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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Resettlement

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Resettlement

Four years ago this month, the House committee on housing and urban development approved a bill providing for on-site, in-city or near-city housing for informal settlers.

This year as October drew to a close, the same committee, with different members, approved a similar bill for a relocation program to be implemented by local government units. House Bill 4869 noted that the normal practice of off-site relocation for slum dwellers has failed to address the housing problem for the poor or reduce squatting and urban migration.

The reasons are well known: the same factors that drive urban migration persist in the typical off-site relocation area. The biggest factors are the lack of jobs and livelihood opportunities, and the weakness of many basic services. In certain areas, armed conflict and other security problems, such as extortion by the communist New People’s Army and harassment by government forces drive people to look for a better life in the cities.

If these same problems bedevil a relocation site, it won’t take long before the beneficiaries of the resettlement program leave the houses awarded to them and return to the urban slums.

Some local governments in Metro Manila and other urban centers are in fact developing in-city vertical housing for informal settlers. The housing programs are complemented by livelihood projects not only to sustain the beneficiary families but also to allow them to pay the minimal amortizations. The subsidized payment is meant to give the beneficiaries a personal financial stake in the housing units.

Given alternatives, no one wants to live off alms and sleep with their young children and even infants in shanties, under bridges or in city streets. Those who did not support the House bill in 2016, however, were worried that it could encourage more squatting and urban migration. While providing decent housing with livelihood opportunities to informal settlers is a good idea, the better answer to urban migration is to step up countryside development.

Any in-city or near-city housing must be accompanied by job opportunities. Those who cannot be accommodated, however, must be presented with options outside the urban centers.

Making agriculture an attractive livelihood option even for marginal players can reverse urban migration. Meaningful livelihood opportunities and jobs as well as the provision of adequate basic services such as education and health care outside the cities can encourage the urban poor to leave the urban centers and accept resettlement. Tourism provides decent jobs and livelihood sources even in rural communities. If the government wants to stop urban migration, it should present viable alternatives.

INFORMAL SETTLERS

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