Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Urban poor leaders ask Zubiri to help stop demolitions, evictions

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Urban poor leaders ask Zubiri to help stop demolitions, evictions

10 October 2007. Plagued with the problems of distant relocation, forced eviction and illegal demolition, thousands of urban poor families in Metro Manila are trying to solve the problems they face by seeking the help of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Chairperson of Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement.

At a consultative meeting this afternoon held at the Sen. G.T. Pecson Room 2/F Right Wing, Senator Zubiri was asked to look on the demolition of houses of informal settlers in various parts of Metro Manila.

Urban poor leaders also asked Senator Zubiri to order the national agencies involved, especially the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to stop evicting poor families if there is no relocation.

Catherine Arquero, spokesperson of Task Force Anti Illegal Demolition (TF-AID), told the Senator that housing and not demolitions will solve the root causes of homelessness.

“Ang batas ay ginawa para ipagtanggol ang mamamayan, lalo na ang mahihirap. Pero sa mga nangyayaring illegal na demolisyon, walang silbi ang batas dahil wala namang napaparusahan,” said Arquero.

TF-AID represents people’s organization of some 100,000 poor families affected by demolitions along Pasig River, Manggahan floodway, San Juan River, R-10 Navotas, Southrail, Del Pan, along estero in Makati, Pasay, Quezon City and Manila, and those who were relocated to distant sites due to government projects.

It was the first Senate hearing in the last 6 years about forced evictions and illegal demolitions, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), one of the housing rights non-government organizations that accompanied the people.

“Demolitions causes terrible suffering to poor families. Evicted families are forced to live on the streets. The children and the aged suffer most of all. Their children fall sick with colds and rashes. It is a traumatic experience for school children,” said Ted AƱana, deputy coordinator of UPA.

Recently, the MMDA have forcibly evicted at least 1,000 families along Commonwealth Avenue to give way to a road widening project. No relocation site was provided, making the poor families homeless and more miserable. The same fate awaits some 393,000 families in Metro Manila. These are unprogrammed demolitions for non-budgeted projects, according to Percival Chavez, chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban 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

The group organized the meeting at the Senate to ask for the following:
· Stop violent and illegal demolition. Follow the laws.
· Give relief assistance to victims of illegal demolitions.
· Include representatives of affected families to the Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee.
· Make in-city or near-city relocation sites as viable option to distant relocation.

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