• Malacañang warns squatter coddlers

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    Malacañang on Sunday vowed to charge local officials who tolerate illegal and professional squatters or allow obstructions in waterways.

    The Palace was reacting to reports that some politicians wanted to stop the relocation of squatters during the May elections.

    Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the Department of Justice is readying guidelines to be used in penalizing officials found liable for allowing obstructions in waterways.

    Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that all local officials “face criminal and administrative charges if they allow squatters to build houses along waterways in their jurisdiction.”

    Valte said government will continue relocating informal settlers especially those living in dangerous areas such as flood-prone esteros and creeks.

    “Our Cabinet officials who are concerned have already given certain timetables and certain commitments on when these steps that we’re taking will happen,” she said.

    There are an estimated 100,000 informal settler families in Metro Manila, 60,000 of them living near waterways. Of the 60,000, 20,000 are settled near the government’s eight priority waterways.

    The National Housing Authority had already constructed housing facilities for 19,000 squatter families in the metropolis.

    During elections, squatters provide a rich source of votes for candidates.

    To show the government’s seriousness in its campaign to rid waterways of informal settler families, two more agencies have joined the team tasked to relocate squatters.

    Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino on Sunday said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) have joined the team for the relocation of informal settlers in waterways and danger zones.

    “Limang ahensiya na ang nagtutulong-tulong para marelocate natin ang mga (Five agencies are now working hand in hand to relocate) ISFs sa (in) Metro Manila,” Tolentino said in his weekly radio program.

    The team was originally composed of the MMDA and the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

    Tolentino said the DSWD is in charge of preparing the affected families for the social relocation while the NHA will provide relocation sites for them.

    The NHA is readying 10 housing projects in various stages of development and construction that will generate some 6,000 housing units for illegal settlers in Metro Manila. The 10 projects include the Smokey Mountain Development Project; the Tala 2 Medium Rise Building and Camarin housing projects in Caloocan City; Pleasant Hills in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Gulayan and Tanglaw in Navotas; MMDA Depot in Pasig City; National Government Center housing project in Quezon City; Disiplina Village 2 in Valenzuela; and the Navotas Housing Project.

    The housing units, according to Vice President Jejomar Binay, will be part of the housing relocation program for some 18,000 ISFs living in six priority waterways in Metro Manila identified by NHA that will be cleared this year.

    The Vice President said 55 percent of the ISFs identified by NHA are in Quezon City and Manila.

    “Based on the data gathered by the NHA from local government units in 2011, 31,275 ISFs comprising 30 percent of families are living in danger zones in Quezon City, while 26,029 families or 25 percent are in Manila,” he said.

    WITH A REPORT FROM RITCHIE A. HORARIO

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