Thursday, July 27, 2006







COHRE is an independent, international human rights organisation that works to create conditions in which people of all nations can enjoy access to safe, affordable and secure housing. Together with local partners COHRE works closely with the United Nations, advocating that governments fulfill their international and national legal obligations to ensure adequate housing for all.

The right to adequate housing is enshrined in an extensive body of international law, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The Government of the Philippines has ratified the ICESCR. In addition, the right to adequate housing is protected both in the National Constitution and the Urban Development and Housing Act 1992.

COHRE has strong partnerships with civil society groups in the Philippines who are working at the grassroots level to advocate for the urban poor’s right to adequate housing.

Adequate housing entails seven core components: Security of Tenure, Availability of Services, Materials, Facilities and Infrastructure, Affordability, Habitability, Accessibility, Location and Cultural Adequacy.

COHRE is currently supporting advocacy work to uphold the housing rights of communities affected by the North South Rail Linkage Project. On a recent visit to partner agencies, communities facing eviction and three relocation sites (Towerville and Northville IV in Bulacan and Southville in Cabuyao, Laguna), the following has been observed:

People do not have access to electricity and potable water. This means that drinking water must be bought.

It is extremely difficult for families to earn a livelihood being located so far from Metro Manila. We were informed by one agency that up to 70% of relocatees go back to the city to live and work during the week, returning to their families only on weekends. A significant proportion of income is spent on transport.

In Southville, the adjacent dumpsite produces a foul smell and many health hazards. Some houses are within a few metres of the dump. The poor drainage and close proximity to the dump means that when flooding occurs, polluted water floods the houses. We were informed that 6 children have died of diarrhea this year.

Schools and health services are inadequate in each location visited. For example in Southville, part of the school is housed in a tent, there is no water for the two small toilets, children must pay for drinking water, and the teachers work 3 four hour shifts because both human and physical resources are not sufficient to serve the 2000+ children attending.

While conditions in slums along the railway are far from adequate, the people informed us that it was much easier for them to make a living in the city. It was clear to us that surviving with dignity in a place like Southville is very difficult.

COHRE therefore strongly urges that:

The Government gives priority to the provision of basic services including potable water and electricity in all relocation sites, and immediately closes the dumpsite in Southville, Cabuyao.

The Government continues to engage in dialogue with civil society groups to ensure that people’s aspirations are met, and human rights are upheld in the eviction and relocation process.

The Government commits to finding suitable alternatives, such as in-city relocation. COHRE welcomes the constructive and consultative approach taken by the Mayor of Taguig, for example, who has agreed, in cooperation with the National Housing Authority (NHA), to develop in-city relocation sites.

All further relocations be suspended until sites meet international and national housing rights standards.

The Government invites the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to visit the Philippines to assess the situation and provide appropriate advice.

Annie Feith
Lisa Giufre

COHRE Asia-Pacific Programme
PO Box 1160, Collingwood 3066
Victoria, Australia
Tel: +61 3 94177505

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Railway dwellers to get dream homes in Taguig

Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C.
Tel.: 4264118 / 4264119 / 4267615
Fax: 4264118

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman

For Immediate Release on July 18, 2006

Railway dwellers to get dream homes in Taguig

Thousands of railway dweller families in Taguig City will finally get a chance to own their dream homes as in-city relocation was supported by Taguig City Mayor Sigfrido R. Tiñga for the families who will be displaced due to the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.

“Ito ay malaking tuwa at malaking kasayahan sa lahat. Masaya kami dahil natupad ang aming kahilingan na dito ma-relocate sa Taguig. Tatlo yung anak ko, sa Maynila pa sila nag-aaral kaya ayaw ko sa malayong lugar,” said 40-year old Jonalyn Peraen.

Mayor Tiñga announced at the meeting yesterday with the representatives of Koalisyon ng mga Samahan sa Riles Katimugan (KOSARIKA) and Urban Poor Associates (UPA) that a low-cost cluster housing project for railway families had been set for Bagong Tanyag. “We are trying to do our best to give you something na kapag andun na kayo, rerespetuhin kayo, maganda ang tingin sainyo,” Mayor Tiñga said.

Mayor Tiñga also accompanied the railway leaders to a model house located in Diego Silang. “Yung atin lamang mahihirap na kababayan ay bigyan naman natin ng dignidad sa kanilang tirahan. Kaya pinapaliwanag namin, hindi kami anti-poor o anti squatter, ayaw namin ng ganuong kalagayan at kung mabibigyan natin ng pagkakataong pagandahin ang buhay nila e ibigay natin. Kailangan lang talaga magtulungan yung mga tao at pamahalaan. We can make it happen,” Mayor Tiñga said.

