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Urban poor coalition holds its 2nd day of community protest action, demands on-site development in Damayang Lagi

PRESS RELEASE
July 25, 2008

The destitute situation of the urban poor especially here in Metro Manila where millions are hungry, without decent jobs, and still live in slums despite the proclamations by Gloria M. Arroyo since 2001 that the lands where they live would be theirs is the primary reason why the urban poor groups and their communities affiliated with the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) would rather conduct the SONA in their communities rather than hear the President’s SONA in Commonwealth Avenue .

On the second day of the week-long community protest action that kicked off yesterday at the Parola Compound in Manila, NUPCO members and settlers in Damayang Lagi in Quezon City reiterated the call for security of tenure in the lands and houses they have been occupying for decades already.

Some 1,200 families/structure owners in a 21,000 square-meter lot called Damayang Lagi, along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, are currently facing the threats of demolition of and eviction from their homes because of the government’s plan for a mixed use of the land for housing and commercial site.

“If this mixed use plan of the Department of Finance and the Quezon City government pushes through, approximately 4,800 of us who are all living here will be dislocated. Some of these people have been here since 1960’s and 1970’s,” said Noel Cano, leader of NUPCO member organization Umalab Ka that is actively campaigning for humane housing for the poor and on-site development that integrates the poor in the area.

The residents through the people’s organizations and the Barangay council in the said area recently formed Task Force On-Site (TF-ONSITE) as they intensify their opposition to the mixed use plan.

TF-ONSITE asserts the right of the poor to remain in the land where they have raised their families and have built a community. It calls on both the local and national governments to implement instead an on-site development plan that does not exclude the poor living in said land.

“We will challenge the mixed use plan even if we have to reach the judicial courts as there seems an irregularity here in the land classification in Damayang Lagi. From 1970’s until 2001, Damayang Lagi had always been classified as a residential land. How can it be easily classified as a commercial land under zoning ordinance or land use plan of Quezon City in 2001?” said TF-ONSITE chairperson Jess Alco.

Church and human rights groups joined the urban poor dwellers as they shouted “ON SITE DEVELOPMENT, NOT DEMOLITION,” while holding the lit candles at 6:30 in the evening along E.Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City.

NUPCO believes that “the government’s housing program is flawed in a major way. Poor people want and need a place in the city, not at the foothills of resettlement sites like Montalban.” The coalition added that even the proclamations declaring the lands for socialized housing appear to be fake. In Parola alone, despite the two proclamations issued by GMA in 2001 and 2004, the security of land and housing tenure of the residents there remain unrealized. Also in one part in Taguig, GMA’s proclamation in 2004 turned out to be false, that was why the people there were reportedly demolished last month.

The groups asserted that GMA only used these proclamations to pacify residents who are known to distrust and dislike her.

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July 25, 2008 Posted by | Damayang Lagi, PILOT CAMPAIGN AREAS, PRESS RELEASES/STATEMENTS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NUPCO press release: SONA ng MARALITA, HINDI SONA ng MASALITA!

SONA NG MARALITA, HINDI SONA NG MASALITA:
Sa community, HINDI sa Commonwealth!

“The true state of the nation can be seen in the urban poor communities where people live in extreme poverty, without food and decent shelters and where social services cannot be felt” – this was how the coalition of urban poor organizations in the country described the present national situation.

The National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) stressed that the destitute situation of the people in many communities in the country especially in urban centers like Metro Manila is the primary reason why the urban poor groups would rather conduct its SONA in their communities rather than hear the President’s SONA in Commonwealth Avenue.

“In this country, we have no common wealth as almost all goods and services have been privatized leaving the poor with nothing for themselves, not even a humane shelter,” said the urban poor coalition.

The coalition shared the Institute for Popular Democracy’s findings that 2006 data of Urban Asset Reform Program under the Office of the President show that almost 700,000 families remain in the slums and as informal settlers. When GMA took over the presidency in 2001, the slum dwellers especially those in Parola and Baseco, were among the first communities she visited and promised with land for socialized housing. Further, according to the group, in 2004, before the presidential elections, GMA visited these places again and made the same promises, and proclaimed again the lands for the urban poor. “PURO SALITA.”

