Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MEDIA ADVISORY: KALBARYO OF THE URBAN POOR



Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

KALBARYO OF THE URBAN POOR
April 1, 2009

Photo ops at Liwasang Bonifacio (10:00 -11:00 AM)
· Jesus on a horse
· Palm waving crowds as he enters Jerusalem
· Giant cross, requires 25 men to carry it.
· Dancers (Palaspas Dance)

March (11:00 -12:00)
· Crowd of 3,000, led by Jesus mounted, palm waving crowds, 30-foot cross, and Palaspas dancers moves toward Plaza Miranda.

Plaza Miranda (1:00 PM)
· Re-enactment in song and dance of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
· Reading of the Urban Poor Charter – needs and demand of the poor
· Individual prayer and the cross
· Voices of the poor

Quiapo Church (3:00 PM)
· Mass with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and other priests and bishops. The Cardinal will speak on the poor and the Church. (See History of Kalbaryo)

The Kalbaryo of the Urban Poor




** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

The Kalbaryo of the Urban Poor

The Kalbaryo of the Urban Poor started in 1987. Over the years it has taken place in different places: in Leveriza; on top of the old Smokey Mountain; in the Cabuyao relocation area; in urban poor areas along the Pasig River; but most often in Mendiola.

The Kalbaryo has tried to show that God has a “preferential” love of the poor and also that the sufferings of Jesus Christ in his passion and death are repeated in the sufferings of the urban poor. Also, that Jesus’ resurrection is repeated in an initial way in the actions of the poor to organize themselves and seek non violent democratic solutions to their problems, such as forced evictions, hunger, joblessness, substandard housing, over-expensive water and light, poor schools, criminality, corruption and violence.

Sometimes 5,000 people joined the Kalbaryo, sometimes only 150. Sometimes the mainstay of Kalbaryo was near professional and dramatic dancing in which the dancers wore Christ-mask. Sometimes the Kalbaryo followed the traditional Stations of the Cross.

Once it was a dramatic re-enactment of the passion and death on the top of Smokey Mountain when it was still an active dumpsite. Scavengers were working in the garbage under clouds of flies though it was Good Friday. It was April so it was steaming hot; the smell was that of a battlefield of rotting corpses. Smokey Mountain then was the symbol of the country’s poverty so it was appropriate that the Kalbaryo be held there. The actor playing Jesus, Mary, the Holy Women and the Centurion and Roman soldiers climbed through the garbage to the top, re-enacted the crucifixion and then prostrated themselves on the garbage. Calvary was re-enacted on a garbage pile where dozens of other innocent lives were wasted everyday through disease and malnutrition.

Another year the Kalbaryo started in Leveriza with the Alay Kapwa group of Sr. Christine Tan, and then went to several other urban poor areas. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Kalbaryo had become a very professional dance that took place at high noon in Mendiola. The dancers wore Christ masks. In the script the same words were used by Pilate to condemn Jesus and the Manila authorities to condemn the poor. Both were called “trouble makers, malcontents, opportunists, outsiders.” The dance was so moving there was absolute silence though thousands were present. The only sound was the continuous buzz of the camera shutters. Policemen took off their hats and came nearer to see and hear better.

Once a group planned to sing the Pabasa all night in Quezon Memorial Circle Park as part of the Kalbaryo.

Another year the Kalbaryo was held in the Cabuyao relocation center. Some 5,000 or so families had just moved in; they had been evicted from Makati, San Andres and other places along the railroad tracks. They had no light, drinking water, school, market, clinic or jobs. Their income had dropped by 20%. Next to the relocated people was another garbage dump, which when it rained heavily sent a black toxic liquid from the dumpsite into the people’s homes.

The people were not allowed on the dumpsite. The crucifixion was re-enacted, and Jesus wearing a bloody mask and robe carried into nearby house for his “burial”. He was freshened up; the mask was removed; he was shining in white clothes. When he re-appeared, resurrected, smiling as a young man might smile after a great victor, the people cheered. It’s easy to believe they saw a connection between Jesus’ victory over pain and death, and their own efforts to improve their very bad situation.

On April 1 the urban poor will once again march (from Liwasang Bonifacio to Plaza Miranda) with Jesus in triumph on a horse and the crowds celebrating as they did on his entry into Jerusalem.

