Parañaque urban poor residents face demolitions amid pandemic

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Parañaque urban poor residents face demolitions amid pandemic
Photo shows the demolition of the homes of urban poor residents in Masigla, Brgy. San Dionisio in Parañaque.
Screengrab / Urban Poor Associates on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Some 100 urban poor residents from Iwahig, Our Lady of Peace, and Masigla, Brgy. San Dionisio in Parañaque faced demolition and eviction on Saturday amid the coronavirus-induced general community quarantine. 

In a statement, nonprofit Urban Poor Associates said that this was to give way to the Department of Public Works and Highways C-5 Southlink Expressway Project.

According to Abraham Lopez, secretary-general of urban poor group Kampila, the residents were threatened with water cannons by the Philippine National Police if they stayed at the roadside after the notice period. 

"They have been there for five months...but they were given a five-day notice to leave their huts to give way to the clearing operation of the Parañaque local government unit," Lopez said in a letter addressed to National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr and acquired by Philstar.com

The residents in their letter appealed to the local government unit for relocation, citing an earlier demolition also by the DPWH in October 2020. 

What does the law say?

Department of the Interior and Local Government Memorandum Circular No. 2020-068 directs local governments to postpone demolition and eviction activities under the state of national emergency.

They are, instead, directed to "provide interim shelter facilities for affected communities who will be demolished within the locality and finally provide appropriate financial assistance, relief, and other basic services."

The Urban Development and Housing Act also stipulates that eviction or demolition activities should only be carried out during regular hours on weekdays and must have adequate relocation.

However, this has not stopped the demolitions of urban poor communities over the coronavirus pandemic. 

In July 2020, 25 families living along the Philippine National Railways Southrail in Cabuyao, Laguna were evicted and their homes demolished to give way to the rail line's construction. 

"There is no time for the families to think about COVID. What they only have in mind is where they can shelter their children after another round of demolition," Lopez said. 

"The clearing operation yesterday was a complete disregard that pandemic exists and that poor people’s rights and health have no value even during this state of calamity."

Relocation urged

In the statement, Alice Murphy, executive director of Urban Poor Associates, pointed out that the NHA had some 3,800 available housing units on hand. 

"The government agencies involved in the demolition committed a continuing offense by turning a blind eye to the provisions required by the law," she said. 

"We do believe that providing housing to the 100 victims of the demolition is the right thing to do, especially since there are thousands of idle housing units in the relocation areas."

Karapatan ang Tahanan, a coalition of non-government organizations, urged the national government to "implement its projects without violating the rights of the people to decent housing."

"The people are helpless because they don’t have any place to go to, children’s studies are disrupted, and elderly people are exposed to the risk of COVID. The eviction does not help curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19 but worsens the people's exposure to the virus," Lopez also said. 


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