Friday, August 25, 2006

COHRE urged Philippine government to do better in relocation of railway families

21 August 2006

Froilan R. Kampitan
Assistant General Manager
National Housing Authority
Elliptical Road, Diliman,
Quezon City, Philippines

re: Flooding at the Southville Cabuyao Relocation Site

Dear Mr Kampitan

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an independent international human rights organisation mandated to protect and promote housing rights throughout the world.

Following our meeting on 27 July 2006, at which we discussed the situation at the Southville Cabuyao relocation site, I am writing to express COHRE's concern at the current situation there. Firstly, the dumpsite remains in operation and continues to present a serious health hazard particularly with the contamination of flood waters. COHRE has seen photographs taken by partner organisations on 5 August 2006, showing serious flooding. The water enters the houses and after heavy downpours can take up to six hours to subside. The photographs show large piles of garbage in the relocation site, which also present a health hazard.

As discussed, under international law, namely the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the Philippines is a signatory, everyone has the right to “an adequate standard of living for himself and for his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions” (Article 11(1)).

Furthermore, Article XIII, Section 10 of the Philippines Constitution explicitly provides that “Urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwellings demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

The legal process intimated by Article XIII, Section 10 was in turn adopted through statute under Republic Act No. 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). Section 28 of the provision states that “Eviction or demolition as a practice shall be discouraged.” Under certain circumstances evictions may be allowed, but must comply with eight mandatory requirements, including: “(2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;” and “(8) Adequate relocation”.

Moreover, Section 21 of the provision states: “Socialized housing or resettlement areas shall be provided by the local government unit or the National Housing Authority in cooperation with the private developers and concerned agencies with the following basic services and facilities:
a) Potable water;
b) Power and electricity and an adequate power distribution system;
c) Sewerage facilities and an efficient and adequate solid waste disposal system; and
d) Access to primary roads and transportation facilities.”

COHRE’s fact-finding mission to the Southville Cabuyao relocation site and recent photographs clearly demonstrate that the Philippines is in breach of its international and national legal obligations, due to the grossly inadequate conditions persisting in the relocation site.

COHRE urgently calls on the Philippines Government, and the National Housing Authority (NHA) in particular, to:
a) close the dumpsite immediately;
b) cease the dumping of garbage;
c) replace the existing small drainage pipes with larger ones, capable of channelling the flood waters;
d) construct a concrete wall between the dumpsite and the adjacent houses;
e) construct a canal to redirect the water from houses to a nearby creek;
f) deepen the drain canals; and
g) cover the drain canals with concrete to prevent accidents from occurring.

COHRE appreciates that the NHA is one of many agencies involved in the relocation process of the North South Rail Linkage Project. However as the key implementer of the housing and resettlement component of the project, the NHA bears primary responsibility for ensuring that the above-mentioned obligations are met. COHRE calls on the Philippines Government to urgently remedy the appalling living conditions at the Southville Cabuyao relocation site as a matter of priority.

We look forward to discussing these matters with you further and continuing to assist the Government in complying in full with international human rights law. Our Geneva staff will be contacting the Philippines Mission in Geneva and our Litigation and Media Programmes will explore other forms of human rights advocacy as necessary. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Jean du Plessis
Executive Director (a.i.)
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
83 Rue de Montbrillant
1202 Geneva
tel: 41.22.734.1028
fax: 41.22.733.8336
jean@cohre.orgAnnie Feith
Women’s Housing Rights Officer
Asia-Pacific Programme
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions
PO Box 1160
Collingwood 3066
Victoria, Australia

Thursday, August 24, 2006



Cardinal Rosales Urges Vice President de Castro to Help Railway Families Living on Toxic Relocation Site

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

Cardinal Rosales Urged Vice President de Castro to Help Railway Families Living on Toxic Relocation Site

Alarmed by news of chemical risks among relocatees at the Southville Housing Project, the revered Archbishop of Manila has added his voice to the brewing anxiety over the relocation of railway families near a dumpsite in Cabuyao, Laguna.