“However, on July 28, as GMA will report in her SONA how many houses have been built for the poor among other so-called “accomplishments” her administration has, millions of Filipinos are still living under inhumane condition, without decent houses,” said NUPCO. Among them are those promised with land and houses by GMA in 2001 and those who were relocated but who later returned to informal settlements in Metro Manila because “there is nothing there.” NUPCO believes that “the government’s program is flawed in a major way, poor people want and need a place in the city, not at the foothills of Montalban.

“Humane housing, decent jobs, basic services like education, health, water and electricity, and affordable and ample supply of rice are what the Filipinos especially the urban poor need today more than ever. We have been asking for these for so long from the government,” NUPCO reiterated.

NUPCO will hold series of community protest actions beginning today, July 24, until the day of the state of the nation address on July 28 to highlight their demands addressed to GMA.

At 6pm of July 24, the series of community actions will kick off at Parola Compound where a hundred slum dwellers in Parola are expected to gather in front of Gate 20 where they will hold a candlelighting to symbolize the glaring truth of poverty in contrast with what they are expecting to be a SONA full of promises and empty rhetoric of progress. Noise barrage that will ensue is what they called as noise from empty stomach of the poor.

The residents are demanding the immediate implementation and expansion of the coverage of Presidential Proclamations 96 and 571 declaring parcels of land in Parola and Binondo for socialized housing. NUPCO member organizations Pambansang Katipunan ng Maralitang Pilipino (PKMP) and League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA) shall lead the local protest action in this area.

“The forthcoming SONA of the President of Crises Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be as usual, full of promises and empty rhetoric of progress bereft of the realities of poverty hammering the vast populace of the Filipino people including the urban poor,” said Von Mesina, NUPCO National Council member and Secretary General of PKMP.

“What we need is food on the table and not statistical progress as what GMA and her cohorts are providing this nation and the poor, NO FOOD, NO PROGRESS!” Mesina added.

Meanwhile, LUPA National Chairman Jess del Prado articulated that “the prices of food particularly rice and transportation had risen to a level we, the urban poor, cannot humanely confront, and with this kind of government it will continue to rise. The effect of globalization, which in reality is foreign and elite domination and exploitation of our country, is now effectively eroding the very foundation of any nation, the empowerment of the basic unit of our society, our families!”

“Look at us. We have nothing. No jobs, no formal education, no assured food on the table, no healthcare, NOTHING! What is left is our dignity. The dignity to force GMA to implement Proclamation 96 issued in 2001 and 571 issued in 2004 declaring parts of Parola Compound as land for socialized housing which she herself proclaimed and to fight for expanding the coverage of the proclamation and arrest the decades-long problem of security of land tenure of the people of Parola Compound and Isla Puting Bato. The dignity to fight for our right to life hindered by lack of sustainable jobs compound the high cost of rice and transportation. We only have the dignity to fight for our rights to HUMANE HOUSING AND DIGNIFIED LIVING!” said Joel Sacaguing, a local leader of PKMP.

Until now, despite the two proclamations issued by GMA, there is no realization of Parola residents’ wish and claim to rights to own the land they are occupying and security of land tenure. The groups asserted that GMA only used these proclamations to pacify residents who are known to distrust and dislike her.

NUPCO is a coalition of urban poor organizations nationwide. Its advocacy is to fight for HUMANE HOUSING AND DIGNIFIED LIVING FOR THE POOR.

PRESS RELEASE
July 24, 2008

July 24, 2008 Posted by | PRESS RELEASES/STATEMENTS | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urban poor groups to hold SONA in their communities

State of the Nation Address (SONA) NG MARALITANG LUNGSOD

NUPCO shall hold a press conference on July 24, 2008 to announce the series of actions its member organizations will be conducting in their communities in Metro Manila until the day when Gloria Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address on July 28.

According to the coalition, the true state of the nation can be seen in their communities where poor people live in extreme poverty, without decent shelters and where social/public services are almost not felt.

