Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bishops, Urban Poor Groups To Discuss Housing Rescue Plan with PGMA


Bishops, Urban Poor Groups To Discuss Housing Rescue Plan with PGMA

31 July 2008. With the help of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, urban poor groups will meet President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tomorrow (August 1) in Malacañang to discuss the looming housing problems in Metro Manila.

Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao, Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong and some leaders belonging to the Task Force Anti-Eviction will meet President Arroyo for the second time this year to tackle a housing rescue plan that will help thousands of urban poor families.

Task Force Anti-Eviction is composed of people’s organizations such as Market 3 Fishport of Navotas Neighborhood Association, Samahang Pinagbuklod ng Pagkakaisa, Samahang taga-Estero sa Pasay, Bacood Ilaya Looban Homeowners Association, Pinagbuklod – Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog Pasig, Samahang Magkakapitbahay ng Valderrama, Samahan ng mga Pamilyang Apektado sa Riles, Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco, and non-government organizations namely Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise, Community Organizers Multiversity and Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

The group wants a halt to forced evictions without relocation and the preparation of adequate relocation sites for those who are evicted.

In a meeting hosted by the President January 31, the government assured urban poor communities that demolitions would no longer be allowed unless there is a relocation site ready for affected families. President Arroyo instructed government agencies that there should be a social preparation period of 45 days for those who will be relocated. She agreed that in-city or near-city relocation sites should be considered a better option than distant relocation. Montalban, for example, which has been suggested by the poor as a relocation site, is willing to accept up to 100,000 urban poor families. An additional P4 billion pesos for socialized housing was also announced.

However, most of what have been promised never materialize, the group said in a letter to the President. “Pagkatapos ng pulong noong ika 31 ng Enero 2008, kami’y nakipag-ugnayan sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan tulad ng NHA, MMDA, HUDCC, PCUP, DA/PFDA upang maipatupad ang mga napagkasunduan. Masakit pong sabihin, sa aming pagtatasa halos lahat ng mga nabanggit sa itaas ay hindi po naganap.”

According to the eviction monitor done by UPA, for the past 6 months some 2,097 families have lost their homes due to demolitions. Out of the 2,097 families, only 741 families were relocated.

For the security of tenure of some 200,000 families in proclaimed areas, the president must also order for the Post-Proclamation Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), the group said.

To ensure a low-cost housing, the group suggested that the government must adopt a method introduced by Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity – sweat equity or bayanihan. A tripartite body composed of government agencies, people’s organizations and parish-based groups will help implement the project. -30-

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

MMDA goes after illegal vendors in Taguig

Karamihan ng vendors, nakipag-agawan ng paninda sa clearing ops ng MMDA
07/30/2008 | 02:45 PM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baseco worries

29 July 2008. Some 6,000-10,000 poor families have been living in Baseco since 2001. Baseco is 56 hectares in extent. As late as 2001 most of the 56 hectares was underwater. Since 2002 the land has been gradually reclaimed.

In February 2002 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed the area, all 56 hectares for the homes of the people. That same year the first of four major fires hit the area which initiated the reclamation of land. Some five hectares were reclaimed and divided into lots which were assigned to about 1,000 families.

In 2004, PGMA introduced Gawad Kalinga (GK) and Habitat for Humanity (HfH). They have built together nearly 2,000 row houses since then. The people like the housing. Most families wish for a similar type house. A soil test was made that found much of Baseco would be at risk if there were a very strong (8 on the Richter scale) earthquake. The soil might turn to mud, it is said.

In 2007, the 2004 soil test was resurrected to show that building even one storey houses in Baseco because of the poor soil was not a good idea. Mayor Alfredo Lim asked Gawad Kalinga (GK) and Habitat for Humanity (HfH) to stop building.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority announced it would reclaim another 10 hectares of land just west of Baseco. At first PRA said it knew nothing about the future of the 56 hectares.

