Sunday, July 15, 2007

Catholic Bishop backs group in fight against urban poverty



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Catholic Bishop backs group in fight against urban poverty

15 July 2007. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo added his voice to the initiative being pursued by the Urban Poor Alliance (UP-ALL), a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (PO) and individuals all over the country who are working for the advancement of the urban poor particularly in facilitating the right to decent housing.

UP-ALL have found an ally with the Housing Committee Chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in its third general assembly at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Convent in Quezon City over the weekend.

Expressing his support and solidarity, Bishop Pabillo said he will help the group as it pursues the more urgent issues and concerns such as eviction, resettlement, basic services, land proclamation, community mortgage program, and women and gender.

Bishop Pabillo further noted that preventing and minimizing urban poverty requires solving rural poverty. As an example, he told the story of poor dwellers under a bridge in a parish in Las Piñas City. “Merong mga squatters sa ilalim ng tulay at ang kanilang sahig ay styrofoam. Para kapag tumatataas ang tubig, aakyat din sila. Kapag bumaba ang tubig, bababa din sila. Kung maganda na ang buhay at may trabaho na, aalis na sila. Pero may bago na naman na papasok. So hindi talaga mauubos iyan.”

According to Bishop Pabillo, urban poverty may be reduced through job creations, health services and better education. “Ang aking ideya dyan ay ang mga tao ay may regular na trabaho pero hindi ganun ang sitwasyon ng maraming urban poor. Nagtitinda lang iyan ng mga bulaklak dyan, hindi naman may regular na trabaho iyan,” explained the Bishop.

At a dinner meeting at Malacañang last July 5 with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Bishop Pabillo called the government’s attention to forced evictions despite its failure to provide job opportunities to relocated urban poor families.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), an NGO that provides free legal assistance to underprivileged homeless, lamented that the government has concentrated on the demolition of urban poor communities rather than on housing, as called for by the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA). Idle government lands earmarked for low-cost housing are being sold to private investors, according to UPA.

UPA have asked several Church leaders to intervene in impending demolitions because it may leave thousands homeless. Bishop Pabillo said many priests and Bishops are willing to help but the problem is many church people do not know the urban poor issues. “Hindi nila malalaman yung isyu kung hindi ninyo ilalapit sa kanila. Alam naman natin na yung isyu ng kahirapan, malapit sa puso ng mga tao iyan kung alam lamang nila. Problema hindi nila alam,” he added.

Since its formation in 2005, UP-ALL is further consolidating its ranks in Bicol, Visayas, Mindanao and Mega Manila. It has come up with a 14-point agenda. Among these include:
· The establishment of a local housing board that would manage and respond to the needs of the urban poor, particularly in facilitating the latter's right to housing and basic services.
· A guarantee that families threatened by eviction due to development projects would be allowed to meaningfully participate in policy and planning processes especially in ensuring in-city relocation including economic opportunities within the locality
· Regular allocation of adequate funds for housing through a multi-stakeholder process and ensuring that budget on housing even on the level of the Barangay represents the interest of the Gender and
Development framework. -30-

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