August 27, 2010
Estero settlers in vivid costumes, depicting a fairy queen, forest fairies, and evictions in fairy land, gathered today in front of PRRC (Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission) office in Quezon Ave, Quezon City. They demand that PRRC use the housing proposals along esteros designed by world famous Palafox Architects, instead of relocating the poor to far away Calauan.
Felomina Cinco, president of Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Legarda and residing along the stretch of Estero de San Miguel said, “In today’s rally we portrayed a fairy land because we want the government to imagine and believe that our housing proposal is adoptable and could be the answer to housing problem of the country. We want to show them that we are an important player in the city and that we can work together to clean the estuaries and waterways without throwing us to distant places.”
The rally was held simultaneously during a scheduled dialogue with PRRC Chairperson Gina Lopez, where she listened to people’s housing proposal. Housing rights advocate Urban Poor Associates (UPA) also attended the dialogue and urged the agency to use comprehensive land and housing solutions. They reiterated the call for the implementation of a three to four month moratorium on all evictions, which was promised by no less than the President during the campaign period through a signed covenant with the poor.
The group is hopeful that the PRRC Chair would consider their housing proposal because last Monday Ms. Lopez’s spokesperson assured the estero residents gathered at the office that no demolitions would take place while they hold consultations and discussions on the estero residents’ proposals.
However, estero residents still expressed fear on the looming eviction of the 80,000 people living along the waterways. Just after their first rally at PRRC, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje in a press briefing stood firm on his agency’s plan to demolish shanties erected along waterways and turned down UPA’s proposal that government make use of the solution implemented in Bangkok Bang Bua Canal where about 3,400 families benefited from slum upgrading.
His pronouncement has caused the estero dwellers to call for the removal of DENR Secretary Ramon Paje because they think he has no heart for the poor. They challenged him to come to Estero de San Miguel in Brgy. 412 and 416 to see for himself that the estero is clean.
“We are cleaning the esteros without them telling us. I thought this administration will include us “sa pagbabago” but with the way the secretary responded to our call he seems to only think of the waterways and neglects the welfare of the urban poor living along the estero, ” Cinco said.
According to UPA Studies, slum upgrading in the esteros is possible and the government has no reason to turn down the proposal because there are so many commercial establishments encroaching on the estuaries. In 2009, for example, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) demolished one hundred families living on the Estero De La Reina for the purpose of rehabilitating the estero. But after a month,the 168 Mall extended its parking lot over the said estero.
UPA Project Director Alice Murphy concluded “The Adopt an Estero program can be divisive among peoples of the city. But it is important to listen to the people and not be shortsighted. We have the responsibility to take care of the rivers but not at the expense of the people living along the estero. Estero clean up and slum upgrading can go together. In this way, we are not excluding the estero settlers from development.” -30-