Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hundreds of Estero People Present their Housing Plans

Press Release
August 23, 2010

Hundreds of people living in Esteros gathered in front of PRRC (Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission) today, August 23, to ask the agency to halt all planned demolitions along waterways and estuaries, which were to be implemented within the first 100 days of Pres. Noynoy’s administration.

To watch the video footage of the rally, click here or here.

Estero residents and Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights advocate, brought with them a big tarpaulin with pictures of old esteros compared with the new esteros. The groups call this a “win-win solution” both for the government and the civil society. They aimed to get the attention of PRRC Chairperson Gina Lopez to listen to their alternative housing proposals.

On August 10 the president conducted a surprise inspection of creeks outside the MalacaƱang Complex and in the same week, the heads of different government agencies traveled down Estero De San Miguel, a two-kilometer tributary of the Pasig River located just behind MalacaƱang. The PRRC Chairperson joined these visits.

The people feel this visit to Gina Lopez is necessary because she has the power to rehabilitate the waterways. Thus, she can be an ally in proposing this alternative housing solution along the waterways.

The estero people have had a series of meetings with the Palafox Architects in order to come up with housing designs appropriate for the esteros. This design of houses along the esteros will not interfere with the cleaning of the waterways, and the people living on the esteros will have a decent place to dwell in the city.

UPA believes that this housing proposal can be done in our country just as it has been done along the stretch of Bangkok Bang Bua Canal, where about 3, 400 families benefited from slum upgrading. The Bangkok Canal peoples’ networks demonstrated to the city that these canal-side communities are not polluters but are an important asset to the city, and they developed a long-term comprehensive solution to problems of land and housing in Thai Cities.

Felomina Cinco, president of Nagkakaisang Mamamayan sa Legarda and residing along the stretch of Estero de San Miguel said, “my family and the other hundreds of families living in Estero de San Miguel have stayed here for more than 22 years. My husband and I were able to send our children to the nearest state universities while my youngest child who has cerebral palsy has access to hospitals and public schools that have the capacity to cater for her needs. This estero has provided us a life for many years.”

“We believe in upgrading our community and we oppose off-city relocation. I hope they will heed our call to involve and include us in their programs. We assure the government that we can work together to restore the esteros to its former beauty,” she added.

According to UPA studies there are 80,000 families living along the waterways who are in danger of being evicted. UPA stressed that the urban poor and the cleaning of the river are not mutually exclusive of one another. The shelter rights of the poor are as essential as the rehabilitation of the waterways. Hence, the public must not be made to choose between the interest of the environment and the rights and welfare of the poor.

UPA Project Director Alice Murphy concluded, “Let us move into 21st century thinking by making Metro Manila and our other cities inclusive. They should be cities that include and integrate the urban poor whenever development is undertaken, rather than force them to far-flung relocation and degraded sites.” -30-

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