Urban poor coalition holds its 2nd day of community protest action, demands on-site development in Damayang Lagi
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.
At 6 pm of July 24, the series of community actions dubbed as “SONA ng MARALITA, HINDI ng MASALITA! Sa Community, HINDI sa Commonwealth” by the National Urban Poor Coalition (NUPCO) kicked off at Parola Compound in Manila.
A hundred slum dwellers/informal settlers gathered in front of Gate 20 of Parola Compound where they held a candlelighting which according to them symbolized 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 ensued was what they called as noise from empty stomach of the poor.
The residents were 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.
“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 Pambansang Katipunan ng Maralitang Pilipino (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, League of Urban Poor for Action (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 member organizations Pambansang Katipunan ng Maralitang Pilipino (PKMP) and League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA) led the local protest action in the area.
Most common struggles of NUPCO members are on housing/land tenure, demolition, and on clearing operations due to development/infrastructure projects such as flood control, road widening, and beautification program. Provision of social services, especially water, is one of the major local struggles of some members of NUPCO.
NUPCO is an active advocate of the advancement of urban poor rights including the passage of Magna Carta for Urban Poor. The coalition, together with IPD, also pursues initiatives toward the empowerment of women as well as greater involvement of the youth in the communities.
The advocacies/ campaigns of NUPCO members can be categorized into four: 1) land tenure/housing, 2) development aggression, 3) contending laws, and 4) political/other advocacies.
Formed in 2006, NUPCO now has seven member urban poor organizations/formations with majority of membership coming from Metro Manila, while the rest are from other cities/provinces in Luzon, Visayas, and in Mindanao. These are Bangsa, Kalipunan ng Samahang Maralita sa Pilipinas (Kasama Pilipinas), Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML), League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA), Lakas Ugnayan ng Maralita Laban sa Kahirapan (LUMABAN KA), Pambansang Katipunan ng Maralitang Pilipino (PKMP), and Umalab Ka.
There are two levels in the organizational set-up of NUPCO – national and sub-area levels. At the national level, the National Council composed of one representative from each bloc/organization defines or sets the direction of the coalition.
At the local level, there are five sub-areas composed of local leaders of organizations present in the area. The sub-areas – Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (CaMaNaVa), South (focus on Taguig), and East (focus on Marikina) – are determined based on the presence of NUPCO members in these areas. A coordinator is assigned in each sub-area.
Decisions are made through consensus reached either at the national or local level. A consensus to form committees to further enhance the coalition’s capability to implement programs/ blueprints was already reached this year.
NUPCO reaches out to independent urban poor organizations especially those located in areas where the coalition has active engagements for security of land/housing tenure.