Tuesday, October 21, 2008

20 years of CMP

Philippine Star
Letters to the Editor

20 years of CMP

Monday, September 15, 2008

Almost 20 years ago, in a squatter settlement in Taguig called Joseph Sitt, a program with the prosaic name of Community Mortgage Program was launched.

The name was chosen on purpose in order to cloak with the mantle of financial respectability what was in reality a risky social undertaking: long-term mortgage loans to squatters, or in the more politically correct term: “informal settlers.”

We now hear that the financial world is reeling because of sub-prime mortgages. How much lower than sub-prime are loans to squatters?

And yet, after 20 years there is this inexplicable statistic: of all loans of all past housing programs of all the government financing agencies, the best repayment record is that of the Community Mortgage Program.

We extol, and with great justification, the housing program of Gawad Kalinga. But GK can only go where the problem of land tenure of the squatters has been resolved. And GK can not be supported by international social lenders or NGOs because beneficiaries are not required to pay for their houses. And so, we must give great credit for their accomplishments to the GK organization, their primary religious backers — the Couples For Christ movement, and their institutional, corporate and individual donors.

In contrast, CMP beneficiaries have to: a) organize and form legal associations, b) determine group affordability through socio-economic surveys, c) undertake structure mapping and allocation of land areas, d) negotiate with land owners, e) arrange long-term mortgage financing, f) secure the necessary government approvals and licenses, and g) effect collection and repayment of individual amortizations. At the second phase of the program, the occupied lots are surveyed and titles issued to individual members.

Moreover, unlike GK which can only operate where housing sites have been donated, CMP is now being implemented in all our highly-urbanized cities and municipalities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

While a single GK organization implements their program, a nation-wide group of NGOs are assisting urban poor groups applying for the program. In addition, groups from third-world countries in Asia and Africa have come here to study the program and launch their own versions of it.
Why is the CMP in such great demand?
Here are some reasons:

1) CMP addresses only the most pressing problem — legal land tenure. (Experience has shown that once land ownership is achieved, self-help basic services and home improvement capacities surprisingly follow.)

2) CMP is undertaken directly by the beneficiaries. (NHA or any other branch of government does not participate in land acquisition or site development.)

3) Both landowners and informal settlers benefit. (In many cases, landowners have received no benefit from their property for 20 or more years, while the settlers have been for the same period under constant threat of eviction.)

4) The CMP has the best cost-benefit ratio of any government social program. (The land areas occupied by individual families are so small that even at current market values per square meter, monthly amortizations are affordable even to the urban poor.)

5) Probably most important of all, CMP beneficiaries are not uprooted away from their places of employment, schooling, family and friends.

It must be said, however, that the CMP has still not solved its major problem: it still takes two years from loan application to payment of the land being purchased. Consequently, there is an ever-growing backlog of pending applications and thwarted dreams. It appears the current CMP implementors are still viewing the program as a financial (sub-prime?) instrument rather than as government’s most cost-effective social program for the urban poor.

Nevertheless, credit must be given to those responsible for having given security of land tenure to almost 200,000 families.

And so, as we approach CMP’s 20th anniversary, I would like to pay tribute to the following: 1) Bimbo Fernandez of Cebu’s pioneering Pantabayayong, Bill Keyes of Freedom to Build and Fr. Jorge Anzorena (Magsaysay awardee) of Selavip whose work inspired CMP’s creation; 2) the late Chuck Doble while in HIGC and Monchet Albert while in NHMFC for CMP’s implementing mechanics; 3) Sonny Belmonte while in GSIS and Joey Cuisia while in SSS for their courage in providing initial funding for the program; and 4) the congressional housing committee chairs, Amado Bagatsing and Pong Biazon for their much appreciated budgetary support for the program.

May their tribe increase. — Teodoro K. Katigbak, former chair, HUDCC; chair, Urban Poor Associates, Foundation For the Development of the Urban Poor

Monday, October 20, 2008

Promdi city

"Promdi city"

Episode aired on October 16, 2008
Airing on October 20, 2008
Monday night after Saksi

Kara David moves into a resettlement site in Cabuyao, Laguna for her upcoming I-Witness documentary.

In a unique social experiment, she discovers what it's like to live in a remote relocation area after having spent years in the big city.

She spends almost a hundred pesos on transportation alone just to get to the site. She is given a unit so bare, it has no water or electricity. Kara spends her first day buying kitchenware, a mattress and charcoal for cooking.

She asks her neighbors for help in finding work. They have jobs cleaning softdrink bottles in a far-off refinery. Instead of spending 80 pesos a day on tricycle and jeepney fare, they leave their homes by 4 am and walk many kilometers to work. After cleaning more than 50 cases of softdrinks, Kara makes P161 pesos.