At today’s Kalbaryo the passion and resurrection will be again re-enacted in song and dance directed by Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). All the dancers and singers are urban poor people.

There will be a reading of the Charter of the Urban Poor which calls on civil society and the government to solve some of the problems: policies on evictions, for example, land tenure security, basic services for all, decent houses, jobs and food. The poor want to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Mass with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and other priests and bishops will be in the Quiapo Church.

People will be asked to sign their names to show support of the suggestions made in the Charter.

They are also asked to write their dearest wish on a “stick em” and paste it to the giant cross.

All are invited.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Urban Poor To Celebrate “Kalbaryo” with Cardinal Rosales




** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

Urban Poor To Celebrate “Kalbaryo” with Cardinal Rosales

31 March 2009. In observance of the Lenten season, some 3,000 urban poor people from all over Metro Manila will march on April 1 towards Quiapo Church.

The urban poor are celebrating their 23rd “Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalungsod” with the theme “Time for Change”.

Mass with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and other priests and bishops will be held in the Quiapo Church at 3:00 PM.

The passion and resurrection will be re-enacted in song and dance, directed by Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). All the dancers and singers are urban poor people.

Michael Sta. Rosa, who will be Jesus in the march, has been practicing for several days in preparation for his role.

The 26-year-old Sta. Rosa will ride on a horse from Liwasang Bonifacio to Plaza Miranda.

He is worried about the horse he is going to ride in the Palaspas reenactment, the story about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion. “Wala pang practice. Ngayon pa lang ako sasakay ng kabayo. Ngayon lang magiging Kristo,” Sta. Rosa explained.

Sta. Rosa said he used to watch “Senakulo” in the past but he finds the “Kalbaryo” unusual because the verses talk about urban poor issues in addition to the Senakulo verses.

He said it’s okay and he is happy that he was chosen to play the role although he also feels uneasy as he commits mistakes. “Ayos lang, happy. Masyadong kinakabahan. Minsan nagkakamali sa pagbigkas.”

Sta. Rosa will read the Charter of the Urban Poor which contains the issues the poor think must be agreed upon with the government and civil society: policies on evictions, for example, land tenure security, basic services for all, decent houses, jobs and food.

The Charter was composed by hundreds of community leaders, with the help of several NGOs, such as, Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE).

The Kalbaryo of the Urban Poor started in 1987. Over the years it has taken place in different places: in Leveriza; on top of the old Smokey Mountain; in the Cabuyao relocation area; in urban poor areas along the Pasig River; but most often in Mendiola.

According to Alicia Murphy, UPA field coordinator, “Kalbaryo” started due to the looming problems of urban poverty. “Ang problema kasi ng maralita ay mukhang di nababago. At lalong lumalala, napakadaming mga demolisyon etc. So kailangang I-highlight yung kanilang mga karaingan. Lalong-lalo na napakapangit kasi ng public image ng maralitang tagalungsod, minsan hindi naiinatindihan ng madla kaya kahit na meron ng ginagawang pang-aabuso sa kanila, violation of human rights, hindi naiintindihan ng publiko.”

“Kaya ang ginawa, siguro kailangang magsama-sama ang mga maralita para ipahayag kung ano ang kanilang kalagayan at kung ano ang kanilang mga pinapangarap sa buhay. Yung pinaka pangarap nila ay magkaroon ng kahit isang munting tahanan na mabubuhay ng marangal ang kanilang pamilya. At saka rin para magkaroon ng pagbabago yung imahe nila, na hindi sila yung pampabigat sa pamahalaan, na sila ay kuta ng mga magnanakaw, na wala silang silbi, mga ganoon. Dahil sila ay nagsisikap na maging mabuting tao. Karamihan sa kanila ay ganyan,” Ms. Murphy added.

The Kalbaryo has tried to show that God has a “preferential” love of the poor and also that the sufferings of Jesus Christ in his passion and death are repeated in the sufferings of the urban poor. Also, that Jesus’ resurrection is repeated in an initial way in the actions of the poor to organize themselves and seek non violent democratic solutions to their problems, such as forced evictions, hunger, joblessness, substandard housing, over-expensive water and light, poor schools, criminality, corruption and violence.

