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-


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