Friday, July 27, 2007

Housing rights advocates slam ‘summit makeover’

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


Housing rights advocates slam ‘summit makeover’

27 July 2007. “Fresh paint, landscaping, rounding up beggars and clearing squatters will not do the trick.”

Following efforts to show off ‘good impressions’, a housing rights advocacy group has criticized ‘extreme makeovers’ that are being made in preparation for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ministerial meeting in Manila to be held from July 29 to August 2.

Expecting delegates to arrive for the Asean ministerial meeting, authorities have started sprucing up poor communities hoping some serious cosmetic surgery can help mask its poverty.

They may only be going to stay for five days but finding enough ‘Filipino hospitality’ posed a real problem and may costs millions of pesos, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization that monitors forced evictions.

Large international conferences such as the ASEAN Summit are often accompanied by human rights violations, such as the demolitions of poor communities in host cities. UPA called on the government to stop this culture of ‘self deception’ saying not to disguise the fact that the much vaunted development and economic growth which the government so desperately wanted to display to potential foreign investors was not benefiting large sections of Philippine society.

Based from the UPA Demolition Monitor, from January to June this year some 5,745 families in Metro Manila lost their houses due to demolitions. UPA expects this year’s evictions to possibly even top the magnitude of evictions in 2006 and 2005.

“Unlike in 2004 when the number of demolitions dramatically went down mainly because of the national elections, in the first six months of this year during which the electoral campaign and May 14 voting took place the number of demolitions did not appreciably decrease. The reason could be because this year’s elections did not involve the president,” said Teodoro Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA.

Painting jobs, forced evictions and demolitions were also carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit hosted by Metro Cebu. Nearly 210 people (42 families) were left homeless in September 2006 when police demolished their houses, situated in front of the Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa in Mactan Island, to make way for a parking lot that was used by Summit participants. More than 600 homes were also demolished in Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as electricity and potable water.

Cities especially in developing countries like the Philippines will be preferred home of an increasing proportion of the world’s poor people, city governments cannot avoid the problem of slums and homelessness for too long, according to the Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI).

“Sooner than later, they will have to confront the problem or face the prospects of urban decay, social violence and the overall deterioration of the quality of their life in their cities,” said Dr. Anna Marie Karaos, ICSI executive director. “But if local governments can act swiftly in partnership, rather than in constant conflict, with the poor who clamor for decent housing, they can fashion cities where everyone, the rich and the poor alike, can live productive lives.” -30-

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Catholic Bishop backs group in fight against urban poverty

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


Catholic Bishop backs group in fight against urban poverty

15 July 2007. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo added his voice to the initiative being pursued by the Urban Poor Alliance (UP-ALL), a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (PO) and individuals all over the country who are working for the advancement of the urban poor particularly in facilitating the right to decent housing.

UP-ALL have found an ally with the Housing Committee Chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in its third general assembly at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Convent in Quezon City over the weekend.

Expressing his support and solidarity, Bishop Pabillo said he will help the group as it pursues the more urgent issues and concerns such as eviction, resettlement, basic services, land proclamation, community mortgage program, and women and gender.

Bishop Pabillo further noted that preventing and minimizing urban poverty requires solving rural poverty. As an example, he told the story of poor dwellers under a bridge in a parish in Las Piñas City. “Merong mga squatters sa ilalim ng tulay at ang kanilang sahig ay styrofoam. Para kapag tumatataas ang tubig, aakyat din sila. Kapag bumaba ang tubig, bababa din sila. Kung maganda na ang buhay at may trabaho na, aalis na sila. Pero may bago na naman na papasok. So hindi talaga mauubos iyan.”

According to Bishop Pabillo, urban poverty may be reduced through job creations, health services and better education. “Ang aking ideya dyan ay ang mga tao ay may regular na trabaho pero hindi ganun ang sitwasyon ng maraming urban poor. Nagtitinda lang iyan ng mga bulaklak dyan, hindi naman may regular na trabaho iyan,” explained the Bishop.

At a dinner meeting at Malacañang last July 5 with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Bishop Pabillo called the government’s attention to forced evictions despite its failure to provide job opportunities to relocated urban poor families.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), an NGO that provides free legal assistance to underprivileged homeless, lamented that the government has concentrated on the demolition of urban poor communities rather than on housing, as called for by the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA). Idle government lands earmarked for low-cost housing are being sold to private investors, according to UPA.

