Youth solon slams govt’s plan to blast homes of urban poor

A LAWMAKER deplored Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Sec. Rogelio Singson’s recent statement that the government is prepared to “blast” homes of informal settlers living near waterways.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino said the Aquino administration as being “insensitive to the plight of the poor.”

“Is this the ‘tuwid na daan’ this administration is boasting about – haphazardly instructing the DPWH to blast homes to clear waterways? It is downright deplorable, insensitive, and anti-poor,” Palatino said.

Earlier, Singson said that President Benigno Aquino III instructed the DPWH to relocate some 195,000 families living on waterways in Metro Manila. “I just received instructions from the President that if push comes to shove, we will have to blast these houses,” Singson said after the presentation of a P325-billion flood control and mitigation masterplan in Malacañang.

“The government should understand that the urban poor’s plight is not a simple issue that could be resolved by blasting homes near waterways. It is such an insensitive remark, as the poor are the real victims in the recent floods. Poverty has driven these families to live in such places; if they had a choice, they would be more than glad to move,” Palatino said.

The youth solon explained that the proliferation of informal settlers is due to the worsening economic crisis, which has resulted to the massive migration of Filipinos from the rural areas to the cities, in the hope of finding decent jobs as workers in the capital.

“However, due to the lack of decent jobs in Metro Manila, poor families are driven to build temporary houses wherever possible just to survive,” Palatino said. “The deplorable state of social services, including housing and resettlement, only aggravates this situation,” he added.

The youth solon said that the government should change its policy on urban resettlement. “As the government continue to drive away families from their homes, there is no proper relocation plan for them, as the recent disasters have shown,” Palatino said, explaining that even the relocation sites provided by the government, most of which are in the province of Rizal, were affected by the heavy dowpour last week.

While Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 allows the eviction or demolition of houses occupying danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks and waterways, the law also states that resettlement areas that take into consideration “the degree of availability of basic services and facilities, their accessibility and proximity to job sites and other economic opportunities” should be identified for displaced citizens.

According to the Department of Interior and Local Government, some 556,000 families is set to be displaced due to various government development projects in Metro Manila, including the construction of new business districts, infrastructures, and expansion of roads. “Half a million families would lose their homes, without assurance of proper relocation. Clearly, the government is not doing enough to resolve this,” Palatino said.

Under Aquino’s administration, there have been five major demolition projects in Metro Manila, according to the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap. More residents may be displaced if the government pushes for other “development projects” that are part of its “public-private partnership” projects in the next years.

To resolve the issue of informal settlers, the government should focus on resolving the problem at its roots, Palatino said. “Address the jobs crisis, the staggering low wages, the shrinking budget for housing and at the forefront, the issue of landlessness in the rural areas that has driven thousands of Filipinos to search for non-existent jobs in Metro Manila,” he explained.

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