The proposal includes the construction of a two- or three-story buildings, to be comprised of 400 units, for the relocation of “qualified” informal settlers. “Sa August 11 ang launching ng housing project. Before the end of the year kailangan naitayo na namin ang pabahay or naumpisahan na,” Mayor Tiñga added.

“There are 4454 railway families in Taguig and most of them are living below the poverty line,” according to UPA, a non-government organization working with the urban poor issues.

Aside from the city of Muntinlupa, railway dwellers from Caloocan City to Laguna are being told by the National Housing Authority to relocate in Cabuyao or else they will be relocated in Calauan also in Laguna.

KOSARIKA brought the letter of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on a protest rally at the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) last May 15. In his letter, Cardinal Rosales urged the HUDCC led by Vice President Noli de Castro to relocate affected families in-city or near-city.

“Distant relocation is the prime cause of much of these problems. If people were relocated near their work and schools, for example, family income would not suffer so much. NGOs and people’s groups with whom we work have found close to 200 hectares of idle land in the Taguig and Bicutan area, a portion of which can be used as relocation sites,” the Cardinal’s letter read.

Meanwhile Bishops in Metro Manila are planning to visit the relocation sites and will soon meet President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to raise the railroad tracks issues. -30-

Friday, July 07, 2006

Church leaders, NGOs unite to help railway families

Urban Poor Associates
25-A Mabuhay Street, Brgy. Central, Q.C.
Tel.: 4264118 / 4264119 / 4267615
Fax: 4264118

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman
For Immediate Release on July 7, 2006

Church leaders, NGOs unite to help railway families

Empowered by His Eminence Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales and Metropolitan Bishops, Church priests and members of non-government organizations (NGOs) met yesterday at the Caritas-Manila to consolidate views on railway tracks issues for the sake of 26,000 families who were dislocated and some 100,000 families who will be dislocated due to the Northrail and Southrail Projects.
Fr. Anton C.T. Pascual, Executive Director of Caritas-Manila, opened the discussion saying that the Church will now directly appeal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because recent efforts to dialog with housing and government officials have not helped in any important way. “Dahil maraming paikot-ikot didiretsuhin na natin si Gloria! Ang kakausap sa kanya ay mga Obispo para ihain ang isyu ng home along the riles. Si Cardinal Rosales naman ay nagbigay ng matinding pagsuporta sa atin dito,” Fr. Pascual said.
The Metropolitan Bishops who will likely meet PGMA includes Bishops Deogracias Iñiguez, Francisco San Diego, Jessie Mercado and Leo Drona of the dioceses of Caloocan, Pasig, Parañaque and San Pablo, Laguna.
Recently, Cardinal Rosales sent Fr. Pascual on his behalf to visit the relocation sites and meet government officials to personally see the condition of the relocation sites and how the relocated families are doing and coping.
“Despite the efforts of Cardinal Rosales to call the government’s attention to the inadequacies of the relocation program, the officials haven’t responded positively in deeds,” according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization conducting research in relocation sites. “We have asked housing officials including Vice President Noli de Castro to defer relocation until the sites are ready, but they have refused,” the UPA added.
Fr. Benito B. Tuazon, parish priest of St. Alphonsus in Magallanes, encouraged the group together with Metropolitan Bishops to visit the relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna. “Ang nagsasalita para sa mga tao ay NGOs at negative ang tingin sa kanila ng gubyerno. But we can talk about it based on our experience on what we saw and what we have heard if we go to the relocation sites. Let’s take videos and pictures, interview people so that they can see the situation for themselves. Housing officials will give answers as if we do not know what’s really happening,” Fr. Tuazon points out.
Identified problems of the North and South relocation sites are lack of social services in terms of livelihood, sanitation, security, education, health, potable water and electricity. Hence, the following are the positions agreed upon for the relocated families: Remove the health-hazardous dumpsite at the Cabuyao relocation site; Fast track social services in the relocation sites; Have a longer grace period for the amortization of housing loans; Assign police outpost at the relocation sites. And for those who will soon be relocated: Start improving relocation sites with social services; Do not be strict with cut-off dates or census dates; Have a moratorium on demolitions until the relocation sites are ready; Find in-city or near-city relocation; Define the guidelines for ‘voluntary’ relocation.
Other priests who shared their views were Msgr. Cesar Pagulayan, Msgr. Celso Ditan, Fr. Jose Antonio Paras, Fr. Enrico Martin Adoviso, Fr. Allan Lopez of the parishes of Sto Rosario, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. John Bosco, Most Holy Trinity and San Lorenzo.
NGOs who participated at the meeting includes UPA, Partneship of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI), Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP), Damayan ng mga Maralitang Pilipinong Api (DAMPA), Grassroots Women Empowerment Center (GWEC), Homeless People’s Federation and Bantay Riles. -30-