Without enough jobs, most families in NHA’s resettlement sites live miserably.
By Rodelio Faustino
Adelaida Pen has received her last warning from the National Housing Authority in Balagtas, Bulacan. The grace period given for her to pay amortization for her unit at Northville 3 has closed. Her family transferred to this place from Daangbakal in Meycauayan. If she fails to pay, the loan agreement will be cancelled. The NHA will padlock her house.
The family of Laida (Pen’s petname) is one of the 30 to whom the NHA sent letters of warning. Her arrears is now more than P23,000, accumulated since the time they transferred to this relocation site in Bayugo, 2006.
When she went to the NHA office to pay P3,000, the NHA employee did not accept the payment. “Even if you pay P20,000, I will not accept it.” She should pay the total amount, she said.
“We have no place to go,” Laida said,” when Kilusan interviewed her. Laida and husband used to have a sewing shop, making hand gloves in Tugatog, a barangay in Meycauayan, where their house used to stand by the railway. When they transferred, what used to be an electric sewing machine became pedal-operated. The relocation site got electricity connection only after two years. By then, they had sold three sewing machines. One of her two children got sick and eventually died. Now, their source of livelihood is the pedicab that her husband drives for passengers.
“Our life here has become more difficult,” Laida said further. It would be more difficult if we go back to Leyte, we don’t have any piece of land or any property there.”
Northville 3-Meycauayan is one of the NHA’s resettlement sites for the poor along the PNR railroad. This would give way for the North and South Rail Project that started in 2004.
Housing and resettlement program in the past decade and a half
Resettlement is the pillar of the programs of the NHA. This involves relocation or transfer of families from lands covered by infrastructure projects of the government and places that are dangerous for residents to other places that are more stable and safe.
Relocation has two categories: one is in-city or within the same city of origin of the relocatees and the other is off-city where the relocation site is in another town or city, usually 20–30 kms from the relocatees’ origin. Since its establishment in 1975, the NHA has spent the bigger portion of its funds in resettlement programs.
From 2007 until 2011, the NHA had a budget of P29.37 or P5.9 billion per year. In the past decade (2003–2011), the NHA allotted 85% of this amount for resettlement programs.
The relocation of 100,000 families affected by the North-South Rail Project (Pampanga, Bulacan, Metro Manila, Cavite and Laguna was the most extensive relocation in the past decade. For this purpose, the government constructed 34 relocation sites from 2004 to 2008 (Construction and Housing, Philippine Yearbook, 2011). Private developers took charge of the construction under the supervision of the NHA.
A much bigger relocation of ISF’s from danger zones in Metro Manila followed. Severe calamities such as Typhoons Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda impelled this.
For this purpose, President Noynoy Aquino approved in 2011 a P50-billion housing program for 104,219 ISFs. Its implementation was five years with P10 billion yearly allotment. The National Technical Working Group composed of different government agencies administered this program. The NHA and the Socialized Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) were the primary implementers.
Aside from preparing new resettlement sites outside of Metro Manila, the NHA outlined a program for the construction of low rise buildings (3–5-storey LRB’s) in Metro Manila and surrounding areas. The SHFC, on the other hand, implemented a High-Density Housing Program (HDH).
The HDH program depends on the participation of affected families. Beneficiaries select the site of the housing project. They prepare the design of the several-storey residential structure. They also have to take part in the construction. The NHA awards the houses to organizations that act or actually exist as housing cooperatives.
Since the implementation of the HDH in 2003, the SHFC provided P2.745 billion for 22 HDH in the entire NCR until April 2015 (http: //ovp.gov.ph/ index.php /advocacies/ housing).
In other regions, victims of the earthquake in Bohol and of the Zamboanga Siege needed relocation as well. Aside from government funds, foreign aid helped build relocation areas.
The NHA estimated that 86% of the ISF’s targeted for relocation from danger areas in Metro Manila were assured of housing at the end of 2015.
The Housing Sector Accomplishment Report (July 2010–December 2015), which the NHA published, stated that the different housing agencies responded to the needs of 894,569 families in the whole Philippines, spending a combined total of P313.607 billion, almost 1/3 of which came from the NHA.
Resettlements in the Greater Manila Area (GMA)
The NHA established 88 resettlement sites in the whole country—45 in the Greater Manila Area or GMA (Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal) and 43 in different regions from 2003 to 2010.
Most of the projects in the GMA are completed housing projects: 32 that private developers handled, six incremental housing projects and seven mixed projects. The GMA as well has 25 in-city and 20 off-city sites.
