Home They Call Their Own

RESIDENTS in Valenzuela City especially those who live in danger zones and specifically those who became homeless after the havoc wreaked by typhoon Ondoy in September 2009 have reasons to rejoice and be more grateful these days as if they’ve won a big lottery jackpot altogether.

This is because Mayor Win Gatchalian’s administration, which teams up with the city chief executive’s younger brother, Rep. Rex Gatchalian (District 1) and other civic groups like the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, manages to   transform an area into another community called Disiplina Village in Barangay Ugong where these disaster-hit families can move and live permanently in a place they can truly call their homes.

Initially, the Gatchalian brothers have unveiled at least three clusters, 16-unit buildings at the1.9 hectares resettlement site in the village where some 46 beneficiary families have been awarded with Certificates of Occupancy. They are part of around 900 families that either partially or totally lost their homes during the Ondoy tragedy in 2009 in which the Gatchalians have vowed to provide with shelters.

According to the mayor, the project was the first initiative in the country designed to address the devastating impact of the typhoon not only in the city but to the whole country. “It’s in accordance with the national government’s pledge to find permanent homes for more than half a million informal settlers in the metropolis, particularly those living in danger-prone areas such as riverbanks, esteros, waterways, under the bridges, roadways or sidewalks and aqueducts,” the vice president (for Metro Manila) of the League of Cities of the Philippines says.

With the inauguration of the housing units, the mayor has something to say to the beneficiaries: “No one should call you squatters because you are now legitimate homeowners. You can now leave your worries behind, especially during rainy days when the rain threatens to raise the river’s water level.  You are now safe here in your new homes.

For his part, Rep. Gatchalian has reminded the beneficiaries that the reason why the housing project is pushing through is the beneficiaries themselves.

“We draw from your strength in facing the catastrophes like the typhoon Ondoy to be of better service to you,” according to the Valenzuela lawmaker who is touted to replace his brother come 2013 local polls.

Grateful by the tremendous kind of support they got from the city government, the affected families said they would no longer live along the banks of Tullahan River where most of them live dangerously for more than 50 years.

In QC Too

Not to be outdone, Quezon City Mayor Bistek Bautista signs recently a memorandum of agreement with Pag-Ibig Fund Chairman Darlene Marie Berberabe and Habitat for Humanity managing director Ricardo Jacinto for the city’s massive and socialized housing and resettlement program which will initially benefit some 500 families who live in danger areas.

Bautista says it’s in line with the local government’s plan to develop two new major housing projects this year to address the problem of urban settlements in the city.

To date, the QC government has acquired a 1.58 hectare site in Barangay Payatas for the project that will house 300 to 500 families and at the same time it will invest some P23-million funds for the construction of roads, drainages, streetlights and other infrastructure works in the so-called QC eco-village.

There’s no doubt as to the sheer desire of these local chief executives to extend the much-needed help to the poor residents but they should always be cautioned that their wishes don’t just come true unless they get rid of some bureaucratic red tapes and “not-so” cooperative city officials and employees who make them (mayors) bad in the eyes of the constituents.  Arlie O. Calalo

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