Urban poor people are blamed for the floods caused by typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). Government officials demand they be prohibited from moving back to their homes along the rivers and esteros. The president has said that in the makeover of Metro Manila we must “rid the city” of informal settlers as if they were vermin.
There is no scientific basis proposed for such violent actions. Loggers in the Sierra Madre and developers may be more guilty. We may evict 80,000 families from the waterways at great expense and suffering only to find in 20 years the floods are back and stronger than ever. There must be a rock solid scientific reason to disrupt the lives of 400,000 persons.
Riverbank and lakeside dwellers will not insist on returning to their homes if they are offered in-city relocation near their jobs and the children’s schools.
The poor were affected that fateful Saturday (Sept. 26)just as the middle-class people. Unlike the middle-class, however, the poor had no place to go except back to their homes by the waterways.
Distant relocation is not the answer as there are usually no jobs available in the far away sites. Jobs are basic: without regular income the people will be hungry and soon return.
Let us move into 21st century thinking by making Metro Manila and our other cities inclusive ones that integrate the urban poor into their midst rather than force them into illegality on degraded sites. These diminish their humanity and serve as constant reminders of social injustices perpetuated by “the only Christian country in Asia.”
We call for a serious examination of the causes of the floods. Can it not be done by the Senate? What, if any, was the role of the poor? Who is really to blame?
We call for both public and idle private land near the riverbanks to be identified and set aside for riverbank and lakeside settlement, negotiated by government for temporary social housing use until it can identify and prepare permanent social housing sites for them in the city. We believe, however, on-site upgrading is the best solution.
We also call for a serious re-examination of our current unjust and inefficient land use patterns and a serious look at the implications of urbanization for all Filipinos, especially the poorer citizenry.
It is time to initiate humane and effective approaches that will enable our urban poor workforce to remain in the city, enjoy their rights as Filipino citizens, and help realize a vibrant, competitive, humane and inclusive Asian city.