The chief of the Quezon City Task Force Waterways (QCTFW) has set July 30 as the deadline for the city’s estimated 3,000 squatter families living near the waterways to voluntarily leave the danger zone or be evicted.
Secretary to the mayor Tadeo Palma who heads the QCTFW issued the warning after his conversation with Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas 2nd who ordered the city government to focus on the relocation of informal settler families (ISF) near the living near waterways.
With the pronouncement, affected families dared the city government to enforce and apply similar relocation orders not only to the urban poor but also to private entities whose structures had invaded waterways.
Dodong Garcia whose family might be forced to remove their shanty in Barangay Botocan in the city’s fourth district sees no problem with the move but at the same time questioned if equal treatment will fairly be given to the poor and “rich squatters.”
Citing the location of a barangay multi-purpose hall, Garcia questioned how the officials of Barangay Quirino 3-A were able to build the structure within the required three-meter easement of Lagarian Creek.
“Nakapagtataka napakalapit sa creek inches lang ang layo tapos dun nakatayo ang barangay hall tapos sa kabilang dako ginagawa naman ang isang multi-purpose hall. Dapat parehas ang tingin sa mayaman, opisyal ng pamahalaan at mahirap [It makes me wonder how come a barangay hall was constructed only inches away from a creek and on the other side the multi-purpose hall is being built. There should be fairness and equality among the rich, government officials and the urban poor],’’ Garcia said.
Palma maintained that even private and professional squatters cannot escape the relocation and demolition ax stressing that the city government focuses on clearing the city’s waterways.
He said the city government had demolished a private structure that occupied portions of a public lot and waterway inside Philam Subdivision belying claims that the main targets of the demolition and relocation are only the poor.
Ramon Asprer head of the city’s Housing Community Development and Resettlement Department said first to be cleared would be the San Juan River, with 2,800 settlers, and the Tullahan River, with 1,620 families.
Quezon City with 13,181 informal settler families along waterways and danger zones has the most number of squatters in Metro Manila.
Palma said once these families are relocated the burden of ensuring that they do not return to their old dwelling places rests on the shoulders of the concerned barangay chairmen.
Besides those living near the waterways, the city government in coordination with the National Housing Authority (NHA) also trained its sights on the removal of squatter families in Sitio San Roque, Barangay Pag-asa along Agham Road.
Accompanied by armed security men, NHA personnel have scoured the vast area and conducted survey activities.
Marietta Mojico a storeowner said that the NHA have regularly conducted inspections and census of residents in Sitio San Roque possibly to determine the remaining number of squatter families left in the property or to convince them to accept cash in exchange for the voluntary demolition of their shanties.
She narrated that some of her relatives eventually returned from their relocation sites in Barangay Kasiglahan, Rodriguez in Rizal to their former dwellings in Sitio San Roque as they complained of lack livelihood and source of income in their new community.