Sunday, October 19, 2008

Manila Archbishop leads Mass for the urban poor in Baseco

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Manila Archbishop leads Mass for the urban poor in Baseco

19 October 2008. Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales went to the Port Area this morning and lead a Mass in Baseco to pray and show that the Church is one with the urban poor community’s struggle for a better life.

Hundreds of Manila’s urban poor settlers attended the Mass held in the Baseco covered court. The poor wanted Cardinal Rosales to come and say the Mass and the Manila Archbishop welcomed the rare opportunity.

Rosales’ visit delighted the Baseco community. “Sana ay maging socialized housing ang Baseco at di na baguhin pa. Naging maayos na ang buhay namin. Kami ay natutuwa dahil nandito si Cardinal at siya ay sumusuporta sa aming kahilingan. Sana ay pakinggan ito ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Jeorgie Tenolete, president of Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco, a people’s organization.

Baseco residents have the problem of land tenure insecurity: they fear they can be removed from their homes at any time and for insufficient reasons. The 10,000 families in Baseco fear they will be evicted due to the government’s reclamation project and sent 50-80 kilometers away to remote and jobless areas.

The land was proclaimed for them by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002. They believe powerful and well-connected businessmen want the strategic area for commercial purposes.

The government cites a 2004 soil analysis that predicts the soil in Baseco will liquefy if there is a strong earthquake nearby. The study concludes that no homes are safe and all the homes must be removed. This is because the reclamation done in Baseco by the government used garbage instead of good soil and rocks, the analysis states.

A cloud of secrecy covers the government’s real plans, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights NGO. “The residents should be told what the plan is, and if there is no plan then government should put that in writing and continue instead to upgrade the area as the proclamation states,” the UPA said in a press statement.

UPA invited the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to attend the Mass in Baseco. However, PRA officials could not attend the Mass due to “some unavoidable circumstances.”

In a letter sent to UPA, PRA General Manager and CEO Andrea Domingo informed that the PRA is presently complying with the directive of President Arroyo to reclaim 10 hectares at the bayfront of the Baseco area. “Upon completion of the reclamation works, PRA will turn over to the agency that will undertake its development as site for socialized housing. Beyond this PRA will no longer have any participation in the project,” the letter read.

“We’re asking the President to issue the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) that will lay down the processes and steps leading to the families’ ownership of the land and to convene the Project Inter-Agency Committee,” said Ted AƱana, UPA deputy coordinator. -30-

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