The 2005 Asian Development Bank’s figures show that in Manila alone, there are 3.4 million people living in slums. When Gloria M. Arroyo (GMA) took over the presidency in 2001, the slum dwellers especially those in Parola and Baseco, were among the first communities she visited and promised them land and houses. In 2004, before the presidential elections, she visited these places again and made the same promises, and even proclaimed the lands for them.

However, on July 28, as GMA will report in her SONA how many houses have been built for the poor among other so-called “accomplishments” her administration has, millions of Filipinos are still living under inhumane condition including absence of decent housing. In fact, the 2006 data of Urban Asset Reform Program under the Office of the President show that almost 700,000 families remain as informal settlers. Among them are those promised with land by GMA in 2001 and those who were relocated but returned to informal settlements in Metro Manila because of absence of services and economic opportunities in the relocation sites.

This year, from the urban poor sector, NUPCO leaders will give their own “state of the nation address” that will reflect the true plight of the poor. NUPCO will hold series of community protest actions (candlelighting, noise barrage, and programme) beginning July 24 (Thursday) until the day of the state of the nation address on July 28 to highlight their demands addressed to GMA:

MAKATAONG PANINIRAHAN AT PAMUMUHAY, AT DISENTENG TRABAHO SA MARALITA!

July 24, 2008 (Thursday), 6 – 7pm: Gate 20 (near Manila International Container Terminal) Parola, Manila
About 200 slum dwellers/informal settlers are expected to assemble in the area where they will hold a candlelighting and noise barrage for 30 minutes as they will reiterate their call for the implementation and expansion of the coverage of Presidential Proclamations 96 and 571 declaring parcels of land in Parola and Binondo for socialized housing.
Contact person: Von Mesina, NUPCO National Council Member

July 25, 2008 (Friday), 6-7pm – along E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue
About 100 – 200 residents of Damayang Lagi who are among those threatened with eviction due to the high end mixed use development plan for the area will link arms along E. Rodriguez Sr. Church/religious people and human rights activists will join them in the call for ON-SITE DEVELOPMENT, NOT DEMOLITION in the area.
Contact persons: Noel Cano, Umalab Ka and TF-ON SITE leader
Rene Cleopas, NUPCO QC sub-area coordinator

July 26, 2008 (Saturday), 6pm: Zapote corner Camarin, Brgy. 178, Caloocan City
About 100 residents are expected to participate in the candlelighting and noise barrage protest activity to demand security of land/housing tenure for the residents in the area.
Contact person: Nestor, NUPCO National Council Member

July 27, 2008 (Sunday), 6pm: City Square or MC Mall, Tonsuya, Malabon
About 200 residents of Tonsuya, Malabon will assemble in front of City Square/MC Mall where they will hold a candlelighting and noise barrage to raise their call for expropriations proceedings to ensure land for them in Tonsuya.
Contact person: Buboy delos Reyes, NUPCO National Council Member

July 28, 2008 (Monday), 6pm: URBAN POOR’S REACTION TO GMA’S SONA

July 23, 2008 Posted by | ACTIVITIES/ACTIONS | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Initial Brief on Damayang Lagi

Some 1,200 families/structure owners and approximately 4,800 individuals in Damayang Lagi, along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City are currently threatened with dislocation from their homes if the government’s mixed use plan for the area will be implemented. Some of the residents there had built their homes on that land in 1960’s and 1970’s.

In the name of development, profit maximization, additional revenues for the city, and for aesthetic reason, the Quezon City government under Mayor Sonny Belmonte plans to transform the 21,000 square meter-Damayang Lagi into a commercial and residential site. A mixture of permanent and semi-permanent structures of urban poor or informal settlers are currently erected in that site.

Commercial building will be constructed in the area along E. Rodriguez Avenue while the medium rise buildings (MRBs) for residential units will be built behind the commercial buildings or in the inner areas.

Damayang Lagi as a prime commercial and residential site

Damayang Lagi land is owned by the Department of Finance (DoF) through its Privatization and Management Office (PMO). It used to be the Magdalena Estate that was used as loan collateral (?) to the Development Bank of the Philippines in the 70’s. But it was foreclosed by the bank in 1977. There were several attempts to redeem the land, but all these failed. The DoF’s valuation of the land when this was bid out in December 1997 was PhP 23,000/sq.m.

