Thursday, October 8, 2009

Urban Poor Asks Supreme Court to Convene Advisory Committee on Manila Bay Clean Up

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Urban Poor Asks Supreme Court to Convene Advisory Committee on Manila Bay Clean Up

08 October 2009. Eight months after the creation of the advisory committee that will oversee the Manila Bay clean up, the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) filed before the Supreme Court today a motion to convene the advisory committee and to submit report if no laws are violated or will be violated as well as other human and shelter rights by the concerned government agencies implementing the court’s decision to clean up Manila Bay.

The creation of the advisory committee came following the filing of a motion for clarification by the said group and the informal settlers who cried foul over the demolition of their houses without prior notice by the personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), supposedly in line with the ruling of the court issued on December 18, 2008 concerning the Manila Bay cleanup.

In a nine-page motion, the urban poor group through their lawyer, Ritche Esponilla, stressed that the urgency in convening the advisory committee is to come out with its official report. The report is to concern whether or not the various implementing government agencies follow the relevant laws or not particularly R.A 7279 or the Act providing for the Comprehensive and Continuing Urban Development and Housing Program.

UPA said 70,000 urban poor families surrounding Manila Bay are in danger of being demolished without due relocation. Earlier this year, it was also reported that unannounced and illegal demolitions were carried out along waterways and esteros surrounding the area of Manila Bay.

“There is an urgent need to convene the advisory committee as different government agencies are hastily implementing the clean up as a result of tropical storm Ondoy,” Atty. Esponilla said.

Atty. Esponilla said while the clean up is valuable and must be duly supported by all sectors it must not come at the expense of displacing thousands of urban poor families already marginalized by society.

“Let us be clear about two things here. One, the poor are not the major cause of the floodings. Second, the urban poor communities are not against any move to clean up Manila bay in order to restore its former splendor,” Atty. Esponilla stressed.

UPA said there are other explanation for floodings such as urban planning defects and environmental degradation as a result of illegal logging and quarrying activities in the mountains around Metro Manila. The group also said that the urban poor dwellers along esteros, waterways and other so-called danger areas not as a “matter of choice” but because they must in order to survive.

“As such, we believe in the effort to clean up Manila Bay, a comprehensive and decent relocation program and immediate economic relief must come with the initiative,” Atty. Esponilla said.

Atty. Esponilla also said the public must not be made to choose between the interest of the environment and the rights and welfare of the poor.

“They are not mutually exclusive of one another. Both are important. Surely, the rehabilitation of Manila Bay without resolving the urban poor question would be another tragedy. We would get rid off the pollution at the expense of the people. As such, we urge the government to convene the advisory committee to prevent or avert any violation of laws particularly the shelter rights of the poor living in the surrounding area of Manila Bay,” Atty. Esponilla concluded.

Other movants of the said motion include Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco (KABALIKAT), Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig (ULAP) and residents along Radial 10 (R-10) Boulevard in Tondo, Manila. -30-

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