A pro-urban poor group on Saturday called on the government of Quezon City not to relocate some 1,500 families from Kaingin Bukid, West Riverside in Barangay Apolonio Samson, Balinta-wak, who were left homeless by a fire last New Year’s Day.
The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said the city government has started fencing the razed community which lies along a tributary of the San Juan River. The river is among the eight major waterways in the priority list of the Aquino administration for clearing.
“We have received reports that authorities are preventing residents from rebuilding their homes and that the enlistment process for them to transfer to off-city relocation sites in Pandi and Bocaue in Bulacan has already started. In fact, authorities are persuading those who were not fire victims to relocate to Bulacan as well, and are being promised P18,000 in financial assistance,” Gloria Arellano, the group’s national chairperson, said.
Arellano said Quezon City Mayor’s Secretary Tadeo Palma is expected to meet with the local barangay officials on Monday to speed up the relocation process.
“Forcibly relocating residents after a fire that razed their community and preventing them from rebuilding their homes is a very opportunistic act. Sadly, this has been a practice of many LGUs in recent years. And it only leads us to believe that the incident, like any other fire incidents along waterways and in other urban poor communities in Metro Manila, is no different from arson which is the cheapest and fastest means of demolishing urban poor communities,” Arellano said.
Kadamay has noted other fires in urban poor communities along waterways in recent years since the Aquino administration announced in 2011 its plan to clear waterways in Metro Manila with informal settlements.
Big fires leveled urban poor communities along Manggahan Floodway in Barangay Rosario, Pasig City, in Febuary 2012; three barangays along Estero Tripa de Gallina in Pasay City in July 2013; along a tributary of the Pasig River in Barangay Guadalupe Nuevo (Macda), Makati City in October 2013, and along a creek in 3rd Avenue in Barangay 120, Caloocan City, in April 2014.
“Thousands of residents along waterways in Metro Manila have been forcibly relocated by the government after a massive fire that razed their communities, for authorities have failed to convince residents to voluntarily accept the off-city relocation offer year after year,” Arellano said.
Many residents resist resettlement since employment and livelihood opportunities and other basic services are inaccessible in government relocation sites outside Metro Manila.
“The mandatory relocation of urban poor settlers to off-city relocation sites should be stopped immediately, as well as the demolition of homes of the urban poor through fire and other violent means,” she added.
The Aquino administration plans to relocate 60,000 families living in danger areas in Metro Manila before June 2016. Of the 40,000 families living along waterways, only 9,344 have been moved as of 2014, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
More than half of the P50-billion Informal Settler Fund has been released since 2011 through the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) supposedly to fund the relocation of families living along waterways in Metro Manila.