Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Urban poor picket NHA to demand condonation of interests and penalties

Press Release
March 24, 2009
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino

Some 200 residents of Bagong Silang, Caloocan City and Sapang Palay in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan trooped this morning to the main office of the National Housing Authority to press for condonation of onerous interests and penalties on their housing loans. While the protesters were picketing the NHA premises, their leaders held a dialogue with housing officials.

“A condonation of penalties and interests on low-cost and socialized housing loans together with a moratorium on demolitions and evictions must be declared. The least that the government could do in a time of crisis is to refrain from destroying the houses and livelihood of the poor,” declared Jess Panis, spokesperson of the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP).

The rally assembled around 9 a.m. at Philcoa then marched round the Quezon Memorial Cirle before ending with a picket at the NHA main office. The bulk of the rallyists came from the AMP, Zone One Tondo Organization and Partido ng Manggagawa in Bagong Silang and Sapang Palay.

“We are the Pinoy version of ‘subprime homeowners’ who must be bailed out similar to Barack Obama’s plan to rescue poor Americans who are burdened with mortgages and threatened with foreclosure. Demolitions can only be permitted when relocation is negotiated with and agreed upon by the affected communities,” insisted Panis.

The groups are also calling for pro-poor implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the recently passed Republic Act 9507 providing for a loan restructuring and condonation program for socialized and low-cost homeowners. They allege that in the absence of an IRR, housing agencies are foreclosing houses of residents who would otherwise have benefited from the law.

The picket-protest at the NHA was the second time in two months that residents from relocation areas raised the demand for condonation of interests and penalties. It is also a prelude to a thousand-strong mobilization on Thursday by community organizations at the Paranaque City Hall. They will demand a stop to a series of demolitions in the city that has affected hundreds of families in depressed communities.

The rallies at NHA today and in Paranaque on Thursday are both build up activities for the ‘Kalbaryo ng Maralita’ in the coming Holy Week. The “Kalbaryo ng Maralita’ is an annual protest to highlight the plight and struggles of the urban poor.

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