• Local officials delay steps to relocate squatters

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    The Aquino government on Wednesday admitted that it approved the requests of some local officials not to relocate informal settlers before May polls.

    In a press conference in Malacañang, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said that the process was delayed because of these requests. But, he refused to identify which local officials made the request, saying it was just based on “anecdotes.”

    The government is now bent on moving them whether it is election day or not, Singson reiterated.

    ”We have wanted to do this but there were many who requested not to do it before the elections and now they want to delay it again because of the barangay elections but we will no longer allow that. We will have to do something immediately,” he said.

    The national government will take the lead, Singson added.

    For instance, he cited that almost 20,000 informal settler families would have to be moved to resettlement sites. These informal settler is part of the 60,130 total of informal settler families in 273 waterways in Metro Manila.

    ”May timetable na to implement dahil funding already there [We have a timetable to implement because there is already funding],” he said.

    ”Funding is not an issue. We just need time to implement all these major projects we are undertaking,” he added.

    The government is committed to clear eight major waterways in Metro Manila within this year, he said.

    ”These have to be cleared immediately,” Singson said, referring to the eight priority waterways including San Juan River, Pasig River, Tullahan River, Maricaban Creek, Manggahan Floodway, Estero Tripa de Gallina, Estero de Maypajo and Estero de Sunog Apog.

    ”We will work on the first 20,000 families, in fact, we have started,” he said. “However, it is not easy to move them to resettlement sites. Some want in city, off city, out of city, many options that they want. It’s not homogenous.”

    ”There are ongoing programs and we have to follow and give notices to these communities. That responsibility is being undertaken by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Department of Social Welfare and Development [and the]National Housing Authority [NHA],” Singson added.

    The Interior department and the NHA are heading the effort, according to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.

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