Friday, February 1, 2008

‘No demolition without relocation’ - PGMA

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‘No demolition without relocation’ - PGMA

1 February 2008. In a meeting hosted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday, the government has assured Metro Manila’s urban poor groups, people’s organizations, non-government organizations and Church leaders that demolitions would no longer be allowed unless there is a relocation site ready for affected families.

Also present were Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Chairman Percival Chavez, National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Federico Laxa and other agency representatives.

President Arroyo announced that P4 billion pesos will be allocated for housing. She said there should be social preparation period for those who will be relocated and people should not be caught off guard or by surprise by not giving them any notice or very late demolition notice. A 45-day notice will be given to informal settlers whose shanties are up for demolition.

The president preferred in-city or near-city relocation sites to distant relocation. She said Montalban, for example, which has been suggested by the poor as a relocation site, should be considered a better option than Calauan, Laguna because it is much nearer.

The president also said she was open to in-city relocation. She instructed NHA General Manager Laxa to talk to the mayors of Taguig and Navotas about in-city relocation and to Mayor Pedro Cuerpo of Montalban about near-city relocation.

When asked to continue proclaiming land for the urban poor, the president said she would not do so now but would first develop the areas already proclaimed, meaning the 80 or so proclaimed sites with approximately 200,000 families will be upgraded and given basic services like water light,sanitation, drainage, roads and day care centers.

Jeorgie Tenolete of the people’s organization KABALIKAT mentioned the fear Baseco people have of being evicted because of a plan to develop Baseco into a commercial area. President Arroyo repeated several times that Baseco is for socialized housing and that the government is even reclaiming more land as part of it and the people should not worry.

Asked about the demolition by soldiers at Sitio Masagana in Taguig City, the president said the military like all government agencies is bound to follow the laws on eviction and relocation.

With the help of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) particularly Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao and Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, urban poor leaders belonging to the Task Force Anti-Illegal Demolition (TF-AID) and Urban Poor Alliance (UP-ALL) were able to meet the President Thursday afternoon at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang.

TF-AID was formed in answer to the growing number of illegal evictions by various people’s organizations and NGOs such as Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation, and Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

TF-AID wants a halt to forced evictions without relocation and the preparation of adequate relocation sites for those who are evicted.

Last year some 9,637 families lost their houses due to demolitions, according to the UPA annual eviction monitor. This is 26% more than the number of evicted families in 2006. “The two electoral events in 2007, the May 14 national election and the Barangay election in October, did not seem to have an impact on the number of evictions, unlike in 2004 where the number of demolitions dramatically went down,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA. About 40% of the 9,637 families were evicted without relocation. -30-

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