The area was declared by the DoF as Area for Priority Development (APD) consistent with Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree 2060 which identified Damayang Lagi as one of the priority areas for development in Quezon City. In fact, it was the 10th priority area then during the time of Marcos. The land was later classified under the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) during the Aquino administration, which targets various lands for disposal to generate additional revenue for the government.

There may be some irregularities/questions with regard to the land classification of Damayang Lagi which may affect the QC government’s plan for the area. From 1970’s until 2001, Damayang Lagi had been classified as a residential land. However, in 2001, under Mayor Belmonte, it was classified as a commercial land under zoning ordinance or land use plan of Quezon City.

The community and the Barangay Council oppose the commercial land classification of Damayang Lagi. In effect, the whole community of Damayang Lagi is vehemently opposed to the commercial classification of their land by the Quezon City government.

However, the communtiy believes that their will was overpowered by the influential Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association (CREBA). In pursuing its opposition to the reclassification of Damayang Lagi from residential to commercial, the Barangay Council of Damayang Lagi passed a resolution in 2005 seeking the classification of the land to be reverted to its original classification as residential land. Councilor Intong sponsored this resolution at the City Council, but the Committee where the resolution was referred to has still not acted on the resolution.

Intensifying Community Protest

After three years, the affected community revived its opposition to the impending demolition of their houses due to the zoning ordinance of Quezon City which reclassified their land as commercial. In fact, several groups have emerged to pursue the protest against the plan to implment the mixed use of the land as commercial and residential sites. These groups are asserting their right to be there, where they grew up and have families of their own, and most especially their right to a dignified life which include a decent housing for them.

These groups include the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) members in the area – Umalab Ka, Pagkakaisa ng mga Naninirahan sa Tabing Ilog (PANATA), Damayang Lagi Muslim Community, Nagbubuklod sa Damayang Lagi (NAGBUBUKLOD), and Nagkakaisang Samahan sa Damayang Lagi (NASADALA).

Task Force ON-SITE (Development)

In April 2008, a new alliance called Task Force On-Site (TF ON-SITE) was formed to pursue the on-site development position. Its members include PANATA, DL Muslim Community, NAGBUBUKLOD, NASADALA, and the Barangay Council. The Barangay Development Council and the Chair of the Committee on Urban Poor of the Barangay Council who is also the president of PANATA act as co-coordinators. NUPCO sub-area coordinator Noel Cano of Umalab Ka is the adviser of PANATA and NASADALA.

TF ON-SITE opposes the mixed use plan of the city government. The group anticipates that the plan will result in costly, thus unaffordable housing for its members. Also under said plan, their houses, in which many have already invested a lot, will be demolished.

The alliance in stead demands an on-site, “as is, where is” development in Damayang Lagi. Moreover, TF ON-SITE members have expressed willingness to pay for the land just to have a security of tenure in the area. The medium rise buildings (MRB) option is not being entertained by the residents because this is believed to be used to ease them out because of the payment cost that many of them may not be able to afford. Besides, these residents assert that they have long been structure owners in the area, thus they have the right to stay there.

RECENT UPDATES
Meanwhile, Home Insurance Guarantee Corporation (HIGC) proposes to have an off-site relocation for the affected community in order to pursue the mixed use of land project in Damayang Lagi. The PMO (owner of the land) and the Quezon City government (as developer) have ongoing talks for the so-called development of Damayang Lagi. The Asian Development Bank supports this plan through its Metro Manila Urban Settlement Project (?). The city government had conducted a census on November 2007, in coordination with some people’s organizations (?) in the area, to determine the actual number of occupants and to have an economic survey there as well. PMO and ADB are expected to finalize the plan and present it to Mayor Belmonte in June this year. Belmonte targets to complete the project before his term of office ends in 2010.

July 8, 2008 Posted by | Damayang Lagi, ISSUE BRIEFS, PILOT CAMPAIGN AREAS | , , , , , , | Leave a comment