After the people had more meetings with PRA, a visit (May 14) from PGMA and a meeting with the National Housing Authority, the following seems to be the government’s plan:

· Government will reclaim the 10 hectares as proposed, an island just off the 56 hectares.
· It will move families there from the 56 hectares. It plans on housing 3,000 families on the 10 hectares. There will also be a mini-fish port there, PGMA said on her visit.
· The government will then develop 35 hectares of the 56 hectares proclaimed for commercial purpose.

The residents are afraid of this plan for the following reason:

1) No clear black and white detailed description of the plan has yet been shown to the people.

2) There are at least 6,000 families in Baseco and maybe as many as 10,000.
· There are plans for 3,000. What will happen to all the other families?
· It is not clear who the beneficiaries are. Will it be only families censused in 2001? What of the other hundreds, maybe thousands of families living there now?
· Will the 3,000 units be affordable? A survey made by the Institute of Philippine Culture of the Ateneo de Manila found the average family income per month to be between P6,000 to P7,000 in 2002. It is not much higher now. At most, the people can afford P150 per month, they say.
· Will the 2,000 houses of GK and HfH remain or will they be removed?
· Who is the main stakeholder in this huge venture? Where will financing come from?
· Does the fact that the land is proclaimed limit what uses can be made of it? If it was proclaimed for homes, can it be used for commerce?

3) What People Want: The people of Baseco want a house like those built by GK and HfH. These houses encourage the formation of peaceful, neighborly communities. They like some open space for the children’s play, churches, day care centers, clinics and job training institutions. The people want to build working family communities with basic services, playgrounds, lawns and flowers, where old people can sit in front of their houses and watch the children play, where people engage actively in public affairs and politics. -30-

Monday, July 28, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY: Running Priest in Baseco for U.N. Run

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists


Running Priest in Baseco for U.N. Run

Fr. Robert Reyes, the running priest, will stage a run in Baseco, Port Area in Manila tomorrow (Tuesday) morning 10:00 AM starting at the Herminigildo Atienza Elementary School to publicise a petition which the people will send to the United Nations (UN). The petition will concern the eviction of 7,000 to 10,000 families living in Baseco.

The land was proclaimed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2002. On the basis of that proclamation, aided by the Gawad Kalinga (GK) and Habitat for Humanity (HfH), the people invested in their homes. But now they are told to vacate the 56 hectares because the reclamation done by the government between 2002 and 2004 was poorly done. With the result, the land will liquify if there is a strong earthquake, the government says.

It is estimated well over a hundred million pesos was spent for the reclamation, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights NGO.

After the run, there will be a brief prayer service. The people of Baseco will also sign a banner with the words “United Nations Housing Rights, please help us. We want to stay here in our homes. We don’t want to move out.”

Date: July 29, 2008 (Tuesday)

Time: 10:00 AM

Venue: Baseco, Port Area, Manila

Monday, July 21, 2008

If the bishops wrote to the poor

Commentary : If the bishops wrote to the poor

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: July 21, 2008

MANILA, Philippines - There has been a long debate in the church over its social teaching, not so much with the content, the “what” of the teaching, but about the most effective way to get it implemented, the “how” of the matter.

It is a matter of audiences. Ordinarily the papal encyclicals and the letters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines address the government and influential private citizens, asking them to protect workers’ rights, implement land reform or extend it, stop illegal forced evictions, ban trawlers from offshore waters and take care of other problems. This approach sees the elite as the agents of change.

Another audience for the letters and encyclicals might be the workers, farmers, urban poor and fishermen of the world and the Philippines. The hierarchy might explain the Church’s teaching as it relates to the poor sectors, explain their human rights and urge them to take organized action to achieve their rights and reform the situation. This approach is far rarer than the first, though some popes, including Pope John Paul II, had encouraged workers to act through their unions. Think of Poland’s Solidarity, for example. This approach sees the poor as the agents of change. In the end it’s a matter of emphasis: both government and the organized poor are needed.

It wouldn’t be surprising if some of our bishops began to wonder if it is useful any longer to keep appealing to Philippine government leaders and the powerful to take up reform. The bishops over the years have given more support to land reform than any other social problem, and yet they can’t even get a very ordinary law extended. The Philippines is the first democracy to drop its land reform program before it is finished.

