“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.
July 24, 2008