Thursday, March 31, 2011

Urban Poor Ask Supreme Court to Order Compliance of RA 7279 in Manila Bay Clean Up

Press Release

March 31, 2011

Urban Poor Associates (UPA) filed on Thursday before the Supreme Court a motion to issue order for compliance with Republic Act 7279 prior to demolition and/or eviction of informal settlers. This is an appeal on the high court’s decision on the implementation of the Manila Bay clean up rendered last February 15.

The Court orders Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to come up with the lists of informal settlers living along the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, the NCR (Parañaque-Zapote, Las Piñas) rivers and the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers and the LGUs outside Metro Manila for the list of informal settlers along Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) river, the Laguna De Bay and Connecting waterways.

The high Court even set a timeline up to December 31, 2012 and 2015 for the full implementation of the demolition of houses and removal of the informal settlers.

However, UPA and other other movants Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE), Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco (KABALIKAT), Ugnayan Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig (ULAP) and residents along Radial 10 (R10) Boulevard in Tondo, Manila, found the court’s resolution silent as to the observance and compliance of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (RA 7279) which lays down requisites before eviction and/or demolition is enforced.

In a fifteen-page motion, the urban poor group through their lawyer, Ritche Esponilla, stressed that the effort in the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay should not be at loggerheads with the basic [human] rights accorded to the underprivileged and homeless citizens guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution itself.

RA 7279 requires that urban poor whose houses are subject to demolition should be notified 30 days before. It also compels consultation and relocation to the affected underprivileged citizens, and without such compliance there must be no evictions or demolitions.

UPA said with the SC decision shanties of 129,606 urban poor families surrounding Manila Bay are in danger of being demolished without relocation.

"There is an urgent need that the Court issues an order for compliance of requisites set out by RA 7279 prior to demolition and/or eviction to protect the housing rights of the poor. While the clean up is valuable it must not come at the expense of displacing thousands of urban poor families already marginalized by society,” Atty. Esponilla said.

“We must also remember that the high Court already recognized that this endeavor (preservation of Manila Bay) cannot go against the right of those whose dwellings are in danger of being torn down. In its ruling on October 2009, it emphasized that it does not give the MMDA and other concerned government agencies the power to evict any individual from his or her home without first giving notice,” he added.

UPA said President Benigno Aquino III tasked Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to form a technical working group (TWG) that would study issues/concerns of the urban poor. This TWG is already working.

UPA field director Alicia Murphy concluded, “The waterways dwellers are working hard to implement their dream of on-site housing through the TWG. We even came up with a housing proposal along waterways designed by Palafox architects that would not interfere with the cleaning of Manila Bay and the Pasig river. We believe that efforts on restoring the beauty of Manila Bay must be equipped with a comprehensive and decent housing program for the welfare of the poor. In this way, we will be able to preserve lives – the life of the poor and the life of the Bay. -30-


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Commentary : The girl with a dirty face

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 25, 2011

THE CLOSER we got to the Ulingan area of Tondo, the worse it looked. This awful area is near the Temporary Housing site along R-10. When we were within 100 meters of the area we could see the dark smoke rising from the 100 charcoal kilns. When we moved a little closer, the smoke grabbed at our throats, as tear gas does. Still closer we could see men laboring in the dark wooden shacks that house the kilns, and we could hear their coughing. Finally we were in among the kilns and stacks of fuel wood and there were small children all around us in the darkness, gleaning for bits of charcoal and rusted nails, breathing in that smoke.

There are many truly inhumane living places in Metro Manila, but Ulingan is as bad as any and can serve as a symbol of slums and as a symbol of the efforts of poor people in the slums to have a better life.

We met a group of young girls who were leaving the kilns after scavenging there. Our eyes fell on one young girl whose name is Jennifer, 10 years old and still in Grade 1. She is short and thin, but what catches one’s attention is the greasy black dirt from the charcoal and smoke on her young face. On impulse I reached out to wipe away the filth. Her skin was cool and smooth as a baby’s skin, but I couldn’t remove the dirt. She earns P70 for half a sack of charcoal pieces and P17 for a kilo of nails. The girls seemed wary of us. This is the general area where GMA-7’s “Reporter’s Notebook” found 12- and 13-year-old prostitutes.

