San Jose del Monte declares moratorium on relocation projects
Dino Balabo (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2013 - 12:00am

MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – The city government of San Jose del Monte (SJDM) in Bulacan has declared a moratorium on socialized housing projects for the relocation of informal settlers.

The moratorium though failed to stop the continuing relocation of squatter families into the city from Metro Manila.

This developed as Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado offered other towns in the province for new resettlement areas, but insisted that such projects must be properly coordinated with the concerned local government units and must follow existing land use plans.

Eduard Ignacio, SJDM City administrator, said Mayor Reynaldo San Pedro relayed the moratorium to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas in a meeting last Monday.

Ignacio said the city has stopped all land reclassifications intended for future socialized housing projects within the city until April next year.

“It depends on the Sangguniang Panglungsod if they will shorten or extend the moratorium period,” Ignacio said. 

He said the moratorium was meant to control the city’s annual population growth rate, which is pegged at about 10 percent.

Based on the 2012 census, the SJDM City had a population of more than 454,000, and this is estimated to now reach at least 700,000.

Ignacio said the relocation of informal settlers into the city has lead to problems in the delivery of social services, as the local governments where they came from do not provide funds for these families.

Based on records, the relocation of informal settlers to SJDM City started in 1959 when families of retired soldiers living on the edges of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig and Makati City were resettled in Sapang Palay after they were displaced by a typhoon.

But the bigger wave of relocation started on Dec. 3, 1963 after then Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas demolished shanties in Intramuros and brought the affected families to Sapang Palay.

According to Fr. Edward Kelly, an Irish missionary in Sapang Palay, at least 20,000 families from Manila’s slum areas were relocated to Sapang Palay between December 1963 and April 1964. Kelly has been living in Sapang Palay since May 1964.

Jaime Veneracion, a Bulakenyo historian, said relocatees in Sapang Palay did not only come from Manila but also from Quezon City, specifically from Batasan Hills, formerly known as Constitution Hills.

Veneracion said the relocated families from Batasan Hills actually came from Intramuros in Manila, as their shanties were torn down to give way to the visit of Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon of Spain.

He said the Batasan Hills squatters were transferred to Sapang Palay to give way to the construction of the current Batasan Pambansa complex.

Alvarado said the provincial government remains supportive of the national government’s plans to relocate informal settlers, especially those living in danger zones like rivers and creeks. 

However, he said this must be properly coordinated with the provincial and municipal governments and must follow existing land use plans.

On the moratorium declared by the SJDM City, he said there are other open spaces in other towns in the province for such socialized housing projects, such as in the municipalities of Pandi, Bustos, San Rafael, and San Ildefonso.

Alvarado lamented that Bulacan also has its own informal settlers, numbering thousands living on easement of rivers and creeks identified as geo-hazard zones.

In SJDM City alone where the National Housing Authority (NHA) has been bringing relocatees, there are at least 6,000 informal settlers living along rivers and creeks. The NHA has allocated 10 percent of its housing projects for local slum dwellers.

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