Following this, the NHA built 18 new resettlement sites (or additional phases in some cases) in towns within the GMA but outside of the NCR, and 16 LRBs within Metro Manila, 2010–2015. Several projects are slated to be finished in 2016 (Pagunsan, NH A 2015).
Integration with the town or community that hosts the relocation
Relocation has immediate effects on the social conditions both of the families that transferred to the relocation sites and on the population of the localities that host the relocation sites. The hesitance of the host population to the integration of newly arrived relocatees and in opening opportunities makes it difficult for the relocatees to adapt and seek livelihood.
The local population, especially of rural or semi-urban towns, usually complains about the depletion of local resources such as water and the rise in crime rate.
An example is Pandi, a second-class rural municipality, 41 kilometers from Manila. Sixteen relocation sites that started building since the first decade of the present century are in this town. Large-scale sand quarrying serving the continual construction in relocation sites destroyed the Pandi River. Construction in relocation sites was a business that earned profits for local politicians, quarry operators, building contractors.
Water shortage worsened. Pandi depends on groundwater that continued to deplete last year because of: first, unregulated use by a big resort (Amana) owned by a former mayor of the town (who lost in the 2016 election), and second, the sudden increase in the need of the population.
This is the leading issue of the Save Pandi Movement (SPM). The SPM took shape through the social media in 2015 and actually had a practical mass movement in April 2016.
The provincial government of Bulacan, and, even earlier, the local government unit (LGU) of San Jose del Monte City, proposed to stop the building of resettlement sites. They likewise proposed to give to families from the local population the vacant units, which are usually damaged and with parts lost to thievery.
The LGU of Calauan, Laguna had the same stand. They do not want additional families in the resettlement site. Disorder and rising crime rate are their reasons (Moya,rappler.com).
Life in the resettlement sites
Although many relocation sites are flood-free, a few experience flooding. In Northville 3, floods get higher than a regular person’s height during rainy season. This situation shows a violation of BP 220 and of Section 5 (Technical Guidelines and Standards for Subdivisions) of its implementing rules and regulations (IRR). This pertains to the technical guidelines for subdivisions and government housing. This provides that “The site shall not be subject to flooding nor situated in steep slopes. Sites potentially hazardous or dangerous to the health and safety of users especially children, should be avoided, e.g., along rivers, near dumping site, etc.”
Flood in Northville 3, Bayugo, Meycauayan City, residents’ usual problem during the rainy season (xoomclips.com).
The 15-hectare Northville 3 used to be fishponds. These were reclaimed using mud and soil. It does not have a strong foundation. Houses on this land now have cracks. Floods take place at no particular season. When the Meycauayan River is at high tide and water can hardly pass through the culverts of Northville 3, flooding takes place every day.
Water service is not enough. The Meycauayan Water District, though, collects exorbitant fees for the water it distributes.
Besides, the row houses do not have provision for expansion. The units are small as BP 220 has set the minimum floor area at 22 sqm for socialized housing. After only a few months, kitchens, dish cabinets and wash areas were already out in the shared alleys. This situation is no different from the crowded shanties in the communities of origin.
A study on the people’s situation in relocation sites (2016) revealed that of the 42 resettlement sites in Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna, some of which were established in the 1990s and have 135,000 resident-families, only seven still have potable water, 35 do not have water or have water shortage or if they have enough water, it is not clean.
In these 42 relocation sites 16 new resettlement sites do not have yet proper supply of electricity after more than two years.
Only 12 have complete health centers (one is private), and 30 are of varying levels of health service (two have health centers without doctors and medicines, five have health services from time to time, four receive extension health services of the barangay, 10 are still constructing their health centers and five do not have any health center or health service available.
More than one-half (24) have schools (15 have high school and elementary and 9 have elementary only), eight do not have any structure for education, and 10 are constructing school buildings (NAPC survey 2016).
Far from, shortage of, sources of livelihoods
Livelihood or the lack of it is the biggest problem. In Southville 7, Calauan, Laguna (2009), an off-city relocation site, relocated families registered a 43% decrease in their incomes. Projects both of government and of NGOs were not able to solve this (Ballesteros and Egana). Unemployment was at 20% and underemployment was at 27%.
In another report in 2013, in Southville 7, 900 out of the 2,250 houses in this relocation site that people referred to as “Juan’s Town” were abandoned and wrecked because circumstances forced the occupants to return to Manila to look for a living.
