Zubiri urges NHA, MMDA to expedite inventory of relocation sites for informal settlers

September 21, 2009 10:49 am 

MANILA, Sept. 21 — Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has urged the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to speed up the identification of relocation sites for 544,609 informal settlers in Metro Manila.

Zubiri asked the two agencies to provide immediate resettlement areas for informal settlers that will be displaced by the Pasig River cleanup project. The cleanup project is both a solution to the housing needs of the poor and a climate change mitigation and adaptation measure.

He likewise asked the agencies concerned to coordinate with the local government units affected by the cleanup to ensure that the intended beneficiaries will benefit from the program and not the so-called “professional squatting syndicates.”

Gina Lopez, NHA co-manager and Kapit-Bisig sa Ilog Pasig head, said during the recent hearing conducted by the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement that “the biggest hurdle to cleaning up the Pasig River is the relocation of informal settlers along the waterways.”

Lopez estimated at least a half-kilogram of waste everyday is produced by one person, or 1,387 tons of garbage generated by 1,000 families.

Kapit-Bisig initial targets include the three-kilometer Estero de Paco and the San Juan River. Along Estero de Paco live an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 households which directly discharge garbage and wastewater into the estero and are at risk from diseases because of unsanitary conditions. Meanwhile, San Juan River has immense methane pools. It is considered more toxic to humans and harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide.

Zubiri said that “while the intention of the campaign is good, the agencies concerned could not carry out the relocation plan without the appropriate treatment of informal settlers.”

Based on the data submitted by MDDA, nearly 550,000 households in private and government lands are awaiting government resettlement. Of these, 179,000 households live on government land and 107,997 households are staying in so-called danger areas or waterways.

At present, the informal settlers from the cities of Caloocan, Valenzuela and Muntinlupa are qualifying for the in-city resettlement sites identified by the NHA.

Zubiri stressed that unless the government addressed the issue of mismatch of relocation with employment opportunities, as well as the rising population and increased migration, the rising number of illegal and informal settlers in the country will not be resolved. (PNA) scs/jfm/pr

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