The Ulingan area and the land around it is leased to Reghis Romero by the National Housing Authority, we were told by the residents. No one there has seen the lease, so no one knows what its purpose and terms are. Why are such leases offered? Was there notice in the media of the granting of such leases? What responsibilities does the lessee incur for the poor people living on the land? The lessee appears to feel free to move the people around as he wishes, but is that power granted in the lease?
The people asked us to help, so we told them to write to the NHA to ask for a copy of the lease. Our lawyer at Urban Poor Associates, Ritche Esponilla, wrote a cover letter asking NHA general manager Chito Cruz to respond within the time allotted in law. Insecurity on the land, such as that of the people of Ulingan, is a major problem faced in all the slums. The kiln workers went to the NHA recently to follow up on their letter.

Ulingan is also a symbol of the bare survival economy the people are trapped in. The jobs they have are really unsuitable for human beings. The men laboring in the kilns are trading the health of their lungs for a few years’ employment. In the dump nearby they sort and package for sale to middlemen the recyclable garbage of Manila. They live and work among piles of sorted garbage.

Men, women and children should have better jobs. Working with charcoal and garbage can poison not only the body, but also the soul, killing all sense that there can be a better world.

We have worked there for several years along with NGOs and churches, but we have achieved little. We have tried several initiatives and we are experimenting now, we and the workers, with a modern, four-unit kiln that will replace the old kilns and produce charcoal of finer quality, using inexpensive coconut husks rather than costly wood, and which will trap the smoke in pipes where it condenses into a liquid used in fertilizers, soaps and perfumes, which, we were told, is even more valuable than charcoal.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has promised to help us. It is a small step toward a better life for the people. The children will be safe from lung diseases and little girls won’t have dirty faces any more. Jobs are the way out of poverty, but they should not destroy the health of the workers or their hope in a better future.
Ulingan is a symbol also of the lack of basic necessities in the slums. The people are denied access to electricity by the NHA simply because they are illegal occupiers of the land, or squatters. Probably it is illegal to do so. Water and light are basic human needs and cannot be denied to men, women and children. The people of the area will meet and discuss what to do about the electricity.

The people of Ulingan have no security on this government land where they live. They are moved around like chess pawns by the lessee. Their houses are indistinguishable from the dirty shacks in which the kilns are located. They have degrading work. One thing that might rescue the men and women from despair would be to see that their children have a better life, but they see little hope of that.

The children should be in school. The families should have enough clean, inexpensive water so that women and men can bathe every day and clean the children well and wash away the foul smell of charcoal and makeshift toilets. They need light so that the children can study at night and so that the houses are safe from thieves and so that the families can have fans to drive away the mosquitoes.

Most tragic of all are the children like Jennifer. What chance does a small, thin child have in this world with only a year of schooling and a dirty face?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Save Boeung Kak Lake Residents from Eviction

Press Release

March 25, 2011

“Save Cambodia’s Boeung Kak Lake Residents from eviction,” chanted a group of urban poor protesting in front of Cambodia Embassy on Friday. These groups belong to LOCOA (Leaders and Organizers of Community Organizations in Asia), an Asian regional network of urban poor organizations.

This mobilization is a show of solidarity with the people of Boeung Kak Lake amid mounting criticisms over forced displacements in Cambodia. Through LOCOA, Task Force Anti-Eviction (TFAE) in the Philippines and other Asian country members, were able to monitor evictions in Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh, Cambodia since it started in 2009.

(Task Force Anti-Eviction (TFAE) is composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE))

UPA deputy coordinator Ted Añana said, “We were informed that the remaining lake residents were harassed to leave their homes to make way for high rise buildings and shopping centers.”

LOCOA’s research show that under the 2001 Cambodian Land Law, the Boeung Kak Lake residents have a legitimate claim on the land they have been occupying since the early 1980s. The people are also proposing a land sharing scheme that will allow them to use less than 12 percent of the entire 133 hectares of the project. The lake residents view this as a win-win solution.

In a letter to Governor Kep Chuktema of Phnom Penh, TFAE member Jose Morales said, “We ask you then as Governor of Phnom Penh, to put an end to the threats of eviction and intimidation of residents who have been asserting their rights and resisting evictions. Please recognize the Boeung Kak Lake people’s proposed land sharing scheme and let them participate in the development planning process of the Boeung Kak Lake project.”

On March 21, Monday, LOCOA members in Bangkok, Thailand staged protest demonstrations at the Cambodian and Chinese embassies. But to their dismay, no representatives from the two embassies accepted their letters. They ended up stapling their letters on one of their banners with messages “Listen to the People!” “Open negotiations on land sharing on Boeung Kak Lake!” and hanged them in the embassies’ entrance.

