Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hard quest for a living space

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

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman
http://flickr.com/photos/jlagman17
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October 14, 2006

Hard quest for a living space

It is not the house that counts, nor the comfort of it that is more important but survival.

Alberta Abenaza, now a widow and mother of 7, had been living for 26 years under the San Andres Bridge 1, along Estero Tripa de Gallina, a jurisdiction of Brgy. 734 and 735 in Manila.

“Kaya tumagal dito, ang hanapbuhay nasa bubong lang,” said Abenaza who is now 46 and supports her family through rug making.

Abenaza left her distant village in Leyte at the age of 11 to find a better life in Manila. Soon after graduating in High School, she was married to Everjisto, a jeepney driver. With meager income, her growing family found it hard to rent a place so they decided to build a shanty under the bridge.

“Nung una ayaw ko kasi madilim, mabaho, maingay, malalim ang ilog at walang maapakang lupa. Humanap kami ng mauupahan pero isang taon lang nasunugan kami kaya ito na ang naging bahay namin,” Abenaza said.

Some 54 families are now living under the bridge. Most of the residents are vendors along OsmeƱa Highway. Being in constant threat of demolitions, the community organized the Samahan ng mga Taga Ilalim ng Tulay Neighborhood Association (SAINT).

“Karamihan dito katulad din ng kwento ng buhay ko. Nangangarap din kaming mabigyan ng pabahay. Maiahon sa ilalim ng tulay, subukan ang buhay sa taas. Dito para kaming dagang nagtatago sa lungga,” said Abenaza, president of SAINT.

Since 2001, Abenaza have written various letters asking for relocation assistance from the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Presidential Action Center, National Housing Authority, Department of Social Welfare, Department of Public Works and Highway, Urban Settlement Office, and Manila City officials.

“Kung meron pa silang konting awa, umaasa pa rin kami hanggang ngayon na mabigyan ng pag-asa upang mabago at maitaguyod ang aming pamilya sa maayos na pamumuhay,” said Abenaza.

The residents along Estero Tripa de Gallina have been given until October 20, 2006 to evict their shanties, according to a Notice of Eviction issued by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) September 19.

SAINT sought the help of Urban Poor Associates (UPA) to save their dwellings from demolition in the absence of relocation program as stipulated in the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA).

“Cities do not comply fully with the content of section 28 of the law that says there should be no demolition without adequate relocation,” according to a research conducted by the UPA, a non-government organization working with urban poor issues. “Hence, the endless cycle of homelessness.”

In the aftermath of typhoon Milenyo, after dismantling the “killer” billboards, the government wants to immediately remove informal settlers near esteros, creeks and rivers to prevent flooding during the rainy season.

The Esteros Program of the HUDCC shows that 21,047 families will have to be relocated but it has a funding requirement of 2,253 Million Pesos. -30-

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Group comes to the aid of families in toxic relocation site

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

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman
http://flickr.com/photos/jlagman17
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October 8, 2006

Group comes to the aid of families in toxic relocation site

Heaven sent angels in Southville.

These are the words that describe how hundreds of afflicted families felt after receiving medical services and free medicines from non-government organizations yesterday at the Southville Housing Project in Cabuyao, Laguna.

"Uso dito ang skin diseases, sore eyes, diarrhea, lagnat, ubo, sipon, pneumonia at sakit sa puso. Malaking ginhawa sa amin ang medical mission na ito," said Ester Terencio, president of the Urban Poor Southville Association Inc. (UPSAI).

Shortly after typhoon Milenyo devastated newly built houses in Southville, the Grassroots Women Empowerment Center (GWEC) organized medical teams composed of doctors from Caloocan Medical Society and dentists from Emilio Aguinaldo College.

"The government has relocated the poor families into a site with limited access to clean water, clinics, electricity, schools and transport. Hence, widespread diseases has made these people in dire need of medical services," said Lee Salamanca of GWEC.

Tthe Ecowaste Coalition, a group of environmentalists, has recently categorized Southville as a "toxic relocation site" since it is located only a few meters from a hazardous dumpsite.

Southville Housing Project is an instant community of 7,000 families relocated from Metro Manila railway tracks to give way for the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project (NSLP). It may soon add another 10,000 households with the development of a 100-hectare Southville Housing Project II.

"The enormous numbers of displaced railway families in a site, most of them below the poverty line, is economically and socially unsound. The heightened hunger and poverty brought on by uprooting poor families from their source of income can only be viewed as a disaster in the making," said the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-governent organization working with urban poor issues.

His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales was able to publicize the issue but he have not been able to influence government to take decisive steps in solving the problem. "Perhaps our appeals for the poor families have fallen on deaf ears," the UPA added. -30-

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A mother’s tale of love, sacrifice and survival

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

Ref: John Francis M. Lagman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlagman17

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A mother’s tale of love, sacrifice and survival

5 October 2006, Quezon City. When she left Maguindanao six months ago, fleeing a series of unfortunate events, Salama Polayagan hoped to start over abroad. Like many Muslim women in her place, she chose a country at the Middle East that not only shared her religion but also filled promises of golden opportunities. “Para mabuhay at makapagtapos ng pag-aaral ang mga anak ko. Matulungan ko ang magulang ko. Para hindi na mahirap ang buhay namin,” she says.

