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Evicted urban poor settlers picket HUDCC office
11 August 2009 (Tuesday). Some 300 people picketed the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) this morning to protest the government agency’s inaction in providing relocation to thousands of urban poor families affected by demolitions and forced evictions. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promised the people August 1 last year she would relocate them to Rodriguez (Montalban).
Singing songs of protest, the demonstrators gathered at the Ninoy Aquino monument at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. Some of them had boxes shaped like houses on their heads that they said symbolize their right to shelter. Beginning at 9:00 AM the group marched toward the HUDCC office at the Banco de Oro building.
Carrying banners bearing “Where is the relocation? Are you listening Mr. Vice President?” they called the attention of Vice President Noli de Castro, concurrent HUDCC Chair, to address the problem of the evicted families and the president’s promise.
Members of Task Force Anti-Eviction, composed of people’s groups and non-government organizations such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), met President Arroyo twice last year to ask the government to stop forced evictions and provide adequate relocation. During the August 1 meeting in Malacañang President Arroyo ordered various government agencies including HUDCC to develop the Montalban relocation site with an initial budget of 300 million pesos for 1,500 families evicted and left in the streets.
“Nothing has happened since the meeting. Urban poor communities are constantly threatened with forced evictions without adequate relocation. Evicted families have been living on sidewalks exposed to the elements of heat and rain. What happened to the money and the relocation? What happened to the promise of the president?” the people asked.
According to the UPA annual demolition monitor, some 14 demolition incidents were monitored in 2008 which affected 2,411 families. In the cases monitored, the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) requirements on 30-day notice, consultations and provision of relocation were largely ignored. “Only 741 families or 30.73% were relocated. Some 353 families, including children, women and elderly, were victims of repeated demolition operations,” said lawyer Ritche Esponilla of UPA.
“Every time flashfloods occur in Metro Manila, authorities are quick in pointing fingers to informal settlers as culprit even though the real problem is a city wide poor drainage system, graft and corruption among others. The prompt solution is demolition and forced eviction. The government failed to provide relocation which can be paid through monthly amortization. Without relocation, evicted families rebuild their shanties. This is clearly a waste of time and effort on the part of the government. You cannot expect different results by doing the same action all over again,” Atty. Esponilla pointed out. “It is a sign of insanity,” he said.
In a letter, leaders of people’s organizations asked the Vice President for help. “We believe that as Vice President and HUDCC Chair, you can help the release of initial budget of the Montalban relocation. We are hoping that the budget will be released at the soonest possible time. Please don’t fail us. You are our last hope,” the letter read.