Maybe, the bishops will soon come to believe it is more useful to talk directly to the poor than to continue engaging with officials who politely nod in agreement with the Church’s suggestions and then continue with business as usual. In the concrete situation existing in the country with the officials and growing problems the people face, it seems the right time to speak to the poor.

If they ever write such a letter it might go like this:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our past letters on social problems don’t seem to have done much good. Many times, for example, we appealed to our leaders for effective land reform, but to no avail. Congress failed to extend it. We’ve talked of workers’ problems, mining and the problems tribal people face, but those letters, too, have had little effect. It’s time to talk directly to you.

Before going further, we wish to ask about something that puzzles us and many other people, namely, why are you so patient? There are food and oil price riots in many countries; in South Korea 50,000 people go into the streets each night to protest the importation of American beef, yet here in the Philippines, which is as poor and as hard hit as any other country by the soaring prices, there seems to be only passive acceptance. This is not our history. Look at the peasant uprisings of the past, look at Edsa I. What has caused this recent passivity?

Have you lost hope in life and the possibility of change? Have you lost faith in government, the elite, the Church? We can imagine your pain with the way things have become worse and worse, but don’t give up for the sake of your children and for the good of the whole country.

What is your perception of the Church? Do you feel it is on your side in the justice struggles that will fashion the Philippines of tomorrow? Do you feel you are in the Church of the Poor that we vowed to become at the Second Plenary Council in 1991? We hope so and we sincerely hope you haven’t lost your willingness to “hunger and thirst for justice.” You well know that no major social change will come about in our country without organized popular pressure from below. Also, no serious thrust to become the Church of the Poor will take place unless you push us in that direction.

What will it take to organize this popular pressure from below? To organize farmers into a large democratic, non-violent movement for a truly valuable land reform, for example. How many farmers must be organized? One million? Why not? The Federation of Free Farmers on the eve of the declaration of martial law had some 300,000 members and was growing rapidly. There are many more farmers now and just as much suffering.

We ask the same question of all downtrodden groups—tribal people, fishermen, workers, urban poor, farmers: What will it take to organize yourselves?

We will give whatever is in our power to give in terms of moral support, funds and training resources. We will recruit idealistic young people and professionals to work alongside you. We will lobby for you as we always have, and we will not hesitate to break with the powerful who resist your efforts to secure your human rights. We will preach the Gospel in the liberating way Jesus did in Luke 4:18-19: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and to proclaim the Lord’s year of mercy.”

May the Lord bless all of us.

Denis Murphy works with Urban Poor Associates. His email address is

©Copyright 2001-2008, An Inquirer Company

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tutoring for grade school students

Inquirer Opinion / Columns

Commentary : Tutoring for grade school students

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: July 13, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—My 7-year-old niece who studies in Mater Carmeli School in Novaliches heard her father talking about high prices and told him: "Don't worry, Papa, I can stop schooling. Anyway, I finished Grade 1." Her parents assured her there was enough money for school and that there was much more to learn. When they tell the story, people laugh.

In the Baseco urban poor area at the mouth of the Pasig River, hundreds of poor children drop out each year from the Hermenigildo J. Atienza Elementary School. Some 918 children began Grade 1 in June 2007, but before the end of the school year, 101 had dropped out: 11 percent of the class. Nobody was laughing. These are 6- or 7-year-old children who are now finished for good with school and thrust into a highly competitive world where even factories require a high school diploma, and fast-food shops require some college education. Some years the figures were worse: in June 2006 the first-grade class began with 943 children, but only 702 finished the year, a dropout rate of 25 percent.

In June this year, 378 children finished elementary school in Baseco. There were 715 when they began in Grade 1 in June 2002. Over the six years of schooling, 47 percent of the children dropped out.