UPA have asked several Church leaders to intervene in impending demolitions because it may leave thousands homeless. Bishop Pabillo said many priests and Bishops are willing to help but the problem is many church people do not know the urban poor issues. “Hindi nila malalaman yung isyu kung hindi ninyo ilalapit sa kanila. Alam naman natin na yung isyu ng kahirapan, malapit sa puso ng mga tao iyan kung alam lamang nila. Problema hindi nila alam,” he added.

Since its formation in 2005, UP-ALL is further consolidating its ranks in Bicol, Visayas, Mindanao and Mega Manila. It has come up with a 14-point agenda. Among these include:
· The establishment of a local housing board that would manage and respond to the needs of the urban poor, particularly in facilitating the latter's right to housing and basic services.
· A guarantee that families threatened by eviction due to development projects would be allowed to meaningfully participate in policy and planning processes especially in ensuring in-city relocation including economic opportunities within the locality
· Regular allocation of adequate funds for housing through a multi-stakeholder process and ensuring that budget on housing even on the level of the Barangay represents the interest of the Gender and
Development framework. -30-

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

QTV: Railroad squatters slam VP Noli de Castro

Railroad residents heckle VP De Castro

Houses near Manila railways to be demolished in August

Poor residents living near railroad slam De Castro during visit

VP de Castro tinalakan ng mga iskwater sa Maynila

Eviction looms for railways folk

Monday, July 09, 2007

Demolition in Pag-asa and Quiapo

MMDA demolishes stores in Bgy Pag-asa, Quezon City

Saksi: D'Little Vietnam' residents will be relocated

Demolition continues in Manila's 'Vietnam'

'Vietnam' residents prepare to leave area

50 families lose homes in Quiapo demolition

Babies from displaced 'Vietnam' families getting sick

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tribesman sheds light on ‘Kalinga massacre’

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


Tribesman sheds light on ‘Kalinga massacre’

1 July 2007. Breakfast is being prepared. As usual, people are farming, gardening and just trying to earn a living. It was 7:30 in the morning June 25 when all of a sudden residents saw people in white shirts backed by policemen who are armed with M203 rifles and B150 machine gun.

After surrounding the area, the demolition team torched two huts and that triggers the explosion of gasoline inside the house that led to a ‘massacre’ in Sitio Malapiat, Brgy. San Pascual, Rizal, Kalinga.

“May baril sila!” a policeman shouted while firing shots that wounded fellow policemen. In terror, residents fled everywhere and hide. But contrary to what police thought, the residents don’t have guns.

“Hindi kami lalaban,” a resident said as he surfaces. A police handcuffed the man then shot him dead. With the presence of Rizal Mayor Marcelo dela Cruz, policemen open fired at a house where Abok Tayaan and his wife were hiding. Shanties had been razed to the ground. When the smoke cleared, at least nine people lay dead including the Tayaan couple. At least 50 residents were wounded. The policemen were reinforced by a group of soldiers.

This is the real story, according to Solomon Inaw, a local tribesman. About 300 meters away from the bloody scene, Inaw stayed safe in a hut together with a woman, a child and an old man.

Residents started building huts in the area in 1986. Tribesmen claimed it was their ancestral land until the family of Vicente Madrigal came and turned it into hacienda. Tribesmen went to courts to fight for ownership of the land. It was declared public land by the Supreme Court in 2003. However, under the government’s land reform program, the disputed land is also being claimed by farmers who come from other provinces and who used to work with the Madrigal family.

After the first demolition in 2004, tribesmen went to Tabuk Regional Trial Court. Failing to secure a court order, Mayor dela Cruz asked the Sangguniang Bayan to make a resolution that will evict the residents. “Syempre yung lupa na iyan talagang fertile kaya gusto nilang okupaduhin. Tapos ang ginawa nila hindi pumunta sa korte kasi matatalo sila. Hindi makuha sa legal na paraan kaya gumamit ng karahasan at yung power niya sa pagka-Mayor,” Inaw said.

As of June 30, the dead who belongs to different tribes were already buried. Charges will also be filed against the policemen and the town mayor. “Maghihintay kami sa Korte at itatatag namin yung dokumento na talagang pag-aari namin itong lupa na ito,” Inaw added.

The Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working to promote and protect the right to adequate housing, expressed sadness over the incident and called on the government to order an impartial and independent inquiry into the violence and promptly make the findings public. “Ensure that all officials, government agencies and police personnel who are responsible for human rights violations, including the excessive use of force, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, are prosecuted,” the UPA said in a statement.

UPA also asked to immediately cease all forced evictions and comply with treaty obligations incumbent upon the Philippines to submit a report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the Philippine government has not done since 1995. -30-