It is very evident that the current approach of the government to relocating informal settlers has failed miserably because it is done without an understanding of the various social aspects of the problem sought to be solved. The settlers claim that where they are is where they have their livelihood, the schools where their children go, etc.
So, by and large, they sell or abandon their new homes, and then go back to where they came from. Thus, all the millions of pesos government spends for relocation and the development of resettlement areas are forever lost. Let me propose a new six-point approach to solve this persistent problem.
1. Use public lands, or expropriate large idle lands nearest the squatter areas, for relocation sites. The cost of the lands might be much more than the cost of the lands in far-flung areas to which informal settlers are usually “banished,” but combined with the other suggestions below, this one should be effective.
2. “Distribute” the cost of each relocation area by constructing multi-story buildings that will have several housing units on every floor, each unit having a decent living space of about 40 square meters and linked to working water, electricity and sewage disposal facilities and systems.
3. Before the settler is allowed to move in, the housing unit should be finished, painted and made attractive, enough to make the new homeowner proud of his new home. This will also psychologically help in encouraging him to keep his home clean and sanitary.
4. The relocation area should have wide roads for security and safety purposes and enough space for fire trucks, dump trucks and other public utility vehicles to maneuver.
5. A park-cum-playground should always be a part of any meaningful housing project. “Idle hands” should be encouraged to get involved in community, athletic and other social events and activities.
6. Do not force the relocation. There will be no need for this if the settlers find the place attractive. Another way of persuading the informal settlers to relocate is to have the contractors hire some of their menfolk for the construction work. They will just be proud to be part of the solution—“providing” a decent home for their families and earning in the process.
While this comprehensive approach may be more expensive, consider the millions, even billions, of pesos that the failed conventional “solutions” implemented in the past and those being implemented now have wasted.
—EDMUNDO E. LEDESMA
84 Ferdinand St.
Vista Verde Executive Village
Cainta, Rizal 1900