On March 23, a group of urban poor in Dhaka, Bangladesh also showed their solidarity with the Boeung Kak Lake residents by rallying in front of Cambodian embassy. Other Locoa members in Korea, Indonesia, and Mumbai are preparing mass actions in support of Boeung Kak Lake residents.

Añana concluded, “Massive evictions are happening in Asian countries and we believe that if the people of Asia unite to stop eviction, there is a great possibility that Asian governments will observe the housing rights of the poor.” -30-

Friday, March 18, 2011

MANILA ESTEROS BRIEFING PAPER

Data by Urban Poor Associates

Background

Five Esteros surrounding Malacanang are due for immediate demolition, namely, San Miguel, San Sebastian, Quiapo, Uli-Uli and Aviles, according to oral or written notices given the people. This is to prevent devastation, such as, was wrought by Typhoon Ondoy, which submerged a big portion of Metro Manila in 2009. President Noynoy Aquino is concerned about saving lives when calamities happen. However the residents of these esteros who have lived long years in the area, when interviewed, denied they have experienced damaging loss of lives and properties, even during Typhoon Ondoy.

If floods hit Manila, the esteros are not the only areas endangered; no area will be spared, according to the people. What is needed, they said, are precautionary measures to evacuate the residents in areas prone to flooding immediately. Round the clock advisory of rainfall by PAG-ASA can be instituted, and an immediate warning can be given when the water from the dams is going to be released. A ready site for evacuation is needed. These are the people’s suggested solutions. For the estero residents, removing them and transferring them to a distant place outside their work area is not an option that will help them survive socially and economically. From the interviews the following are cited as the compelling reasons to allow them to stay where they are.

First are the social reasons. The older generation of estero settlers was born on the esteros and they have brought up their families there. So, too, the second generation who have just begun their married lives. For all of them the estero has provided the safety nets they needed both financially and emotionally. Social relations have been established among them that help them understand one another. In times of emergencies, such as, sickness, accidents, family problems, deaths, security issues, etc. the neighbors are the first to offer help. Their proximity to religious and charity institutions, schools, hospitals, markets, and transportation facilities, also helps them to survive the hardship of poverty by offering quick access to these institutions. Their ability to earn a living is the most important factor cited in explaining why they have to stay in the city. The tables below show what people do for work and where they do it, and how much they earn.

Estero de Quiapo, 118 Households

N.B. We interviewed all 118 families. Percentages for “Place of Work” and “Total Income” total 100%. However, under “Source of Income” some respondents who didn’t work told the interviewer they didn’t work, but didn’t add that their husbands or others in the family worked. In Estero de Quiapo only 70.6% of respondents reported on their “source of income” or that of others in the family. This situation is repeated in the other esteros.

Source of Income

Total Monthly Income

Place of Work

24.5 % are vending or peddling (newspapers, cigarettes, food items, DVDs, accessories, etc

7.8% are in the service sector (as service crews, clerks, sales representative, etc.)

4.9% are in the transport sector (driver-operators of different jeepneys, tricycles, pedicabs, heavy equipments, delivery vehicles, etc.)

13.2% are skilled workers

5.4% are unskilled workers

2.9% are in security sector (security guards, bouncers, barangay tanod, etc.)

1.0% are professionals (police, military, teacher, nurse, medical technologist, engineer, etc.)

1.5% are in government (barangay captain, kagawad, barangay tanod, etc.)

2.0% are OFWs

5.9% are pensioners

1.5% other jobs

Php 0-3,000

22%

51.7% are working within their community/barangay

23.8% are working outside their community but still within the city

18.9% are working outside the city of Manila but still within Metro Manila

2.1% outside Metro Manila/other provinces

3.5% outside of the country

3,001-6,000

31.4%

6,001-9,000

22%

9,001-12,000

11%

12,001-15,000

3.4%

15,001-18,000

3.4%

18,001-21,000

3.4%

above 21,000

3.4%

ABILITY TO PAY, NEARNESS TO WORK

The above data shows 46.6% of households in Estero de Quiapo have incomes of PhP6,000 and above. If 10% of income is allocated to rental expense, each family in this bracket can afford to pay a rental fee of Php600 per month; 31.4% can afford Php300 per month and 22% will need a subsidy or the government can lengthen the amortization period, or give a long grace period to start payment.

