Quezon City, Philippines: Urban poor assaulted, defy demolition of their homes

Demolition crews at work

September 23, 2010

Anakbayan to Bistek, NHA: Why don’t you try living in the San Roque relocation sites?

“Before Bistek and (Nat’l Housing Authority head) Chito Cruz portray the residents of San Roque, why don’t they try to live in the ‘relocation sites’ they are boasting about and see if they can stand it”.  This was the message of Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez to Quezon City mayor Herbert ‘Bistek’ Bautista and NHA head Cruz over the ongoing violent demolition of homes in Sitio San Roque, Quezon City near the Trinoma Mall.

Dozens of residents of the said community were injured after being attacked with rocks and crowbars by demolition teams under the NHA, after the residents resisted an order to leave their homes. The agency, hand-in-hand with the Ayala Corporation, is eyeing San Roque as part of a so-called ‘Q.C Central Business District’ which is modeled after the Makati Business District.

According to the urban poor group Kadamay, more than 6000 families will be displaced by the said project, as well as a host of government agencies whose national offices are in the vicinity.  “The relocation site is not even fit for pigs to live in. Even the original residents want to move out” said Bañez. She said that the site does not have any electricity, access to potable water, plumbing, and is prone to flooding as shown during the Ondoy and Pepeng storms last year. It is located in Montalban, Rizal.

“Ang kapal lang talaga ng mukha nila. They portray the San Roque residents as ‘unreasonable’, yet I bet they won’t last two days in the relocation site” said the youth leader.   The Anakbayan spokesperson added “What the people of San Roque want is simple and definitely reasonable: living quarters that are fit for human beings. Unless the NHA can provide it, the people have every right to resist the demolition”.

More Than 6,000 Urban Poor Families Defy Order to Resettle in ‘Mental-ban’

The relocation site is right in the middle of the Marikina fault line. There are no livelihood opportunities available and the houses are made of light materials.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO, 
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — With a loan from the company her husband is working for as a driver, Emelyn Vidas, 31, and her husband were able to build their home in Sitio San Roque, Barangay Bagong Pag-asa in Quezon City. They religiously paid the monthly amortization for more than a year. But just before they were fully paid, the Vidas family, along with other families in the community, received a notice of demolition from the National Housing Authority (NHA).

“I feel bad at the thought that I would have to leave this home,” Vidas told Bulatlat in Filipino, “It is very simple but my husband and I worked hard for it.”

The Quezon City Central Business District (QCBD) is a 256-hectare project that would supposedly put Quezon City, if not the entire country, “at the forefront of global investment and business interest.” Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed on May 4, 2007 Executive Order No. 670 or the Rationalizing and Speeding Up the Development of the East and North Triangles, and the Veterans Memorial Area of Quezon City, as a “well-planned, Integrated and environmentally balanced mixed-use development model” to give way to the creation of the QC-CBD.

Residents along Agham Road call on the government to put a stop to the QC-CBD project. (Photo by Jennifer Chan / bulatlat.com)

The Ayala Land Inc., a big real estate company, has signed an agreement with the NHA to develop 29.1 hectares of the QC-CBD in North Triangle at an estimated cost of P22 billion ($500 million at an exchange rate of $44=P1). The project, however, would displace thousands of urban poor dwellers who include government employees.

The notice of demolition dated July 27, 2010 is by far the most traumatic experience that Vidas could think of. “I could not eat,” she said, adding that she is being tortured by the thought that in three days, they would not have a place to call home. She joined other families who barricaded the community but no demolition team came.

On September 15, the residents of Sitio San Roque received another 15-day notice of demolition. Residents are expecting that the demolition team would arrive either on September 23 or 24 since the notice should only include working days.

“We learned how to fight because our rights are being violated and we are being abused because we are poor,” Agham-Terminal Anakpawis Chapter president Romel Gupo said.

‘Mental-ban’

The NHA offered the residents of Sitio San Roque P1,000 ($23), five kilos of rice, two packs of instant noodles and two canned sardines if they would agree to be relocated to Montalban, Rizal. They are also being offered a 20-square meter house at the relocation site, which is supposedly worth P250,000 ($5681).

Gupo told Bulatlat that the houses are made of light materials. “(The houses) would collapse the moment you hit it.” He added in a sarcastic tone saying that it was definitely “a government project.”

There are about 3,000 of the total 9,000 families who have accepted the government’s offer. But Gupo said there are some who have returned from the relocation site because there are no livelihood opportunities available in Montalban.

“What would you do with a fancy house if you cannot earn a living?” Gupo said, “Are they telling us to eat the wall instead?”

Gupo said transferring to Montalban would create difficulties for children studying in public schools nearby and for those who are employed in offices within Quezon City and in neighboring cities. Most of the residents are minimum wage earners and at times, earn less. They are working either as security guards, construction workers, drivers or salesladies. Gupo said if they transfer and live in Montalban, they would spend P120 ($3) more for their fare.

Worse, Gupo told Bulatlat, the relocation site is right in the middle of the Marikina fault Line. He said the fault line extends from the Sierra Madre mountain range to Bulacan, eastern Metro Manila Rizal and Tagaytay City. The Philippine Institute of Volcano and Seismology, which has been monitoring the movement of the earth along the fault line, said it could generate an earthquake with an intensity of 7.2 magnitude.

“It is not recommended for housing facilities because in five to ten years time, it might open up,” Gupo said. With this, they now dub their relocation area in Montalban as “Mental-ban’ because, he said, it would be mental to resettle there in the first place, and secondly, those who have accepted the government’s offer would lose their sanity with the miserable life that awaits all of them.

‘On-site’ or ‘In-city’ Schemes

Gupo said they are not fighting to own the land but to get what is due and fair to them. He said urban dwellers in Sitio San Roque should get an “on-site” or “in-city” relocation. The on-site relocation they are pushing for is the construction of a semi-high rise building or bliss type housing facility that would be placed within the QCCBD compound. The in-city, on the other hand,would be a relocation area within Quezon City.

The residents have already held a dialogue with the NHA four times since they first received the 30-day notice of demolition on May 2010. They were hoping that the government agency would consider their suggestions. However, Gupo said, NHA officials are insisting that they would have to transfer and resettle in Montalban.

The houses in the relocation area, on the other hand, which are supposedly worth P250,000 ($5,681)each, would not be given for free. On the second year, those who would be relocated would have to pay P200 ($4.54) monthly amortization and P600 ($13.63) from their fifth year onwards.

With the threats of demolition only two or three days as of press time, Gupo said, the residents are ready to defend their homes and their rights.

“I will only put my family in much more danger if we decide to go to Montalban. We would rather stay and fight instead,” Vidas said.


The Quezon City Central Business District (QCBD) is a 256-hectare project that would supposedly put Quezon City, if not the entire country, “at the forefront of global investment and business interest.” (Photo by Jennifer Chan / bulatlat.com)

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