Thursday, September 27, 2007

Church joins housing rights advocates in observance of Habitat Day

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Church joins housing rights advocates in observance of Habitat Day


28 September 2007. Bagbag cemetery is what Encarnacion Regalado and her family call ‘home’. They are living on top of a niche, using sacks as wall and dilapidated iron sheets as roof. The family has survived there for 28 years in the midst of heavy rains and a hell-like weather. Their horrific experience so far was not about ghost encounter but the non-stop demolition to make way for new compartments for the dead.

Regalado family is only one of the increasing number of homeless in Metro Manila, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization dealing with homelessness. “The government’s policies such as privatization of the public land, improvement of the dangerous area, beautification of the street have triggered forced evictions and illegal demolitions rendering poor families homeless.”

UPA called for a halt to demolitions as the world celebrates Habitat Day on October 1. "Driving away people from their homes is the most inhuman way to celebrate the World Habitat Day,” said Lawyer Bienvenido Salinas II, coordinator of UPA's legal unit St. Thomas More Law Center.

UPA notes that almost all cases of rampant demolitions being conducted by the government throughout Metro Manila have violated in one way or another the international laws and the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), which prohibits use of force during demolitions and requires provision of suitable relocation areas.

Lack of adequate housing highlights a key concern in a letter signed last September 13, 2007 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

The CBCP Permanent Council requests Archbishops, Bishops and Diocesan Administrators, to enjoin their priests to read in all Holy Masses on October 7 the CBCP’s “A Statement on the Nation’s Housing Problems" which was issued by the 94th Bishops' Plenary Assembly.

“As we speak in behalf of our homeless brethren and those living in very difficult conditions, let us continue praying for the speedy action of the government in response to their needs. Let us help them in whatever way we can,” Archbishop Lagdameo said.

Task Force Anti-Illegal Demolition (TF-AID) lauded the Church’s efforts in calling on those concerned to stop uncaring evictions and demolitions. Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias, for example, has condemned as inhuman the ongoing demolition of houses along Commonwealth, Quezon City. Last September 24, together with priests and nuns, Bishop Tobias personally asked Mayor Feliciano Belmonte to stop the wrecking crew of Metro Manila Development Authority so that affected families can find temporary staging area.

TF-AID spokesperson Soti Sabarre said poor families who are mostly under eviction threat are set to mobilize next week to urge the government to look into their plight instead of the mouthwatering ZTE deal. “The $329-million contract for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project could already house 300,000 homeless families but this government would never borrow that amount to uplift the lives of the poor.”

TF-AID was formed by UPA, Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation, Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and people’s organizations affected by government projects such as flood control, railway improvement, road widening and beautification. -30-

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