Friday, May 25, 2007

South Korea concerned on plight of railway dwellers in RP

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South Korea concerned on plight of railway dwellers in RP

25 May 2007. Finance and Economy Ministry of South Korea has expressed concerns regarding the relocation of railway dwellers that were affected due to the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.

“Our government is well aware of the importance of the issue of relocating local residents in that project, and we emphasize once more that we plan to continually watch to see whether it is being implemented according to international standards,” the Finance and Economy Ministry said in a letter sent to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that monitors evictions along the railways.

In order to relieve the transportation jam in Metro Manila and at the same time to develop parts of Metro Manila that were becoming slums, South Korea decided in December of 2003 to support the railway project. However it has consistently maintained the position that preparing and implementing adequate relocation for the residents alongside the railway is a precondition for providing support for the project.

“In spite of the continuing Philippine government requests to speed the implementation of the project we have had an international body inspect the conditions of the planning and implementation of the relocation,” the Finance and Economy Ministry said.

In order to monitor whether the relocation is fairly and adequately being carried, South Korea provided the budget for an expert on relocation who belongs to the Asian Development Bank to do a survey on the relocation conditions of the residents displaced by the project, their living conditions in the relocation sites, their degree of satisfaction, and the like.

A second evaluation of the relocation conditions took place last February and following the expert recommendations, South Korea linked the approval of a project purchase contract to provision of a quarterly report on relocation implementation and the possibility of ceasing disbursement of funds in case there would not be adequate and fair relocation.

According to the Finance and Economy Ministry, in the future as well, South Korea will continually monitor whether the railway project is carrying out relocation of the residents adequately according to international standards.

“Our government has already expressed its willingness to support the relocation plan but the Philippine government has not accepted it. If the Philippine government makes a request to support the provision of basic facilities in the relocation settlement we will positively consider it,” the Finance and Economy Ministry said.

“Nevertheless, since credit support is only possible when the receiving country is willing to receive it, at present it is difficult to provide support for the relocation. Our government will in the future also positively consider putting such a support plan on the table at inter-government meetings,” the Finance and Economy Ministry added.

According to UPA, a Philippine petition sent by the Koalisyon ng mga Samahan sa Riles Katimugan (KOSARIKA) was received in South Korea last March. The petition was presented by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) Korea Committee to South Korean President ROH Moo-Hyun.

The Korean petition requested the President to suspend disbursement of funds for the railway project pending provision of adequate relocation. It mentioned that the World Bank also makes such stipulations, and that the human rights violations are detrimental to Korea’s foreign policy objectives.

On April 18, 2007, Park Mun-Su, a representative of the ACHR Korea Committee visited Mr. Kim Su-Hyun, the Secretary to the President for Social Policy. Mr. Kim arranged for them to meet with Mr. Song Seog-Jun, Assistant Secretary to the President for Civil Petitions & Institutional Innovation.

Mr. Song listened to the account of the terrible conditions suffered by those who have been affected by the railway project. He agreed with the petitioners that the infringement of human rights involved in the project really does counteract the intent of the project to nurture good relations between the two countries. Therefore the situation would seem to call for Korea’s concern over how the project is being implemented. -30-

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