“Karamihan, halos lahat naman ng mga nasa urban poor areas ay mga Kristiyano lahat iyan. At naniniwala sila sa kapangyarihan ng Panginoon na matulungan sila. Ang kanila ngang mungkahi ay ikino-connect nila ang paghihirap nila sa paghihirap ni Kristo. Na habang sila ay inaapi, habang sila ay hindi naiintindihan, kasama nila si Kristo na naghihirap. Habang walang pagbabago sa mundo, walang pagbabago lalong lalo na sa mga dukha, patuloy na pinahihirapan natin si Kristo,” Ms. Murphy explained.

-30-

Monday, March 23, 2009

Media Advisory - Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalungsod 2009



Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalungsod

In observance of the Lenten season, the urban poor are celebrating their 23rd Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Tagalungsod on Wednesday (April 1, 2009) with the theme “Time for Change”.

Some 3,000 or more urban poor people and others from all over Metro Manila are expected to gather at Liwasang Bonifacio beginning at 10:00 AM.

Around 11:00 AM, the urban poor will march (from Liwasang Bonifacio to Plaza Miranda) with Jesus in triumph on a horse, and the crowds celebrating as they did on his entry into Jerusalem.

There will be a program of song, dance and contemporary drama at 1:00 PM, and a reading of the Charter of the Urban Poor which contains the issues the poor think must be agreed upon with the government and civil society: policies on evictions, for example, land tenure security, basic services for all, decent houses, jobs and food.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila will say Mass at 3:00 PM in Quiapo Church with other priest and bishops. Mayor Alfredo Lim is also expected to attend the Mass.

“Kalbaryo” shows that the sufferings and death of Jesus on his journey to Calvary are repeated in the sufferings of the poor, and his resurrection is repeated in the efforts of the poor to free themselves from poverty.

Photo ops: During the procession, urban poor will carry a cross measuring 30 feet. The Last Supper, Palm Sunday, Via Crucis, Scourging at the Pillar, Crucifixion and the Resurrection will be reenacted by urban poor dancers, singers and actors with street plays.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Speech delivered by Atty Leila de Lima, CHR Chairperson, on the Forum on Right to Adequate Housing (March 10, 2009)

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Speech on the occasion of the Shadow Report on the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Quezon City, Philippines
10 March 2009

delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines


Good morning.

The opportunity for the Commission on Human Rights to appear before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights November of last year is what we hope to look back upon as the seminal moment in our common quest to promote and protect housing rights in the context of the State's international obligations under the UNCESR. There had never been another National Human Rights Commission invited to speak before the Committee. To be the first, I had been told, places the efforts of the Philippine human rights community on the struggle to uphold housing-related rights within the consciousness of the members of the Committee.

To be invited bears two contrasting distinctions. First, our country as one among many with severely impaired housing rights. To be invited lends to the idea that we share in the ignominious reputation of being a country that struggles to deliver to our people the right to adequate housing and security of tenure. Yet, the second distinction reveals that the Committee has recognized and taken up a fascination with the efforts of the CHR and the local human rights community in the field of housing-related rights. Their interest in the progress of the promotion and protection of these rights is a prelude that no other country investigated by the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing ever had – an initial audience with the Committee. It seems that we have gained not only a notoriety for our government’s inadequacies in promoting these rights on one hand, but a reputation as well of having strong civic consciousness in overcoming these inadequacies on the other hand.

OMNIBUS RESOLUTION
During our audience with the Committee, we had had the opportunity to report on the major advances made over the recent months since the start of the Fourth Commission. The CHR November 6, 2008 Omnibus Resolution calling for a moratorium on forced evictions and demolitions was presented to the Committee remains our hopeful first step in the field of adequate housing. The report on the Resolution elicited much praise from some members of the Committee and stood as an assurance that the human rights community of the Philippines has not wilted by the wayside despite the weaknesses of our institutions.

Perhaps to our international partners, the Omnibus Resolution in itself would have been monumental in itself, considering that in the context of developed nations, such an issuance would have the coercive force necessary to secure the right to adequate housing. The strength of government institutions, however, is the normal pre-requisite to the effectiveness of such an issuance. Before all of us present here today, there is no illusion however. The call for a moratorium is only a spectre, until the local governments draft guidelines governing the conduct of forced evictions and demolitions. Such guidelines must be within the parameters set by statute, particularly the Urban Housing and Development Act (UDHA). Without the appropriate, corresponding action from the local governments, we will continue to object to future forced evictions or illegal demolitions, just as we always have.