In a letter sent to Vice President Noli de Castro, His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales drew the attention on the health hazards of relocating people displaced by the Northrail Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP) next to a six-hectare dump, which tends to exacerbate the poor living conditions in the resettlement site. (The Cardinal’s letter is attached for your reference.)

Cardinal Rosales, who is highly regarded for his defense of the poor and the environment, is worried about the health risks posed by the dump to residents, especially the children, women and the elderly. Dumps, cautioned Rosales, are known sources of harmful toxins that are capable of damaging human bodies, contaminating the food supply and polluting the surroundings, including the air, soil and surface and groundwater.

“It appears to me that the current relocation program in Cabuyao, Laguna fails to take into consideration the health and environmental hazards that living next to a mixed waste dump might cause to the relocatees,” Cardinal Rosales said. Affirming that “I am one with the relocatees in seeking for the immediate resolution of their grievances and needs.”

Cardinal Rosales pleaded for Vice President de Castro’s sympathetic action, offering four action steps that will help in restoring the relocatees’ hope for a humane and secured future:

· Hasten the closure, clean up and rehabilitation of the dumpsite.
· Ensure immediate access to essential services such as electricity, safe drinking water, proper drainage and sanitation, and ecological system for managing discards.
· Complete what is required to obtain quality education at both Southville Elementary School and Cabuyao National High School Annex in Southville.
· Provide sustainable jobs and livelihood opportunities within the site and nearby places.

“The Southville residents have long suffered from health problems that they believe are caused by the leachate and the toxins in their drinking water coming from the shallow wells built next to a dumpsite. Without access to basic services, it was clear that surviving with dignity in a place like Southville is very difficult,” said the Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

“We hope that the Vice President will heed the plea of our beloved Cardinal and act with urgency to protect the health of the relocatees from toxic pollution,” added the Ecowaste Coalition’s Task Force Dumps/Landfills.

This is the second time that Cardinal Rosales wrote to Vice President de Castro on the railway eviction issue. It will be recalled that on 12 May 2006, Cardinal Rosales asked Vice President de Castro, concurrent Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, to find alternate in-city relocation for displaced families and to work towards improving the living conditions in the Cabuyao relocation site. -30-

For further information, please contact the Office of Cardinal Rosales (5274153), Urban Poor Associates (4264118) or the Ecowaste Coalition (9290376).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

URBAN POOR ASSOCIATES NEWS DIGEST: Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

URBAN POOR ASSOCIATES NEWS DIGEST: Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

Eco Waste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court, 26 Matalino St., Quezon City, Philippines
Phone: 9290376 Fax: 4364733

Groups Raise Alarm over Toxic Resettlement Area in Cabuyao, Laguna

15 August 2006, Quezon City. Environmental health groups have joined advocates for housing rights in questioning the relocation of Metro Manila railroad communities next to a six-hectare dumpsite in Cabuyao, Laguna, and urged the authorities to take action now to prevent a health disaster waiting to happen.

In a meeting yesterday with the representatives of the Urban Poor Southville Association, Inc. (UPSAI) and the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), public interest groups belonging to the Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines, Inc. (Ecowaste Coalition) expressed shock and dismay over what they described as "toxic relocation" under the controversial Northrail Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP).

"Being relocated in a place that is totally lacking in livelihood opportunities and basic services and which is adjacent to a waste dump is just inhumane. Vice-President Noli de Castro and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council could be at fault for exposing marginalized families to such deplorable conditions, not to mention, the contaminants from the nearby dump. Children and developing fetuses are most vulnerable to these toxic substances,” said the Ecowaste Coalition.

Adding that “the government needs to take action now to stop the source of chemical risks in Southville and to find safe alternative sites that can provide relocatees with healthy living conditions and jobs."

The concerns of the relocatees about the dump pollution are not without basis. From dawn to dusk, residents have to bear the nauseating foul smell coming from the 8-year old dump. They complain of respiratory ailments, which might be traced to the airborne pollution emanating from the dumpsite. They also fear that harmful bacteria and chemicals from the leachate and surface runoff are being dispersed throughout the neighborhood via floodwaters due to poor drainage.

