MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government is taking the threat of natural disasters seriously by allotting P38 billion for the relocation of informal settlers in Metro Manila, many of whom are living in danger zones.
Speaking on Mornings@ANC, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Chairman Joel Rocamora said the project aims to relocate all informal settlers living in hazard zones in the next 5 years.
"Yung mga nasa estero or beside the Tullahan River, for example. Ang kinatatakutan kasi ng gobyerno, there's 106,000 families living in danger zones. If there's a bigger Ondoy, thousands get killed, that's probably a massive crisis. In advance of such a disaster happening, we're trying to prevent that by moving informal settlers away from the banks of rivers and esteros," he said.
Rocamora said the NAPC has already started choosing which families will be included in the relocation program. He said renowned architect Jun Palafox will handle the construction of medium-rise buildings for the informal settlers.
The NAPC chief said the relocation program started after the chaotic dispersal of informal settlers in Quezon City North Triangle area last year.
He said that after the incident, the President created an inter-agency committee headed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, the NAPC and other government organizations and urban poor groups to discuss the problem of informal settlers.
On-site or in-city first
Rocamora said that under the relocation program, informal settlers could be relocated on-site or in-city before considering possible relocation to places that are far from their former community.
He said in one estero in San Miguel, Manila, informal settlers will just be moved a few meters away from the estero to a medium-rise building that will be built there.
"In Tullahan, we're looking for land -- and probably we'll find one -- so that they will be relocated maybe 50-60 meters away from where they currently live. That's really on-site," he said.
Rocamora said it is actually more expensive to move informal settlers to a far-away location.
"If you relocate them on-site or in-city, schools, health centers already there and there are jobs. For example, North Triangle. some informal settlers have already agreed to go to Gaya-Gaya, Bulacan...For the poor, informal settlers in North Triangle, we're offering them Camarin which is on the border of Caloocan and Quezon City," he said.
The NAPC chief said settlers who have stayed in North Triangle the longest will be prioritized.
Closer relocation sites
He also said that unlike Montalban, Rizal, which is too far, the Camarin relocation is nearer and more developed.
"[Camarin] is 4 kilometers away from the 2 largest malls in the country. Business in the area is quite well-developed. There are jobs there. We want to give informal settlers a good enough life, security of tenure (that) they don't have to worry about being demolished. Nicer homes, services and jobs because we don't want them to move and go back. That's been the practice in many places. Binibigyan ng pera para umalis tapos babalik din," he said.
Rocamora said the NAPC had a deadline to relocate the North Triangle residents by the end of the month but noted that what he hopes to accomplish is organize the informal settlers to sign a contract agreeing to the relocation.
Asked if North Triangle residents will be paid, he said: "There will be payments made especially relocation costs, transport or possibility in Gaya-Gaya or Montalban where people might be given some money to improve the houses. In Camarin, if they'll get really nice set-up already, no payments will be made kasi parang suhol yan."
He said informal settlers who will be relocated to medium-rise buildings will get subsidy so they can rent other places until they can move to the newly-constructed buildings.