By TC Concepcion, contributor
Manila, Philippines- Makabayan senatorial candidate Satur Ocampo on Friday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prioritize the provision of decent homes to the victims of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng, describing his proposal as practical yet very urgent.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ocampo, also the Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives brought the issue up in response to reports that President Arroyo has given the go-signal for much delayed urban development project supposedly meant to relocate thousands of squatters and rearrange Metro Manila areas on a permanent scope. Part of the planned Metro Manila development project is the relocation of thousands of informal settlers living near rivers and creeks.
The militant lawmaker was referring to the 1977 Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Project, which Malacanang will use as a blue print for the extreme makeover of the National Capital Region that will entail the demolition of not less than 400,000 informal settlers in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and in Marikina Valley.
At the Legislative and Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting in Malacanang yesterday, administration Senator Edgardo Angara brought the idea fof changing the topography anf geography of parts of Metro Manila in the wake of Ondoy’s devastation.
In the study funded by the World Bank used by Malacanang, it was stated that development will be applied in three major areas: in the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area to the north of Manila.
“Thousands lost their homes along with almost everything else they owned. In the meantime, thousands more fear returning to the areas where they used to live out of dread that the next big floods can be worse. Already, experts see an increase in the number of slum dwellers disparagingly called squatters”, noted Ocampo.
According to the Bayan Muna solon asserted that poor people deserve safe, secure dwellings, and it is the government’s task to provide these. “We hope that Malacanang’s plans to rehabilitate Metro Manila will not be a cold-blooded and mechanical campaign to simply clear away the poor and drive them off to far-flung areas to build slum communities”, Ocamppo noted.
Random surveys reveal that majority of the victims come from menial and low-paying jobs — many are from the informal sector. The calamities have driven them to even deeper levels of penury. Urban poverty is certain to worsen.
Ocampo said that Malacanang should send a concrete blue-print for the urban development project to Congress. He also said that residents of Metro Manila especially the areas affected by the typhoon should be consulted on the changes.
“The government must not be allowed to add more injury to those already sustained by the victims. A genuine urban renewal and rehabilitation program prioritizes the welfare of residents — ensuring that they have houses and not hovels. Beautification is not merely planting trees, it’s building safe communities with easy access to water, sanitation and electricity services,” he said.
The Bayan Muna solon said that the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) should immediately find means to quantify the possible increase in slum dwellers and provide the government a ball-park figure on the extent of the work it must undertake. #