August 14, 2012
Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today hit the order attributed to President Benigno Aquino III to “blast” homes along waterways if their occupants refuse to relocate, calling it grossly arrogant and reckless, and blatantly anti-poor.
“Either Aquino is just trigger-happy, plainly ignorant or simply unmindful of the reasons why hundreds of thousands of urban poor families are forced to live in danger zones such as waterways. No parent in his or her right mind will put the lives of his or her children at a great risk by choosing to live along esteros, creeks and other flood-prone areas. They are there because they have no other option. Because of poverty and decades of government neglect, they don’t have access to safe, decent housing,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.
Bayan also pointed out that huge business and residential structures are also to blame for clogged waterways that exacerbate flooding in Metro Manila. “We doubt if Aquino will blast as well the malls, the buildings and big houses to implement his flood control and mitigation masterplan. He’s picking on only the small and weak,” Reyes said.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson said Monday that the President has ordered him to relocate 125,000 families living along waterways in Metro Manila and an additional 70,000 around Laguna de Bay. Aquino reportedly instructed Singson “that if push comes to shove, we will have to blast these houses.”
Bayan noted that government has not even laid out a sustainable mass housing plan and continues to lag in meeting the massive national housing backlog. According to the group, the Aquino administration’s 2013 proposed national budget has allocations for just 20,000 informal settler families living in danger areas in Metro Manila, worth ₱10 billion.
It said that Aquino could not assure the relocation of the 195,000 families he wants removed from waterways and Laguna de Bay as the national housing backlog next year is pegged at a huge 3.55 million units, of which almost 1.08 million are in Metro Manila, while the target of the Aquino administration is to construct just 1.38 million units.
The group added that many relocatees have also left the relocation sites due to lack of livelihood and essential services like water and electricity, among others.
Further, the regular Resettlement Housing Program of the National Housing Authority (NHA) even suffered a ₱0.6 million cut under Aquino’s latest budget proposal. What increased notably, said Bayan, is the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), which will double from the current ₱500 million to ₱1 billion next year. But urban poor families could hardly afford the amortization under CMP schemes, and most of them eventually lose their homes due to lack of sustainable livelihood.
“Families forced to live in danger areas should be moved to safer communities suitable for decent living and it’s certainly the job of government to implement it. But statements like that of Aquino’s, which is not even backed by a comprehensive plan, is totally reckless, arrogant and anti-poor,” said Reyes. (End)