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-