Friday, July 27, 2007

Housing rights advocates slam ‘summit makeover’

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Housing rights advocates slam ‘summit makeover’


27 July 2007. “Fresh paint, landscaping, rounding up beggars and clearing squatters will not do the trick.”

Following efforts to show off ‘good impressions’, a housing rights advocacy group has criticized ‘extreme makeovers’ that are being made in preparation for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ministerial meeting in Manila to be held from July 29 to August 2.

Expecting delegates to arrive for the Asean ministerial meeting, authorities have started sprucing up poor communities hoping some serious cosmetic surgery can help mask its poverty.

They may only be going to stay for five days but finding enough ‘Filipino hospitality’ posed a real problem and may costs millions of pesos, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that monitors forced evictions.

Large international conferences such as the ASEAN Summit are often accompanied by human rights violations, such as the demolitions of poor communities in host cities. UPA called on the government to stop this culture of ‘self deception’ saying not to disguise the fact that the much vaunted development and economic growth which the government so desperately wanted to display to potential foreign investors was not benefiting large sections of Philippine society.

Based from the UPA Demolition Monitor, from January to June this year some 5,745 families in Metro Manila lost their houses due to demolitions. UPA expects this year’s evictions to possibly even top the magnitude of evictions in 2006 and 2005.

“Unlike in 2004 when the number of demolitions dramatically went down mainly because of the national elections, in the first six months of this year during which the electoral campaign and May 14 voting took place the number of demolitions did not appreciably decrease. The reason could be because this year’s elections did not involve the president,” said Teodoro AƱana, deputy coordinator of UPA.

Painting jobs, forced evictions and demolitions were also carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit hosted by Metro Cebu. Nearly 210 people (42 families) were left homeless in September 2006 when police demolished their houses, situated in front of the Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa in Mactan Island, to make way for a parking lot that was used by Summit participants. More than 600 homes were also demolished in Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as electricity and potable water.

Cities especially in developing countries like the Philippines will be preferred home of an increasing proportion of the world’s poor people, city governments cannot avoid the problem of slums and homelessness for too long, according to the Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI).

“Sooner than later, they will have to confront the problem or face the prospects of urban decay, social violence and the overall deterioration of the quality of their life in their cities,” said Dr. Anna Marie Karaos, ICSI executive director. “But if local governments can act swiftly in partnership, rather than in constant conflict, with the poor who clamor for decent housing, they can fashion cities where everyone, the rich and the poor alike, can live productive lives.” -30-

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