Yet, continually objecting to forced evictions and demolitions is not the progress we seek. We have been moored to this for several years now. A careful reading of the Omnibus Resolution reveals that the goal is not to secure a blanket moratorium. Preventing demolitions is not the end-goal of protecting and promoting the right to housing. To stop at a moratorium is to settle for the less-than-dignified conditions that many of the poor live in. The moratorium itself is only an intermediate step. What remains significantly more important is to secure the commitment of both local governments and the national government to abide by the pre-requisites to valid evictions – namely, the duty to conduct a census of all beneficiaries of a low-cost housing program, to allocate land for the purpose of relocation, to devise affordable means for the poor to obtain security over the land allotted to them, and to provide the necessary infrastructure to relocation sites making them habitable, among other duties.

The recent efforts of certain local governments to abide by the Omnibus Resolution by way of local ordinances reveals the shortfall of our institutions. To enforce the moratorium without defining a concrete timetable for the local governments to fulfill their subsequent duties on housing defeats the purpose of the law and the Omnibus Resolution. We must now center our efforts on this shortfall. We cannot accept a moratorium that only perpetuates the decrepit conditions of urban poor settlements. It must be a moratorium with the end goal of decent and habitable housing in mind.

INVITATION OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
One of the next logical steps to be taken in relation to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is the invitation of National Government to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. We had seen the effect of the issuance of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary and Summary Killings and Executions. The stinging report of Professor Philip Alston had led to the mobilization of all concerned components of the Government bureaucracy and has made a heavy impact on the threat of Extralegal Killings and Enforced Disappearances. The success, however, of this mobilization is the subject of another lengthy reflection, which I will not discuss here today.

Needless to say, to continue to engage the international community on the issue of adequate housing is one of the surest methods by which we can force government compliance. The monstrous task of relocating millions of urban poor in Metro Manila alone requires more than just a hopeful prayer that the State will come around and make housing and the security of tenure a priority. We must continue to generate enormous pressure on government that is equal to the enormity of the housing challenges we face. One of our strongest allies in human rights protection is the international community.

At the moment, the visit by the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing cannot materialize without the action of the President and the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is where we must now place another set of cross-hairs. All our efforts to generate support from the local governments and Congress will be served by the force-multiplier that the international community can bring to the table. We have the attention of the Committee. Now is the time for the Committee to have the attention of our National Government.

MMIAC
The creation of the MMIAC by executive order is a shocking development. Not that our goals for adequate housing will be undone by the MMIAC, but that it is extraordinarily belated in its creation, as if to imply that since the passage of the UDHA, or even the creation of the PCUP, the idea that a massive, complex coordination of various agencies and stakeholders had only occurred to us only now. We had always known this. The previous inter-agency collaboration had always been at the heels of evictions and demolitions. However, the critical issue of relocation had always been an afterthought to actual demolitions.

There are, as many of you are well-aware of, grave errors in the formulation of the MMIAC, especially with the primary agency responsible for demolitions sitting as the chair. This is to insinuate that the primary function of the MMIAC is eviction and demolition and not housing. That is why in a letter to the Office of the President, dated 22 December 2008, the CHR expressed objection to the choice of MMDA as the Council’s Chair.

It cannot be underscored enough - adequate allocation of housing is the mandatory pre-requisite of eviction. Adequate housing must supersede eviction. Adequate housing must be the end goal of a temporary moratorium on evictions. While moratorium on demolitions without efforts to provide housing is an empty exercise, demolition without provisions for housing is a blatant violation of law.

This echoes the concern of the Committee that more families are evicted than families who are granted relocation. It has become apparent that our capacity to evict has surpassed our capacity to provide housing. What then should be the primary task of the MMIAC? It is to equitably balance the duty to evict with the duty to provide housing.

The restlessness within the MMIAC should not dissuade us from our participation. We need the cooperation of everyone in this complex task of providing adequte housing for everyone.