In Northville 3, an investigation on the livelihood of 105 families that are members of the Kilusan ng Maralita sa Meycauayan (KMM) showed that 23.25% are unemployed and 40.935 are underemployed (Kilusan survey 2016).
This is not quite different from the result of the World Bank-funded Social Impact Monitoring (SIM) of the situation of victims of Ondoy and Pepeng. The SIM studied the socio-economic situation of families that relocated. Then it compared the findings in two resettlement sites: one, the in-city in Eusebio BLISS, Maybunga, Pasig, and second, the off-city in Southville, Langkiwa Site 3, Biñan, Laguna (Ballesteros).
The monthly incomes of families in off-city resettlement dropped by P3,466. They had less to spend for food, water and electricity. They had less access to basic services; it took 18–20 months before getting water connection. The proportion, however, of the employed to the unemployed remained. The number of earning women increased (Ballesteros and Egana).
In many cases, the earning family members return to the city. To save on expenses, they go home once a week only. This was how former fishers of San Dionisio, Sto. Niño and Tambo in Parañaque coped. The government relocated them from the coast of Manila Bay to Golden Horizon, a resettlement site in Hugo Perez, Trece Martires City in Cavite. They went back to fishing and practically made their boats their living or sleeping quarters.
The number of children going to school also decreased even though some schools were within or near the relocation sites. While the design of resettlement sites included health facilities and elementary and high school, some of these were not used for lack of personnel or teachers until these rotted or got ruined (Apostol 2006, as cited by Ballesteros and Egana).
The absence of potable water is a usual problem in most residential sites, hence residents like this child in an NHA relocation site in Montalban, Rizal have to make do with groundwater pumps (www.quezoncityslums blogspot com)
Worse, poverty drove some women into prostitution in exchange for food, such as the report on Southville, Calauan. Teen pregnancy and early marriage increased. The resettlement site registered cases of 11-year-old girls giving birth. Most of them left the resettlement site, went back to the city and looked for a living (Moya, rappler.com).
Along with this comes the rise in crimes. With the coming together of different groups, bigger gangs form. Some of these are into illegal drug pushing. Some gangs engage in the control of illegal electricity and water connections as power and water services from the government and private companies are severely lacking.
These conditions show that the communities are not at all stable and safe for the families that the government relocated. Instead, many of the families in resettlements ended up dislocated not only from their means of living and but also from their relocation.
Low collection of amortization
Relocatees fail to regularly pay their amortization because of lack of livelihood. While this is the common reason, the rate of amortization payment is very low, 17% in in-city and 4% in off-city, according to NHA collection data. Based on this, collection is only 39% in in-city and 8% in off-city of the NHA’s target to be collected.
Another study stated that amortization collected in resettlement areas is only 30%–35%. Many of these relocation sites were selected because of their low price and suited to the targeted families’ ability to pay. The additional expenses for transportation to and from work and the alternative livelihoods of the population to be transferred are just secondary considerations (Nisus 2014).
A big number of relocatees have received cancellation-of-contract warnings and padlocking from the NHA. A big number have sold their rights. Many have likewise borrowed money from loan sharks and have lost their houses because of their debts.
A member of a barangay council, who wanted to remain anonymous, estimated that in Northville 3, the present residents of 30% of the 2,994 units are no longer the original awardees. This has become the norm in relocation sites even when the law prohibits beneficiaries from selling their units. A leader of a people’s organization in Golden Horizon Relocation site in Trece Martires City estimated that original beneficiaries have sold or leased 25% of the total 7,560 units.
It is the right of the people to live in a humane, progressive and safe community. It is their right to have a sturdy house and adequate social services—school, hospital, transportation facilities, adequate water and electricity, parks and playgrounds other recreational facilities, adequate sanitation including an efficient garbage collection or disposal and so forth—so that they can be productive, healthy and safe. Most of all, they have a right to accessible sources of stable livelihood.
This is the basis of the social right of the poor to low-cost or subsidized housing. Philippine housing laws provide for some of these requirements. Since the government limits its responsibilities, however, and relinquish a big part of its responsibilities to private banks and other businesses, public funding for housing and other community services is very little.
Some countries, whether rich or poor, allot 0.7% to 1% of their gross domestic product (GDP) for housing and community amenities (imf.org, Eurostat, 2016).
Croatia allots the biggest with 2.2%. Housing and community amenities cover a continuing housing, community development, source of water supply, street lighting and research towards improvement of these services (Eurostat, 2016).