Salama’s mother died after giving birth to her on a mountainous village of Matanog, Maguindanao. She stopped schooling after Grade 2. At the age of 17, she was married to a farmer. She had 10 children but one of them died due to high fever. In 1996, while giving birth in a regional hospital, her 1-year paralyzed husband succumbed to heart disease and ulcer. During an all-out-war against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the year 2000, the military forces burned down her house. Her family moved to safety in Parang, Maguindanao where she began buying vegetables to resell back home. “Mahirap ang buhay sa probinsya. Isang beses lang kaming kumain, kanin at gulay, minsan kamoteng kahoy,” Salama recalls.

So with a salary of 45 Dinar per month, Salama left to work as a domestic helper in Kuwait last April 3, 2006. The first month, she worked with different employers. Soon she met “Badria”, an employer who taught her everything about housekeeping. All is well but after 1 month, Badria started maltreating Salama. “Araw-araw binubugbog ako kahit wala akong kasalanan. Sinusuntok, tinutusok ang mata at tenga. Sinusubsob at sinasampal. Nagtiis ako kasi baka magbago pa siya,” Salama says.

One early morning in July, while Badria was sleeping, Salama escaped through a window of the three-story house. She headed to the Philippine Embassy. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) brought her to Mubarak Al Kabeer Hospital for a medical examination. “Kung hindi ako aalis sa amo ko, baka mabaliw ako. Sumasakit ang ulo ko. Nangitim ang braso ko. Nahihirapan din akong huminga, kumikirot ang opera ko,” says Salama.

After 2 months at the Embassy, Salama received her Travel Document valid in lieu of her passport. Penniless, she sought the help of her relatives in an urban poor community in Manila as she goes back to her home province.

According to Salama, the story of some 300 more women Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) still seeking refuge at the Embassy is one of hard luck, occasional violence and stubborn survival.

“Forced migration not only to cities but also to wealthy countries is not a massive flow moved by hope, but rather a desperate struggle to stay alive,” according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working with urban poor issues. “This is a phenomenon which is provoking the rural communities through the massive flight of their most promising men and women, the profound destruction of their culture and the disintegration of their families. There is a need to attack the deep causes of these problems and restitute the hope of poor people.”

Today, still nursing her injuries, Salama would still want to stake her life and limb on an uncertain future in another country. “Mahirap ang buhay sa probinsya,” she says. -30-

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Global Coalition Announces Campaign to Stop Forced Evictions and Privatization of Housing and Land.

News Advisory
Mon, October 2 2006

Global Coalition Announces Campaign to Stop Forced Evictions and Privatization of Housing and Land.

Decrying a sharp increase in massive forced evictions caused by mega-development schemes and property speculation across the planet, the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) will announce a global campaign to "Stop Forced Evictions and Privatization of Housing and Land” in Montevideo and in London on October 2, with worldwide actions scheduled throughout October.
"Despite global standards affirming a Right to Housing, governments, multinational corporations and investors have too often ignored them,” stated Enrique Ortiz, HIC President. “Homelessness, speculation and massive forced evictions for 'slum clearance' are on the rise, from Harare (Zimbabwe) to New Orleans, from Mombai and Manila to Lima and Vancouver"s Downtown Eastside. Massive dam projects are displacing hundred of thousand in rural areas of Turkey, China, India and Mexico. As a result, far from meeting the UN's Millenium Development Goal of reducing slum dwellings by 100 million by 2020, the number of slum dwellers is expected to double to more than two billion families by 2030. We call on government and UN bodies to implement a rights-based, people-centered housing agenda as an alternative to the market-driven models promoted by the US government, global business interests and financial institutions.”

The London press conference will focus attention on the privatization of social housing and utilities, highlighting efforts by tenant organizations to halt the introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) in Germany and the United Kingdom. “In Europe, America, and Asia, private equity funds and investment trusts are accelerating the massive conversion of rental housing to speculative ownership beyond the reach of poor and working people, contributing to displacement, rent increases and the destruction of social investment in habitat,” stated Ana Sugranyes, HIC General Secretary, who will participate in the London event. “Unregulated market-oriented policies are the principal cause, not the solution, of global poverty and the destruction of habitat.”

In Montevideo HIC will focus on people centered alternatives to be discussed with the Latin American housing and urban development national authorities, looking for increasing public funds, reviewing mortgage conditions and defending collective land ownership.

Throughout October, numerous local, national and regional organizations, social movements, NGO"s and academic groups in more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America will carry out public actions and events within the framework of the HIC campaign. Highlights will be posted later in this week at www.hic-net.org/ . The Coalition will also release a Global Eviction Watch Map to visually document the forced eviction crisis. HIC will release the list and Map to coincide with World Habitat Day on October 2, designated by the United Nations General Assembly for the first Monday of October each year.

Ortiz also released a statement in commenting on the official UN Habitat Day theme of “Cities, Magnets of Hope.” Ortiz notes that the displacement of the rural poor to urban areas forced by market forces and institutions is not a “massive flow moved by hope, but rather a desperate struggle to stay alive.”

HIC is the principal worldwide network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) engaged with the United Nations’ Conference on Human Settlements, known as Habitat I and II. Founded by housing rights activists in 1976, HIC coordinated NGO participation in the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul in 1996, and organized fora and a rally at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in June 2006. The Coalition today comprises more than 300 national, local and regional housing and land rights organizations in most of the countries of the globe.