PROPOSED CHR CHARTER
The concern of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the vague status of enforceability of housing-related rights will be met by the pending draft bill on the CHR Charter. I invite all of you to share in the excitement we, at the CHR, feel with the looming passage of the charter.

Among the crucial provisions embodied by the proposed charter is the expanded power of the CHR to investigate possible violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Now, by itself, this does not add anything to the scope of investigations covered by the CHR, as we already investigate evictions and forced demolitions. But certainly it adds statutory basis for our investigations.

More importantly, however, is the repercussions that it may have on the justiciability of rights embodied in the UNCESCR. In addition to the expanded power of the CHR to investigate violations of these kinds of rights, Congress is currently ironing out provisions that will give more teeth to the CHR through the grant of certain quasi-judicial powers in aid of the Commission’s investigative mandate. Express and well-defined powers, such as issuance of cease and desist orders and mandatory powers will come a long way in affording concrete remedies to ESCR violations as forced evictions or illegal demolitions. If all goes well, and the possible conflicts with existing laws and jurisdictions resolved, then the justiciability of the Covenant will be without question.

The slow progress or development of jurisprudence on these rights has placed a long shadow over efforts on protection and enforceability of housing-related rights. With an express grant to CHR of expanded powers to investigative not only violations of civil and political rights but ESCR violations, with concomitant auxiliary powers to effectively discharge such mandate, the tipping point is nearing, and a drastic change is coming. The significance of this development, I can barely convey in words.

POSTSCRIPT
No one will disagree that the situation of the urban poor has barely moved forward over the years since the implementation of the UDHA. However, while compliance with statute and the Covenant has been intermittent at best, there is good reason to believe that all our efforts, especially the efforts of civil society involved in the upliftment of informal settlers, are paying off. We have set the stage for our success. While it remains a daunting task to compel the government to consistently implement housing policy, the tools available are known to us.

Against the backdrop of the coming 2010 elections, we can further create an impetus for prospective elective officials to seriously undertake the promise of the UDHA and the UNCESCR. By far, the largest voting bloc in urban areas are the very people who have the largest stake in adequate housing. It is up to all of us to ensure that part of the campaign to push housing reforms includes informing the stakeholders, the communities of informal settlers, that moratorium on evictions is not enough. We must educate communities – to teach them about their right not just to the shanty-dwellings they occupy, but their right to decent, hygienic, habitable, structurally-sound homes. We must teach our clientele that there is no long-term protection in voting for officials who promise not to evict, but impliedly never promise to provide decent shelter either. There is no security in having no title. There is no opportunity to access to substantial wealth without collateral. There is no place to raise a family without a home.

Indeed there is so much to be done – by those present here today, the organizations we represent, by the government and the agencies concerned, and most importantly, much can still be done by the informal settlers themselves to further our cause. Let us not waver now because as many of you have suspected, we are making our mark and we are making progress. Foreign partners have noticed. Media has noticed. The public at large is aware. All it takes is our patient resolve.

Thank you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

EVICTIONS and UNCESCR CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS



This document is publicly viewable at: http://docs.google.com/Presentation?id=dhhqg4t6_65dq974tc8

OVERVIEW OF THE PHILIPPINE SITUATION - DEMOGRAPHICS | URBAN POVERTY | HOUSING AND SECURE TENURE



This document is publicly viewable at: http://docs.google.com/Presentation?id=dhhqg4t6_26fz5q9pcs

MEDIA ADVISORY: Forum on Right to Adequate Housing

Attention: News Editor, News Desk, Reporters and Photojournalists

MEDIA ADVISORY

Forum on Right to Adequate Housing

It is our distinct honor to invite you to attend a forum on the Shadow Report on Housing Rights sent to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) and the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the compliance of the Philippine government on the right to adequate housing.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Atty. Leila de Lima will be one of the main speakers. During the morning session, Chairperson de Lima will share her reflections on the Shadow Report process and the UN’s remarks.

Other resource persons are coming from NGOs such as Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN), John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI), Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP) and Urban Poor Associates (UPA).

The speakers will share their thoughts on the Shadow Report; Legal Issues; Overview of the Housing Situation; Housing Finance and the Community Mortgage Program; Evictions; Relocation and Proclamations; and the Concluding Remarks made by the UNCESCR.