In between working, Kara meets up with mothers who talk about the difficulties of adjusting to relocation. The common story of provincial lasses seeking their fortune in the big city takes a 180 degree turn with these women who have lived for decades by the railroad tracks and must now learn the basics of rural life. They laugh about learning to plant produce and till the fields for the first time, and discuss the lack of entertainment in their new neighborhood.

Kara David takes a very personal approach to documenting life in a resettlement area. Catch her special episode "Promdi City" this Monday late night on I-Witness.


Isang eksperimento ang susubukan ni Kara David sa kanyang dokumentaryo ngayong Lunes. Siya'y makikitira sa malaking resettlement site sa Cabuyao, Laguna kasama ang ilang pamilyang nagmula sa tabing riles. Dito niya mararanasan ang kondisyon ng mga bagong lipat.

Magsisimula ito sa pagco-commute ni Kara galing sa kanyang bahay papunta sa site sa Cabuyao, Laguna baon lang ang P1000. Sa biyahe pa lang, mababawasan na ng isandaan ang pera niya dahil sa layo ng lugar. Pagdating sa unit na kanyang titirhan, malalaman ni Kara na wala itong kasangkapan, tubig at kuryente. Kakailanganin niyang bumili ng mga gamit gaya ng kaldero, baso, higaan, uling, walis at kung anu-ano pa.

Magpapatulong si Kara sa ilang kapitbahay upang humanap ng mapapasukang trabaho. Umaabot ang ang pamasahe ng P80 kada araw papunta sa kanilang papasukan, kaya nilalakad na lang ito nila. Alas 4 ng madaling araw kung umalis ang mga papasok sa Calamba para maglinis ng ni-recycle na bote. Buong araw nagtratrabaho ang mga tao rito para kitain ang P161 sa paglilinis ng daan-daang bote.

Pangkaraniwan na ang kuwento ng mga galing probinsiya na naghahanap ng kapalaran sa siyudad. Marami sa makikilala ni Kara sa Cabuyao, kabaliktaran ang dinanas. Naninibago sila ngayon sa paggapas ng palay at sa buhay magsasaka dahil nagmula sa mga tabing riles ng Makati.

Isang kakaibang pagtalakay sa buhay sa loob ng mga resettlement sites. Ito ang susunod na dokumentrayo ni Kara David para sa I-Witness.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Manila Archbishop leads Mass for the urban poor in Baseco


Manila Archbishop leads Mass for the urban poor in Baseco

19 October 2008. Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales went to the Port Area this morning and lead a Mass in Baseco to pray and show that the Church is one with the urban poor community’s struggle for a better life.

Hundreds of Manila’s urban poor settlers attended the Mass held in the Baseco covered court. The poor wanted Cardinal Rosales to come and say the Mass and the Manila Archbishop welcomed the rare opportunity.

Rosales’ visit delighted the Baseco community. “Sana ay maging socialized housing ang Baseco at di na baguhin pa. Naging maayos na ang buhay namin. Kami ay natutuwa dahil nandito si Cardinal at siya ay sumusuporta sa aming kahilingan. Sana ay pakinggan ito ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Jeorgie Tenolete, president of Kabalikat sa Pagpapaunlad ng Baseco, a people’s organization.

Baseco residents have the problem of land tenure insecurity: they fear they can be removed from their homes at any time and for insufficient reasons. The 10,000 families in Baseco fear they will be evicted due to the government’s reclamation project and sent 50-80 kilometers away to remote and jobless areas.

The land was proclaimed for them by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002. They believe powerful and well-connected businessmen want the strategic area for commercial purposes.

The government cites a 2004 soil analysis that predicts the soil in Baseco will liquefy if there is a strong earthquake nearby. The study concludes that no homes are safe and all the homes must be removed. This is because the reclamation done in Baseco by the government used garbage instead of good soil and rocks, the analysis states.

A cloud of secrecy covers the government’s real plans, according to Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a housing rights NGO. “The residents should be told what the plan is, and if there is no plan then government should put that in writing and continue instead to upgrade the area as the proclamation states,” the UPA said in a press statement.

UPA invited the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to attend the Mass in Baseco. However, PRA officials could not attend the Mass due to “some unavoidable circumstances.”

In a letter sent to UPA, PRA General Manager and CEO Andrea Domingo informed that the PRA is presently complying with the directive of President Arroyo to reclaim 10 hectares at the bayfront of the Baseco area. “Upon completion of the reclamation works, PRA will turn over to the agency that will undertake its development as site for socialized housing. Beyond this PRA will no longer have any participation in the project,” the letter read.

“We’re asking the President to issue the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) that will lay down the processes and steps leading to the families’ ownership of the land and to convene the Project Inter-Agency Committee,” said Ted AƱana, UPA deputy coordinator. -30-

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists



We wish to invite you at a Holy Mass with Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales in the Baseco urban poor area on Sunday, October 19 at 9:00 AM. The Mass will be held in the covered court in Baseco, near the Baranggay Hall.

The poor face the problems of most Manila families – high prices, poor services, etc. – but in addition they have the problem of land tenure insecurity: they fear they can be removed from their homes at any time and for insufficient reasons. The 10,000 families in Baseco fear they will be evicted due to the government’s reclamation project and sent 50-80 kilometers away to remote and jobless areas.

Your support is needed if there are to be solutions to these problems. Please come and pray with the Cardinal and the poor and show that we are all one with their struggle for a better life.

We are also inviting poor people from Parola, Navotas and other parts of Tondo.

Date: October 19, 2008 (Sunday)

Time: 9:00 AM

Venue: Covered Court, Baseco Compound, Port Area, Manila

Demolition in Calamba, Laguna, turns violent

10/13/2008 | 07:51 PM

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Roots of democracy

Commentary : Roots of democracy

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: October 11, 2008

Not long after the $700-billion bailout of banking institutions was announced, we walked down lower Broadway to Wall Street, the “ground zero” of the recent financial disaster. It was a bright sunny afternoon, but Wall Street was deep in shadows.

Wall Street is so narrow (perhaps only 12 meters from the buildings on one side to the buildings across) and the buildings are so tall that the sun shines on it only at high noon.

We sat on the steps of the old Federal Reserve building where George Washington delivered his first inaugural address and waited for something to happen that might explain the collapse, or at least show how the people involved would react.

The street was quiet because traffic was not allowed, except for the sleek, soundless limousines of the very rich. Hundreds of people milled around, mostly tourists and also dozens of policemen eyeing everyone, including people on the steps with apparently nothing to do. Nothing happened. No crowds protested Wall Street’s ruinous behavior. None of the powerful came out to apologize, or tried to atone for the financial crisis by harming themselves, as bankers did in the Great Depression. The tourists, as always, posed for pictures. One of their favorite shots was the flag-bedecked New York Stock Exchange. Another was the larger than life statue of Washington beside us. An Asian TV reporter stood on the pedestal of the statue as he made his report and seemed to interview the old president.

There was an aura of gloom, however — as if the street was aware the good times were over. A few days later, an article would appear in the New York Times under the headline: “Wall Street, R.I.P.”

The collapse of the finance world is hurting every citizen in various degrees — because people are losing their houses and ordinary workers’ pensions are tied up in the devalued stocks. But there were no rallies or protests anywhere, no crowds of investors calling for justice. There was no organized people’s reaction reported anywhere in the country.

People reacted individually, emailing their representatives in Congress, responding to TV polls and man-in-the street interviews, but they did nothing together; there was no social protest. Nowhere was it clear that ordinary people had gathered together, discussed the problem and decided what they as a group would do in response to the Wall Street failure.

The financial collapse seems to be not a concern of angry mobs wanting their money back from banks. People are still behaving as individuals, not as an organized group. The concern is for ordinary people’s thoughtful actions agreed on in their own associations after discussion.

The same pattern appears in the presidential election. Most American voters make up their minds by themselves based on what they learn from their families and the media. There are few associations that bring people of a certain class or work group — or people who share the same interests — to discuss who of the candidates can best do the things they want done. The labor unions and the ethnic Catholic parishes and other ethnic groupings often did this in the past, but the unions are now weak and for the most part the ethnic parishes and groups have largely disappeared. What emerges in group discussions is that people are more inclined to vote based on their own intuition or “gut feeling” rather than on rational self-interest.

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville published his “Democracy in America,” which remains one of the very best analyses of American democracy and maybe of all democracies. He found that the role of voluntary associations (cooperatives, political clubs, special interest groups, occupation groups, ideological groups) was crucial in American democracy. He wrote: “Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations …. In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine [these associations] is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.”

He said that if the vitality of these associations dried up, democracy as Americans knew it would falter. The associations are the foundation of national movements. They are the cradle of responsible and effective action and politics. Between elections, the associations keep the pressure on government to fulfill its promises.

Philippine democracy can produce people power movements and thousands of NGOs and other types of associations. The first challenge is to increase their number and to encourage the associations to widen their agendas to include national and political problems. The second challenge is, as De Tocqueville said, to unite or combine them into a powerful reality for the common good.

Denis Murphy works with the Urban Poor Associates. His email address is upa@pldtdsl.net.

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Governments must end forced evictions and address global housing crisis at the root of global financial crisis

On the occasion of the World Habitat Day, 6 October 2008, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) calls upon governments to end forced evictions and other housing rights violations. COHRE further urges governments and other relevant agencies to direct the necessary resources towards addressing the acute housing crises in both rural and urban areas. COHRE is convinced that the unmet demand for adequate housing provided the primary target for the predatory lending practices that have led to the current spate of worldwide bank failures and the ensuing global financial crisis. The realization of housing rights for the world's poor majority must not now be sacrificed in the name of international economic "recovery" efforts.

World leaders can no longer continue to ignore widespread violations of the fundamental human right to adequate housing. Millions of people continue to be forcibly evicted from their homes and lands. In Beijing, 1.5 million people have been displaced to create space for Olympic venues, for city ‘beautification’ projects in advance of the Olympics, as well as in the context of other urban development projects. This massive displacement of persons and communities is ongoing today. In Abuja, Nigeria, the Federal Capital Development Authority selectively used the City’s Master Plan to forcibly evict more than 800,000 during the period 2003 to 2007. Over three years after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, in the United States, thousands of families are still being denied the right to return to their homes. In Cambodia, over 50,000 people were forcibly evicted during 2006-2007 for agro-industrial and development projects. Indeed, even Luanda, Angola, which hosts this year’s World Habitat Day celebrations, has similarly undertaken large-scale forced evictions, involving many thousands of persons, in the recent period.

Ongoing housing rights abuses have also taken other forms. In Burma, cyclone Nargis survivors have reportedly been forcibly returned to their villages by the Burmese government, despite the absence of adequate rehabilitation. In Sri Lanka, the government has threatened to forcibly close transitional shelters in Colombo, in advance of any durable solution for persons displaced by the 2004 tsunami. Indigenous communities such as the Brazilian Quilombos and the Bedouin in Israel have been arbitrarily deprived of their land, despite the adoption by the UN General Assembly in September 2007 of the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, which sets out extensive commitments to maintain the integrity of land tenure for such groups. The Roma in Europe face extensive racial segregation in housing, enforced through forced eviction practices, matters comprehensively banned by international law. The recent period has seen dramatic intensification of such practices by the Italian and French governments in particular.

While countless people continue to be driven into homelessness, governments are abdicating their responsibility to ensure access to affordable housing and public services. In some cases, governments are even scaling down commitments made previously to meet the growing demand for affordable housing. For example, in the post-communist world, social housing systems have been dismantled in a number of countries, with few or no protections introduced to protect persons forced by these acts into extreme poverty. The widespread neglect of rural infrastructure including water, sanitation and housing coupled with increased land alienation has led to growing rural-urban migration. In addition, the fast pace of urbanisation in many developing countries has far exceeded local government capacity or willingness to provide basic amenities to city residents, including adequate housing, water, electricity and sanitation. Such urbanisation has resulted in the creation of vast slums where residents live in sub-standard housing conditions, without access to even the most basic services.

While inadequate living conditions and forced evictions affect all residents, women and girls all too often bear a disproportionately greater burden. Violence, vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, inadequate provision of services, housing insecurity, and lack of privacy are common experiences with profoundly gendered dimensions.

There are, however, inspirational alternative approaches. In one leading example, Naga City, in the Philippines, has enacted landmark legislation mandating city government agencies to establish a partnership with community organisations to work towards security of tenure and improved living conditions for its residents. Naga City has also adopted a range of adjunct policies with a view to finding long-term solutions to problems of lack of security of tenure faced by the urban poor as well as to promote slum upgrading.

A major housing rights victory was recently won when the City of Johannesburg implemented the voluntary relocation of 450 residents of two inner city slum buildings to two newly refurbished buildings. This successful relocation was possible due to an order by the Constitutional Court of South Africa that directed the City government to engage in meaningful consultation with affected persons.

COHRE urges governments to take cognisance of this and similar progressive approaches to securing the right to adequate housing for all. COHRE further urges all governments to take immediate steps, as specified by international law, to address the spiralling global housing crisis. In particular, COHRE urges that governments worldwide:

- End, without delay, the practice of forced eviction
- Respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate housing including the right to water and sanitation for all
- Promote development processes that minimise displacement
- Devise and implement plans to address homelessness and inadequate housing in consultation with affected persons and communities, and their representatives
- Take steps to mitigate the impacts of inadequate housing on marginalised groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and children, and
- Celebrate the work of housing rights defenders, and work toward their inclusion in policy frameworks to resolve outstanding housing rights issues