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Relocation is calamitous

/ 08:12 PM February 07, 2013

The Inquirer devoted a full page last Jan. 27 to two initiatives to resettle urban poor families. The two projects, however, fly in the face of painful lessons learned in the past and of the commitments made to the poor by President Aquino. The efforts involved moving poor families from Estero de Paco and Intramuros and resettling them in Trece Martires (50 kilometers away) and Calauan, Laguna (100 km away).

The central lesson from past relocation efforts is that distant relocation to areas where there are no jobs is calamitous for poor families. When there is no work or income, they sell or rent their relocation houses and return in order to survive. President Aquino promised in his “Covenant with the Urban Poor,” signed also by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, that: “The government must provide decent relocation, near-city or in-city, if possible, quality housing, adequate basic services and jobs.”

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There have never been enough jobs in these distant areas despite numberless promises, and what business would travel to these forsaken areas where their labor force would be largely unskilled urban poor people?

It is disappointing to find the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines supporting the removal of families from Intramuros to far-off Trece Martires. That plan also includes the construction of hostels in Manila for the workers who cannot commute back to their families in the resettlement area. This institutionalization of family separation was also criticized by the President: “We will not tolerate a situation where wage earners have to stay in the city to work while the other members of the family stay in distant relocation centers. This separation weakens and often fractures family life. We will not institutionalize such situations by building sites in the city where they will live apart from their families.”

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A 72-year-old pedicab driver is reported to have told an Inquirer reporter, “There is no work over there (Trece Martires) and we’ll just go hungry.”

 —DENIS MURPHY, Urban Poor Associates, 25A Mabuhay St., Barangay Central, QC

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TAGS: letters, relocation, urban poor
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