MANILA, Philippines – Families living along the six major esteros in Manila Thursday asked Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim to spare them from being relocated to distant provinces as part of the joint effort of government and private sector to revive the Pasig River.
Members of the Nagkakaisang Mamamayan sa Legarda (NML), who live along Estero de San Miguel, said they will oppose any plans of the government to transfer them to Bulacan and Rizal.
It was first reported that informal settlers living along Estero de San Miguel, Estero de Quiapo, Estero de Uli-uli and Estero de San Sebastian, will be relocated to Towerville VI, Barangay Gaya-Gaya, San Jose del Monte in Bulacan and at Kaunlaran Village in Rodriguez, Rizal.
NML President Felomina Cinco said the homeowners had a meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III last December 23 and presented him with housing designs appropriate for the esteros.
The designs, which were made by urban planning and design consultancy firm Palafox Associates, was intended to give creek-dwellers decent housing and at the same time not interfering with the cleaning of the tributaries of Pasig River.
“He (President Aquino) listened to our housing proposal and we talked to different agencies including PRRC and the city government of Manila regarding our alternative solution which is to live in new housing in the same place,” Cinco said.
“DILG has formed a technical working group to study the estero housing designed by Palafox Architects. That’s why we are surprised with the reports that 1,800 estero dwellers will be evicted. From the beginning we opposed relocation,” she added.
Meanwhile, Urban Poor Associates (UPA) field director Alicia Murphy pointed out that it is not necessary for the city government to transfer the creek dwellers to distant provinces but instead urged the government to conduct a so-called slum upgrading as proposed by Palafox.
“Although Victoria Clavel of Manila Urban Settlement Office mentioned that the relocation is yet to be made final and there is no target date when the estero dwellers will be relocated, this news roused fear among the affected settlers.”
Murphy said the families living along the creeks are an important asset to the city and not the polluters they are pictured them to be.
As proof, she cited the slum-upgrade on the stretch of Bangkok’s Bang Bua Canal where 3,400 families benefited from the program.
“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,” Murphy said.
She stressed that the urban poor and the cleaning of the river are not mutually exclusive of one another, and that the shelter rights of the poor are as essential as the rehabilitation of the waterways.
The public must not be made to choose between the interests of the environment and the rights and welfare of the poor, Murphy said.