The national government’s plan to encourage informal settlers in Metro Manila living near or atop esteros to relocate to resettlement areas by offering P18,000 in so-called rental subsidy has drawn a lot of criticism. Perhaps the worst thing that has been said of the expensive plan is that we do not even know if it will work.

The floods that incapacitated parts of the National Capital Region with the onset of the rainy season have focused public attention on the state of the esteros, the choked waterways that crisscross Metro Manila like clogged arteries. While many factors help explain the perennial flooding, the occupation of the esteros may be the most visible cause.

The government estimates that some 20,000 families are living on or along these clogged esteros. The most important reason to resettle them is fundamental: Thousands of lives are at stake. The conditions in these clusters or informal communities are bad enough on dry days; they become life-threatening when the rains come and the floods form.

“You are looking at families living on top of the waterways and alongside waterways,” President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a briefing last Monday. “And so, come rainy season, come typhoon season, there’s a danger of them being washed away. At other times, however, they will also be exposed to dengue, leptospirosis, and other diseases. So our main concern is to move them away from these danger zones. There’s no way that we can build a structure on the same site. Those are danger zones, they have to be relocated.”

Relocation will also allow the Department of Public Works and Highways to clean the esteros, to remove the manmade structures and detritus that block the natural passage of rainwater, even to dredge the waterways. All this will have a spillover effect, reducing the risk of flooding in other parts of the metropolis.

The DPWH has identified eight priority waterways. A report from the Philippine News Agency listed the government’s estimate of the number of families living in each of the eight, as follows: San Juan City, 4,217 families; Tripa de Gallina, 3,887; Tullahan, 3,683; Manggahan Floodway, 2,997; Maricaban Creek, 1,687; Pasig City, 1,484; Estero Maypajo, 1,415; and Sunog Apog Estero, 170—for a total of 19,540 families of informal settlers.

Thus far, only about 4,000 families have agreed to be relocated.

The news about the P18,000 rental subsidy was greeted by much wailing and gnashing of teeth on social media—at this point in time a public sphere more accessible to the middle and upper classes. One common response on Twitter or Facebook can be summed up simply enough: Why are informal settlers, who occupy land that does not belong to them, being rewarded with a subsidy?

Others have criticized the subsidy as inadequate. The Urban Poor Associates, a nongovernment organization helping many informal settlers, described the subsidy as a “band-aid solution”—the amount is actually for a year’s worth of rental, which means only P1,500 per month. Just enough, the UPA said, to rent a room in an informal settlers’ colony.

To be sure, no one in the government is saying that official assistance will be limited to the subsidy. Resettlement areas are being readied (though not enough to house all 20,000 families); ancillary support from the Department of Social Welfare and Development is in the pipeline (such as counseling services); and so on.

But the reason many previous relocation efforts have failed is that the beneficiaries do not in fact see themselves as benefiting; there may be not enough jobs at the relocation site, or it may be too far from places of work, or there may be a serious lack of facilities or services or both. The families thus find themselves returning to Metro Manila again, where the jobs and the services are.

What is the guarantee that the P18,000 that the government will provide each estero family will keep the family members in their new quarters? The plan calls for the rental subsidy to be distributed on a quarterly basis, supposedly allowing the government to periodically ensure that the families have not returned to the original esteros. Same difference: In between the periodic monitoring, what will prevent the families from returning to where the jobs and the services are?

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Viewsmatters

    lack of political will to implement laws is another factor that exacerbate the mounting problems of the nation. in the first place they’re called “illegal/informal settlers” so they don’t have the right to be there. and giving them Php18,000.00 (Php360M) for 20,000 families is such a big amount to be wasted coz there’ll be no assurance that they will not invade the waterways again. how about the middle or working class who toil hard and pay taxes religiously w/o any excuse. does the government thinks of us? don’t spoil them, they only think of WHAT the government can do to them… feed them, support them, clothe them, educate them & give them houses w/ Php200.00 amortization & still manage to complain. they’re being given favors coz when election comes politicians have someone to turn to… why not legislate a law that ONLY those who pay taxes vote.

  • John Fereira

    Bakit naman 18K, govt authorities should open their eyes, these informal settlers must pay the govt the rental of the land they use, di po libre yan and also the land they are using are PRIME LOCATIONS so minimum ay 150 pesos per sq meters per month, so kung ang isang settler ay nandoon na sa lugar na iyan for 10 years then 10 sg meters ang area magbayad sya sa bayan ng 180,0000 pesos sa kanyan pananatili doon sa area na yan.

    O kaya umalis na sya ng maayus para di na sila singilin.hindi yung bayan pa ang magbayad sa kanila.

  • Marx Louis Wang

    Doesn’t make sense to me. It is like giving aspirin to temporarily ease the pain.

    • Scorpio15

      Bigyan o magsuggest ka ng solusyon Igan kung Walang Sense.

      • Marx Louis Wang

        How long will 18,000 pesos last? kapag naubos na ito what is the possible outcome? Sasamantalahin lang ito ng mga “kaibigan” ng recipients. Di ba may kaibigan ka lang kapag may “benefits” ka. I don’t know of lasting solution. Sorry, pre. Ask the question to a social worker.

    • jcsantos

      There’s no problem with aspirin. It’s just that this one in particular is VERY expensive.

  • Mang Teban

    Are the ‘informal settlers’ who are rich and encoached on public land entitled to the 18,000 pesos also? They permanently shut the drainage system & caused the foods, not from high tide on the Pasig River.

  • Ako_Hiking

    it’s terrible that rainy season is upon the Philippines and only does the Aquino Administration decide to move those informal settlers out. And apparently barely 25% of the people have just agreed. What has the Aquino Administration doing for the last year since the heavy floods from August 2012 hit?

    • Scorpio15

      Bat hindi mo tanungin ang mga Mayor sa lugar ng mga Squatters. Pati pa ba ang Lokal na problema ay ipatong mo pa sa Balikat ng Presidente.
      Kung ganon ang sistema ay di alisin na ang lahat at Presidente nalang ang ma-iwan total kung merong problema o ano mang mga sakuna dala ng kalikasan Presidente pa rin ang sasagot.

      • Ako_Hiking

        It is the President of the Philippines and his Administration that are the ones commenting on the squatter situation and the ones taking charge so they should be the one’s responsible. The Pasig River waterway problem is not just a cities’ issue it is a national issue.

  • Jao Romero

    developing the countryside will solve a lot of problems.

  • closer green

    how lucky they are, privileged to use land they never own, allowed to clog the rivers and waterways and then getting paid after…

  • Joselito Gallardo

    Starting from relocating Intramuros squatters (“informal settlers” now) to Sapang Palay in the 50s and all of the failed relocation re-runs underscore the stark reality that relocated families return “home” because the far-away relocations are far (and costly) from work and school and do not permit pursuit of gainful livelihoods. Manila’s informal settler problem parallels Sao Paulo’s social housing dilemmas. “Cingapura” was a “vertical” approach, with higher-rise buildings on the slum-sites, and the later “Guaraparinga” was another approach to redevelop close to the slum-sites. Guaraparinga is somewhat similar to Payatas because of proximity to water supply reservoirs. The other sinister aspect of the informal settler problem is that local politicians rely on the strong vote-base that informal settlers constitute.

  • maricris balatan

    Palpak ang relocation project dahil tamad ang DILG secretary natin

  • RR Ferreld

    Palitan na si Mar Roxas sa DILG. Tamad sobra

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks