Urban Poor Statement
Ondoy no sooner began to subside than government once again blamed the poor families- estimated to number about 80,000 families (400,000 men, women and mostly children) — for the unprecedented flooding. The government prohibited these poor families from returning to their homes from evacuation centers. Lastly, housing officials talked publicly about evicting all 80,000 families and relocating them outside the city, far from jobs and basic services.
These government actions are based on the belief that the poor cause the floods by blocking the esteros and rivers. Luckily there were other explanations for the flooding. Architects, geologists and urban planners reminded us that the causes of the floods were much more complex, cabinet and city officials conniving with developers to violate sensible planning rules played a big part. So, too, those who logged and quarried in the mountains around Manila. Climate change played a role. Guilty, too, are those city officials who ignored the instructions of the Urban Development and Housing Act (1992) that each city should set aside land for social housing. If that had been done 17 years ago, there would be fewer families on the rivers and esteros.
The poor are partially to blame, but there is a huge difference between the poor, the officials and developers. The latter violate the law for gain, motivated by greed. The poor live on the waterways because they have to. They are there to survive and would gladly move to a relocation center in the city where they could get back and forth to their jobs. They are not necessarily opposed to relocation but to evictions and relocation that are inhuman and violate the Constitution, the country’s international covenants and laws.
We ask for two things, First, let government establish an independent board of inquiry to look into the basic causes of the flooding. We will then know who are the main violators of the common good. The study can examine also the possibilities of in-city relocation for the poor on the waterways.
Secondly, we ask government not to evict poor people until we have an explanation of what really went wrong.
The urban poor will resist evictions and relocation that violate the law and further impoverish the poor. If government will not make such an inquiry, the urban poor will do so to the best of their ability.
Do not make the poor the scapegoat for the greed of the wealthy and powerful. We see poor people walking the streets looking for rice for their families. Don’t add to their suffering. The urban poor extend their compassion to all who suffered in Ondoy, especially to the families of those who died trying to help others.
May God take care of all of us.
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