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Friday, October 23, 2009

Forced evacuations making urban poor settlers twice victims

October 14, 2009
Reference : Dr. Julie Caguiat
SOS Spokesperson

“The so-called ‘preemptive evacuations’ forcibly ordering urban poor residents to leave their shanties and makeshift homes in along riverbanks and hillsides in order to keep them from harm's way is a double-edged policy," said Dr. Julie Caguiat, SOS spokesperson.

"The ongoing forced evacuations are legally and morally problematic. This type of disaster management is in reality an order of eviction hiding under a guise of concern and rescue operations. It reeks of insincerity, lack of foresight, and genuine concern for the poor.” Caguiat added.

The government's immediate offer of ambiguous relocation arrangements, if indeed any are offered, involve merely “dumping” calamity victims without sustainable support and basic utilities. This only forces them to go back and risk their lives in their dangerous homes where at least they can have some sort of sustenance.

Earlier, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) admitted that after identifying at least 5,000 squatter families as initial beneficiaries of its Comprehensive Shelter Program (CSP) for informal settlers in Metro Manila, there is no immediate relocation ready for them.
"To be relocated in areas away from their means of livelihood, and transported to areas that oftentimes lack basic infrastructure, like water, sanitation needed to sustain community life, is a calamity in itself." Caguiat said. “Worse, under these relocation programs, the poor are still forced to pay amortization despite their lack of economic means in these new assigned homes.” In most cases, the token financial support given is so measly that it can barely tide them over in their “new relocation."

The group also criticized how evictions and demolitions have been increasingly inhumane, oppressive and violent. They cite the case of Tullahan ang Pechayan in North Fairview, where informal settlers were forcefully evicted and are now under close watch and prevented from rebuilding their homes by Barangay Tanods.

Last October 9, Maria Myrna Porcare, was shot by gunmen at Pechayan, Quezon City. Mrs. Porcare had been an urban poor leader of the Samahang Magkakapitbahay ng Pechayan and an active community leader against looming plans of demolition. Her 18-year-old son, Jemyr Porcare, was also shot and killed while trying to protect his fallen mother.

This tragic incident was hardly noticed, but an incident like this can set a precedent in the light of massive demolitions. We should not allow this incident to be buried under the relief efforts and by the disasters that struck. Sadly, this also reveals the grossly inhumane and exploitative nature of this recent policy of "preemptive evacuations".

In reality, "poor governance and lack of political have placed these people in their current living situation, a hard choice for those who are poor but a choice they had to make in order to survive," says Caguiat. “That they can be removed without regard for their long-term survival is telling of this government's view of social justice.”###

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