Tuesday, December 14, 2010

UPA study says incidence of evictions went up

14 December 2010. The number of urban poor families who experienced evictions in the first three months of President Benigno Aquino III administrations’ July-September 2010 increased by 579% percent over the total of a year ago for the same time period, according to a study of Urban Poor Associates’ (UPA).

From July to September 2009, 502 families were evicted in 10 demolition incidents, while in the same period this year, 3,407 families in 10 demolition incidents lost their homes. Six were government lands, 3 were privately claimed while the other lot both claimed by the government and a private individual.

These eviction incidents are considered high for a new administration. When former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over as president in 2001, she declared government would not demolish homes unless in-city relocation was provided. According to some housing officials, it was a de facto moratorium on demolitions, since government did not have any in-city relocation places. Thus, there were no evictions in her first three months in office.

In 2001 and 2002, the families evicted were 2,073 and 1,043 families respectively. She also signed a number of presidential proclamations declaring government lands for socialized housing sites or housing sites for the poor. On December 10, 2002 she issued Executive Order No. 152 that demanded government agencies to secure certificates of compliance before implementing demolitions. This helped lessen the cases of eviction.

However, in the third year of her presidency and onwards PGMA’s administration reversed her anti-eviction policy. The biggest demolition in our country’s history affecting 90,000 families happened along the North-South Rail project. The big majority of the evicted families complained of inadequately prepared relocation sites and joblessness.

The eviction incidents in President Noy-Noy Aquino’s firtst three months in office are considered high especially among the urban poor because he had signed a covenant with them during the campaign period at Del Pan Sports Complex, Tondo, Manila, March 6. The Covenant promised an end to illegal forced evictions and shows a bias for in-city relocation. Such relocations have not been implemented yet. Instead demolitions, some of them violent, continued during his first 100 days.

Evictions

From January to September 2010, a total of 8,326 families in 31 demolition incidents were evicted from their homes. Some 5,479 families received relocation in Calauan, Laguna; Montalban; Norzagaray, Bulacan; San Isidro Rodriguez; and in Lupang Arenda, Taytay Rizal. The main complaint, however, was that the relocation areas were too far from the city and in places where there are no jobs. Hunger is prevalent in the relocation sites.

There were two violent demolitions in the first 100 days of Pres. Noy-noy Aquino: San Roque II and 7th Street in New Manila, both in Quezon City. The government used the SWAT, firemen and policemen to break up the barricades of the resisting residents.

UPA found that the residents of San Roque clung to the verbal promise of former President Joseph Estrada of on-site development.

The government reasons for demolitions were the cleaning of esteros, implementing the Quezon City business district plan, and expansion of local government facilities.

Government Intervention

President Benigno Aquino III himself ordered the stopping of the San Roque demolition and relocation from the United States where he was attending a UN event.

Secretary of Interior and Local Government Jesse Robredo stopped a demolition in Santolan, Pasig, where 2,000 residents would have been victims of an eviction.

“The first three months under the new administration show that the old problems involving violent and illegal demolitions are apt to continue, unless government makes special effort to stop them,” said UPA Deputy Coordinator Ted Añana.

“I hope the Aquino government will tap the various government agencies and local governments to become implementors of housing rights law, instead of violators. The president must also push the Covenant for the welfare of the poor,” he added.

Eviction Threats

Data gathered by UPA shows that there are 350,140 families threatened with eviction in Metro Manila and the surrounding area.

The government must find win-win solutions that will uphold the interest and rights of the poor and allow the necessary infrastructure of the city to be built, urban poor organizations say. Many urban poor groups and housing rights advocates are proposing slum upgrading and on-site development.

Añana conluded, “The President should start with imposing a moratorium on demolitions while they scrutinize and plan the future of the poor.” -30-

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