'Squatters' relocation a must for Pasig River clean-up

by MARIA ALTHEA TEVES, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Feb 24 2009 06:31 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2009 04:42 AM

The relocation of informal settlers is key to cleaning up the Pasig River, Gina Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. said Tuesday at the launching of the Kapit Bisig Ilog Pasig, a government-private sector effort to revive the "Nation's River."
Contrary to popular belief, 65% of the waste that flows in the Pasig River comes from households including waste dumped by informal settlers along riverbanks, not from industries or businesses.  

Aside from the waste, the health and safety of the informal settlers are also at risk, Ms. Lopez said, citing an incident last year where a baby of a family illegally living on the banks of the San Juan river fell into the water which flows directly to Pasig .  

Lopez said that with the help of the National Housing Authority, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), Habitat for Humanity and Globe Asiatique, the informal settlers will hopefully be relocated to Calauan, Laguna, where a model community has already been established.  

She said the community can accommodate 10,000 settlers. She is eyeing the relocation of 1,000 by June, but it should start in March.
“Hopefully, we will get money to be able to relocate 4,000 more informal settlers,” she added.

She said the informal settlers should be relocated in sustainable communities, such as in Calauan.

Livelihood, transportation aid

Pasig City Mayor Roberto Eusebio said his government is providing livelihood assistance to 100 settlers in his area so that “relocated individuals who want to earn, could earn a little money.”

Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte said that they have relocated families to Bulacan, Montalban, and Rodriguez.  

“These places are close to the city and people can continue to work in the city,” Belmonte said.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay added that “aside from livelihood, there should be transportation assistance."

"It is really a matter of transportation costs that attracts them back to settle in their former area,” he said.

If local government units (LGUs) work together, “not only will there be a physical change in Pasig River, but also a change in the people’s attitude,” Belmonte said.  

“There is no use beautifying the river if the people think it is impossible,” Ms. Lopez said.

“Working together with the National Government, LGUs, NGOs, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and PRRC, mayors and congressmen is the whole point of Kapit Bisig Ilog Pasig. We are all working together as one," she said.