The children drop out for many different reasons. Parents can't afford the school expenses, or they need the children to work to make money, for example, by scavenging, or the children feel they don't fit in or can't keep up with the studies, or the parents just don't care. As a result of all this, almost half the children of Baseco will wind up illiterate, which is equivalent to a life-long sentence to poverty.

No one blames the principal or teachers. There are classes in Baseco with 91 and sometimes more children in the room. How can a teacher handle such a number? Just to keep a modicum of civilization is quite a work. There are two children for every textbook (government figure). There are children so bright they do well despite all the obstacles, but most children are average and below average and these children wind up in the 5th and 6th grades unable to read with any ease in English or Tagalog, and unable to do simple math. If you ask a 6th grade boy or girl in Baseco, how much is 29 plus 15, they will most likely go into some sort of abacus on their fingers. Fingers may be useful for simple addition and subtraction, but not for the math needed to deal with credit cards, bank accounts, bills from utility companies, tax forms and the like. The children will be numerically illiterate.

What to do? The usual suggestions for a bigger education budget, higher salaries for teachers, smaller class size, etc. are all good, but what to do now?

A small tutoring venture in Baseco called Edukasyong Kabalikat para sa Kaunlaran (EKK) has had some success and, in the process, came upon what may be the prime missing ingredient in the present overcrowded school system, namely, the lack of any individual care. It's not a new discovery, of course: good teachers have always known the importance of individual attention to children.

EKK is a small tutoring effort run by the parents of Kabalikat, a people's organization in Baseco, that takes children for six hours a week (two hours a day, three times a week) after regular school. There are classes for 5th and 6th grade boys and girls and first graders. The program only takes students whose academic averages are under 80 percent: the very bright students don't need tutoring and the very slow won't benefit. It is a difficult triage for kids to undergo. Mayette Betasolo is in charge of the EKK committee of parents.

The program focuses on reading (English and Tagalog), math, science and religious values. The classes always have less than 25 students, allowing the young teacher to give some individual time to each student. This individual attention makes a great difference in children's progress. In individual instruction, the teacher can discover what prevents the children from doing their best. The problem may be a serious one, dyslexia, for example, or a much more common one, lack of confidence, shyness, or the inability to form certain sounds. Sometimes it's enough to move a child who has trouble hearing from the last row in a class to the front where he or she can hear the teacher. A good teacher or a good part-time tutor can solve most problems.

Ivy Espineli and Lala Salanga, two young women, both UP graduates, have been EKK's main teachers. They have been successful. All 96 children who finished the 6th grade tutoring over the past four years have passed the government exam for entering high school. All were average students. Of the 96 who have gone to high school, all but five are still in high school or have graduated. EKK is now into its 5th year. The usual percentage for finishing high school is about 20 percent. EKK's graduates may reach a 90 percent graduation rate if present trends continue.

Ivy has given up a well-paying work in Thailand and Makati to tutor in Baseco. Lala is getting her master's at UP.

The Baseco parents who run EKK say there are three reasons for the success EKK has had: one, it focuses on reading, math, science and values and stays away from the other subjects that crowd children's days in school; it gives time for individual attention; and, finally, there is the commitment of the young teachers.

How can we provide similar tutoring for many other children? It need not be six hours a week. If there are only two or three children in a class, maybe two hours a week would be enough. Maybe one hour a week with one child would do. We have thousands of children who need tutoring. We have potential tutors in our college students, young professionals, retired elderly people, the children's parents themselves and older students in the urban poor areas. How do we put students and tutors together? Is there some person(s) with the calling to do this?

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His e-mail address is

Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More children out of school

Monday, July 07, 2008

Makati fire victims seek help

07/06/2008 | 09:56 PM

750 homeless in Makati fire
07/07/2008 | 12:36 AM

Fire hits compound in Makati for nth time

Makati fire affects 2,000 families, destroys 500 homes

18 hurt in Makati slum area fire

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

QTV: 2 sugatan sa tensyon sa demolisyon sa Quezon Institute compound

07/01/2008 | 01:06 PM

2 hurt in demolition tussle at Quezon Institute
07/01/2008 | 07:57 PM