75.5% are working within their community/barangay and within the city. Only a small number, 5.6%, are working outside Metro Manila and outside the country. A majority of families live within walking distance of their jobs. Nearness to job sites is a big advantage for the types of work the people have, for example, a woman who cooks food for sale.

Estero de San Sebastian, 79 Households

Source of Income

Total Income

Place of Work

29% of the households are vending (newpapers, cigarettes, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, drinks, viands, rice cakes, cooked food, jewelries, DVDs, sari-sari store and carinderia).

9.4% are in the service sector (sales, merchandiser, salesgirl, salesboy, recruitment agent, cashier, teller, clerk, service crew, bar tender, etc.)

5.8% are in the transport sector (drivers or operators of pedicab, tricycle, jeepney, taxi, delivery vehicle, truck, heavy equipment, etc.)

12.3% are skilled laborers (mason, carpenter, welder, electrician, plumber, steelman, house painter, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

5.8% are unskilled laborers (kargador, labandera, baby sitter, janitor, janitress, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

1.4% are employed in the security sector (security guard, bouncer, barangay tanod, traffic enforcer); professionals (police, military, teacher, nurse, medical technologist, engineer and OFWs.)

1.4% are professionals (police, military, teacher, medical technologist, engineer)

3.6% are pensioners

1.4% are OFWs.

0.7% are government officials (barangay captain and kagawad)

Php 0-3,000

13.9%

22.4% are working within the community/barangay

49.0% are working outside the community but within the city

21.4% are working outside the city but within Metro Manila

5.1% are working outside Metro Manila/other province

2.0% are working in other countries

3,001-6,000

8.9%

6,001-9,000

26.6%

9,001-12,000

21.5%

12,001-15,000

11.4%

15,001-18,000

2.5%

18,001-21,000

6.3%

above 21,000

8.9%

ABILITY TO PAY, NEARNESS TO WORK

Estero de San Sebastian has a higher number of household—77.2% who can pay a rental fee of P600/month. Some 8.9% can pay P300 per month. A lower number of families 13.9% will need a subsidy or easier terms of payments. San Sebastian is better-off economically than the other esteros studied.

92.8% are working within their community/barangay and within the city. 7.1% are working outside Metro Manila and outside the country. The jobs of the estero people are tied to the area where they live. If relocated far away they will not be able to find work easily.

Estero de Aviles, 129 Households

Source of Income

Total Income

Place of Work

38.6% of the households are vending (newpapers, cigarettes, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, drinks, viands, rice cakes, cooked food, jewelries, DVDs, sari-sari store and carinderia).

2.6% are in the service sector (sales, merchandiser, salesgirl, salesboy, recruitment agent, cashier, teller, clerk, service crew, bar tender, etc.)

3.4% are in the transport sector (drivers or operators of pedicab, tricycle, jeepney, taxi, delivery vehicle, truck, heavy equipment, etc.)

6.0% are skilled laborers (mason, carpenter, welder, electrician, plumber, steelman, house painter, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

5.2% are unskilled laborers (kargador, labandera, baby sitter, janitor, janitress, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

1.3% are employed in the security sector (security guard, bouncer, barangay tanod, traffic enforcer);

3.4% are professionals (police, military, teacher, nurse, medical technologist, and engineer)

0.9% are OFWs

0.4%% are pensioners

6% Others

P 0-3,000

20.6%

25.2% are working within the community/barangay

45.9% are working outside the community but within the city

23.9% outside the city but within Metro Manila

1.9% outside Metro Manila/other province

3.1% other countries

3,001-6,000

22.2%

6,001-9,000

19.0%

9,001-12,000

20.6%

12,001-15,000

7.1%

15,001-18,000

0.8%

18,001-21,000

4.0%

21,000 above

5.6%

ABILITY TO PAY, NEARNESS TO WORK

57.1% families can pay a rental fee of P600/month; 22.2% (P300/mo.). Some 20.6% of families need a subsidy or easier terms of payments.

95% are working within the barangay/community and within the city. Only 5% are working outside Metro Manila and other countries.

Estero de San Miguel, 410 Households

Source of Income

Total Income

Place of Work

20% of the households are vending (newpapers, cigarettes, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, drinks, viands, rice cakes, cooked food, jewelries, DVDs, sari-sari store and carinderia).

7.5% are in the service sector (sales, merchandiser, salesgirl, salesboy, recruitment agent, cashier, teller, clerk, service crew, bar tender, etc.)

