29 October 2009
Carrying salvaged house wares to symbolize what remain of their lives after the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng, labor and urban poor groups led by labor partylist group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP) trooped to the historic Mendiola bridge this morning demanding massive funding for decent housing and to protest the government’s planned forced relocation of poor settlers living in danger zones.
PM chair Renato Magtubo, said without allocating enough funds for building decent houses and safe habitat for the poor, talks about rehabilitation and reconstruction are mere dead words and housing problems cannot be substantially addressed.
The groups are asking the government to declare a moratorium on debt payments to free the funds intended to it for massive rehabilitation and reconstruction program. Citing the latest debt statistics from the Freedom from Debt Coalition, foreign debt service for 2010 amounts to P253.459-B and domestic debt service to about P492.716-B. Government puts the rehabilitation and reconstruction costs to only about P50-B.
Resisting what he described as ‘anti-poor’ prejudice being peddled by the government against the poor, Magtubo turned the table against the failed housing programs of the past and present governments, saying this was the main cause why millions of poor Filipinos are forced to subsist in houses made of light materials and stay in places prone to natural disasters such as floods and man-made disasters such as fires.
Magtubo said further that workers both in the formal and informal sectors whose incomes could not even meet even half of the current cost of living surely do not have the options to live in a less dangerous way, more so for the unemployed.
“Thus, the poor have long been ‘in danger’ living in this kind of miserable conditions,” stressed Magtubo.
Hence, instead of blaming the poor for waiting their deaths in unsafe and inhabitable places, “the government should help them rise with dignity by addressing the housing problem and not by pulling them down further with anti-poor prejudice and threats of government-sponsored forced relocations,” added Magtubo.
The labor leader explained that any relocation plans and new housing program should now be premised on the right to housing of all Filipinos and environmental concerns. “This means that housing units should be built of strong materials but affordable, and placed in areas that are not only safe but also sustainable,” added Magtubo.
The Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino echoed the same position, saying that the usual ‘balik-probinsya’ and the hit and miss, unfunded relocation programs do not solve the problems of the urban poor.
The group cited the case of informal settlers from Manila who were relocated in Marilao and Sta. Maria Bulacan, as well as in Rizal suffering the same miserable conditions as well as devastations from natural calamities such as Ondoy and Pepeng.
Meanwhile, in opposition to the general view that it is the millions of poor who pollute and destroy nature, both PM and AMP point to the bigger roles played by industry owners, mining companies, and land developers in exploiting natural resources and destroying our natural habitat.