Records from the Philippine Export Processing Zone (PEZA) show that 33 registered residual waste haulers, mostly from Batangas and Laguna, bring their collected wastes to the Hain’s Controlled Dump Facility in Barangay Niugan, Cabuyao. This dump should have ceased operations on 16 February 2006 under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. However, it was only on 9 March 2006 that the Severino B. Hain Enterprises, dump owner and operator, obtained the “authority to close” from the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (Calabarzon Region).

Studies in Canada and USA have shown that living near municipal dumps or landfills involved an increased incidence of cancer, including lung, bladder, liver, stomach, breast, cervix and prostate cancers. One study by the New York State Department of Health showed that women living near solid waste facilities where gas is escaping have a four-fold increased chance of leukemia or bladder cancer.

A literature review in 1998 of various studies in the USA indicated that women living near municipal waste disposal sites showed increased risk of infants with birth defects such as eye/ear anomalies, chromosome abnormalities, and heart and neural tube defects.

In the Philippines, Catholic nuns running a health clinic at the Payatas dump reported that in 1995-96 three infants were born with imperforate anuses and about 10 cases of children with cerebral palsy out of 600 families living within the 0.5 km of the infamous dump.

Among the known toxic substances emitted from dumps or landfills are benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, methylene chloride, dichloro methane, carbon tetrachloride, and carbon monoxide. Open burning also released volatized heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans. Exposure to these toxic chemicals is a known factor in the development of cancer, chronic diseases and birth defects.

Housing rights advocates decried the failure of both Northrail and Southrail projects to provide relocatees with access to essential services as required by R.A. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, notably the lack of access to potable water, electricity, sewerage facility, waste disposal, and transportation.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has appealed to Vice-President Noli de Castro to delay the relocation until the unfinished work in the Cabuyao relocation site is completed, and proposed finding in-city relocation places for the railroad evictees.

For more information, please contact the Ecowaste Coalition at 9290376 or the Urban Poor Associates at 4264118.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

International NGOs calls North and Southrail relocation inadequate and violative of international human rights standards

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

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman


International NGOs calls North and Southrail relocation inadequate and violative of international human rights standards

Officers from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), namely Annie Feith and Lisa Giufre, came to the Philippines a 9-day visit (July 18 to 27) to find out the housing rights situation of those affected by the Northrail and Southrail Project.

They visited families facing eviction and those already evicted in three relocation sites (Towerville, Northville IV in Bulacan and Southville in Cabuyao, Laguna) as well as Philippine National Railways and National Housing Authority officials. They discovered the following:

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. 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 meters of the dump. The poor drainage and close proximity to the dump means that when flooding occurs, polluted water floods the houses. At least 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 3000+ children attending.

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

The Philippines got the attention of the participants at the World Urban Forum III in Vancouver, Canada when it opened on June 19. Habitat International Coalition, an international NGO with consultative status at the United Nations, cited the Philippines as one of the governments who conducted massive forced evictions and committed human rights violations in the name of development, such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and India. Mr. Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, emceed the activity. “The Northrail and Southrail project in the Philippines will, when completed, have evicted and displaced an estimated 150,000 families, with inadequate relocation alternatives,” Kothari said. A Philippine delegation of housing officials led by Vice President Noli de Castro attended the WUF. In one of the WUF forums, a HIC delegation told VP de Castro that his so-called “incremental development” of relocation sites which means transferring people to sites that are not prepared and inadequate violated international housing standards as well as the Philippine government practice of making affected families sign “waivers” to their rights.COHRE is an international human rights organization working in the field of housing rights. Together with its Philippine partners, Urban Poor Associates (UPA) and Grasroots Women Empowerment Center (GWEC),

COHRE works closely with the United Nations, advocating that governments fulfill their international and national legal obligations to ensure adequate housing for all. -30-