10.6% are in the transport sector (drivers or operators of pedicab, tricycle, jeepney, taxi, delivery vehicle, truck, heavy equipment, etc.)

10% are skilled laborers (mason, carpenter, welder, electrician, plumber, steelman, house painter, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

7.8% are unskilled laborers (kargador, labandera, baby sitter, janitor, janitress, foreman, supervisor, etc.)

3.8% are employed in the security sector (security guard, bouncer, barangay tanod, traffic enforcer);

1.2% are professionals (police, military, teacher, nurse, medical technologist, and engineer)

0.8% are government officials (barangay captain and kagawad)

2.6% are OFWs

2.1% are pensioners

1.4% Others

P 0-3,000

11.6%

22.3% are working within the community/barangay

53.5% are working outside the community but within the city

18.4% are working outside the city but within Metro Manila

1.4% are working outside Metro Manila/other provinces.

4.5% are working overseas.

3,001-6,000

19.0%

6,001-9,000

17.8%

9,001-12,000

24.7%

12,001-15,000

8.4%

15,001-18,000

5.4%

18,001-21,000

4.0%

21,000 above

9.1%

ABILITY TO PAY, NEARNESS TO WORK

69.4% can pay a rental fee of P600/month; 19% (P300/mo.). A lower number of families, 11.6%, need a subsidy or easier terms of payments.

94.2% are working in their community/barangay and in Metro Manila.

1.4% are working outside Metro Manila and 4.5% are working outside the country.

CONCLUSIONS. Some 74.4% of the people on the esteros studied or worked within their community/barangay and within the city. Another 14.4% work outside Metro Manila and outside the country. A big majority of the household earners are in the informal sector, very dependent on the economic infrastructures that the city provides, such as schools, offices, restaurants, churches and construction activities.

Relocating the Estero residents outside the City of Manila will adversely affect their economic capability. First to suffer because of the loss of jobs will be the education of children and food for the family, which will lead to malnutrition. The ability to pay monthly amortization for on-site upgrading is sure; government will recover its investment. An average percentage of 62% of families in the esteros can pay P600 per month. In distant relocation sites which the people do not choose and do not like the government recovers very little of its investment, maybe as low as 10%. However, if people like what the government does, they repay, for example, in the Community Mortgage Program.

To dislocate all the households on the esteros in effect will add to the already increasing number of poor people nationwide who are hungry and malnourished.

It is easier for a family with a monthly income of PhP6,000 to survive in the city where they are now, because the cost of living is cheaper compared to that in the resettlement areas, according to resettled families interviewed. Transportation costs are minimal in the city, schoolchildren walk to their schools; workers also walk. Basic commodities such as fish, vegetables, meat, etc. are cheaper, according to people we interviewed from the resettlement areas. When one gets sick in the city, hospitals are nearby reducing medical costs, they said.

The receiving municipalities have no capacity to provide mass employment to the relocatees. A massive employment scheme would be needed to accommodate the families to be resettled, who runs into the thousands. Addressing employment problems should be the priority before uprooting families. Slum upgrading is a better development scheme for the urban settlers. Both the government and informal settlers will save an enormous sum of money from this.

The buildings designed by Palafox Associates are meant to make people on the esteros safe from flooding. Families will not be living on ground levels. They will be able, if there is flooding, to move to the second floor of their houses. If even this doesn’t save them, they can be evacuated as the people said on page 1 of this paper.

The buildings will have toilets and liquid waste treatment so the people will not pollute the river, an accusation often made by critics of the urban poor. There will be no families living on stilts in the water of the esteros that could block the flow of water that creates flooding. Also the families have already in some esteros (in parts of San Miguel Estero, for example) begun to clean the esteros.

The buildings designed by Palafox can be combined with gardens, mini parks, and tea and coffee shops that will make the community very attractive and a place tourists will like to visit.

The people in the esteros say they have not suffered much from flooding in the past, even during Ondoy. If the welfare of the poor is our aim, there is no need to move them for their health’s sake. If the reason for moving people is because their communities are not nice looking, then help the people improve their housing as Palafox Associates does.

If we all try to make the esteros a safe and beautiful site for families we can do that. As planned by Palafox Associates there is provision made for all the concerns of government, such as, water flow, dredging, toilets, and care for the waters of the estero.

Our old distant relocation methods did not solve the problem: 30%-40% of the families returned to the city and the slums. Government didn’t get its money back. Why don’t we try this new approach that is already successfully done in other Asian cities, such as, Bangkok and Surabaya.

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