroad on condition that the NHA turn over to them the funds budgeted for relocation. Despite many appeals NHA refuses to do so,” the poor people said.

The Cardinal may also ask the president in his letter to decree that fire victims must be given the option to return to the area where their homes were prior to the fire.

Fire and demolitions are the mortal enemy of the urban poor, according to UPA. “There is still no overall policy for fire victims. They are often told they cannot go back to the area where they lived. Like evicted people who are not given relocation, fire victims are relegated to the streets.” -30-

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