The forum will be held tomorrow, March 10 (Tuesday), at the Audio Visual Room of the Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University. It will begin at 9:00 AM and end at 3:30 PM. A modest lunch will be served.

Various government agencies, people’s organizations and civil society groups are invited to attend the forum. We hope to see you there.


Date: March 10, 2008 (Tuesday) / 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM

Venue: Audio Visual Room, Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Amputations and evictions

Commentary : Amputations and evictions

By Denis Murphy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: March 09, 2009

METRO Manila is going to see more and more evictions in the future as two powerful forces collide over land. On one side are urban poor families seeking a place to live. On the other side are groups demanding infrastructure, business centers, luxury housing, beautification, a clean environment, parks, recreation centers and malls. Between 1996 and 2008, some 85,000 families were evicted in Metro Manila. The numbers will increase.

Evictions are like physical amputation; they are traumatic events that tear apart a person’s world. There are no good amputations, and there are no good evictions. The most people can hope for in the case of amputation is good medical care and a helpful prosthetic. The hope in evictions is for the humane and just care promised by the Constitution (Article XIII, Section 28) and a decent relocation. They never make up for the lost limb or home.

As a way of making evictions palatable, the Charter of the Urban Poor asks that before infrastructure is approved for funding it must be studied in a public transparent fashion to make sure it truly serves the common good and not the narrow interests of a few powerful persons, and that the housing rights of the poor are ensured.

Is, for example, the extension of the C-5 from Old Balara to the North Luzon Expressway so intrinsic to the common good that 30,000 families have to be evicted? Are there no alternate ways to speed up traffic? If it is necessary, can the number of families evicted be limited by passing the road through the Capitol Hills Golf Course and not through the densely crowded urban poor areas of the University of the Philippines? Are there plans for quality relocation? Does the government have the P4.5 billion cost of relocating 30,000 families (NHA allots P150,000 for every relocated family)?

If the answer to any of the questions is negative, the infrastructure should be rejected or at least reworked.

The clean-up of Manila Bay and the river systems feeding into it, which was ordered by the Supreme Court recently, is another example. As soon as the decision was made public, some government agencies targeted the 70,000 families living along the banks of the waterways as the culprits and planned their eviction.

A public examination of the project would reveal that the main causes of pollution in the waters are the industries along the banks and the human waste of a million toilets flowing into the rivers and esteros. The major polluters are not the urban poor who cause only a small fraction of pollution, which can be controlled as Amelita Ramos showed in her Clean and Green Program. Those who want to clean up the waterways should begin with human waste treatment plants and disciplinary measures for industry. To do that, very few poor families have to be moved. Relocation of the 70,000 families will cost up to P10.5 billion. If there is no funding for relocation which is a basic human right, there should be no evictions.

The NorthRail-SouthRail project is the champion example for the need to examine proposed infrastructure publicly and intensely before committing funds. The project is now six years old. Billions of pesos have been spent. Some 49,000 families (as of October 2008) were evicted and relocated. In return for all this there is a 125-kilometer gray scar of crushed concrete running from Clark Field to Calamba, Laguna. Maybe, like the Great Wall of China, it is visible from space. In the North not a shovelful of earth has been moved. In the South some old tracks have been replaced with new ones, but there is no sign they are for the modern high speed trains that were once envisioned, which required a 30-meter wide right of way. The government has refused to put new money into the NorthRail (Business World, February 23).

It’s not just errors in implementation. Some planners say the NorthRail should have gone East of Mt. Arayat into Nueva Ecija and the provinces there where a train would have made great sense in carrying farm produce to market and opening up areas for development. On the West side of Arayat the train wasn’t really needed. The West Side is already developed. The choice of going West of Arayat only served to enhance the value of properties of some powerful persons, the planner said.

Finally, is there any need to evict poor people for the Metro Gwapo Program? It doesn’t attract investment: among all the reasons given by investors for the lack of investment in the Philippines, beautification is never mentioned. Far ahead in investor’s concerns are corruption, inadequate infrastructure, high costs of electric power and similar reasons. Investors don’t care if there are poor people living under bridges.

If the urban poor community, the Church and other civil society leaders see the government is doing its best to limit evictions and spend government money wisely for its infrastructure, there will be more willingness to accept some evictions. Otherwise it will be confrontation pure and simple.


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

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