The Philippines’ GDP in 2015 was P13,307.3 billion, and if 1% was allotted for housing and community amenities, the amount could have been P133 billion, a far cry from the P10.987 billion that the DBM allotted in 2015 (Manila Times, February 16, 2015), which was much smaller than the P17.161 billion (Budget Allocation for Socialized Housing Projects and Programs, Technical Notes on the 2015 Proposed National Budget).
The Philippines’ allotment for its housing programs was not even 1% of the national budget. Construction of houses was limited to an average of 104,000 units per year or merely 3% of the assessed housing shortage in 2001–2010 (Nisus, 2014). The government did not have a net addition to the number of houses. It merely replaced or transferred the houses occupied by families that relocated. The other needs of communities are integral to the budget.
These said subsidies that the NHA’s resettlement program provides—water and electricity connection, a developed relocation site (lots at subsidized prices and low-priced), and cash subsidy to cover expenses for transferring—are basic services and are a responsibility of the government. Families in resettlement areas have a right to these as they are also taxpayers, regardless of whether they pay directly or not to the government.
Only the universal interest rate of 6% could be considered as direct subsidy. But then, even with lower bank rates this still means that banks and financial institutions that lend or involve in the resettlement program still gained substantial profit from what is supposed to be a social investment.
The Philippines has a big housing shortage. This is true not only in informal communities but also in regular ones. In the Bonifacio compound, Paso de Blas, Valenzuela (2013), six out of 10 families or 61% are renting or are living with relatives. This situation could be observed in almost all urban poor communities in the Philippines (Kilusan survey, 2013).
The shortage has become salient as well in resettlement areas. Ten years after relocation, one in every five families in Northville 3, are renting or are living with relatives. (Kilusan survey, June 2016).
The government bases its National Shelter Program on these shortages. Lately, pushed by the World Bank, the Cities Alliance led a national conference of all agencies involved in solving the informal settlements in the Philippines. This conference outlined, June 2014, the National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy for the Philippines 2025 (NISUS 2025).
The NISUS aims to free one million families from informal settler status. This will respond to the need for housing, services and livelihoods of 100,000 families per year in a period of 10 years starting 2015.
NISUS 2025 is the strategy in “transforming ISF’s into formal urban residents of stable, vibrant and connected communities, communities that can cope with climate change and survive natural calamities. These should be communities made vibrant by socioeconomic dynamism, standard quality infrastructures and connected to their sources of livelihood and to the whole urban economy by transportation and communication (Nisus Final Report, 2014).”
But the NISUS did not provide for the broadening of the role of the government. Rather, it provides for the thorough privatization of the housing industry and the housing programs of the government. Aligned are the reduction if not the wiping out of subsidy and the much-increased role of banks and of the private sector in the housing industry. This includes the sale of 51–60% of the SHFC to private banks.
It has been the program of the World Bank for a long time to wipe out informality of communities and businesses in the entire world (that it calls “dead capital”). It wants to connect and make these a part of the formal economy, with little role for the government—with security of tenure or title to their houses, legal water and electricity connections, registered local commerce—to be covered by private businesses and services, banks and institutions (WB, 2007).
People’s organizations in resettlement sites
The law recognizes homeowners’ associations (HOAs) as the representatives of families in relocation sites. The HLURB has laid down that these organizations should register, have their constitution, report about their status and hold elections every two years.
Local politicians have selected or have supported not a few leaders of HOAs in order to make them their conduit for their political interests. They use HOA’s leaders as a part of their machinery for political campaigns. They make them extensions of their political patronage.
This situation reinforces corruption. This makes it difficult for democratic elections, for the families to put into place HOA leaders that truly represent their will, to happen.
Hence different organizations are becoming alternative formations. Women’s organizations are the most active. Most of them have participated, often times in the forefront, of struggles against demolition of their communities of origin.
Quite a number of HOAs are ready to fight for their community’s interests. This is true despite their direct experience of having a local government that unambiguously abandons them.
Serious movements of the poor and a workers’ movement based in these resettlement sites still exist and continue to grow. Having the concentration of the poorest families in the Philippines, these resettlement sites are a fertile ground for organizing workers and semi-workers. Their immediate interests include housing, regular jobs and an upright community.
Struggle for humane living, progressive and safe community
The people need a humane way of living and safe communities. Life security. Adequacy in their needs. A life of dignity. Safety from whatever calamity.
The relocation program did not provide this. While it decongested the cities to give way to government projects and real estate developers, beyond this, it cleared and is still clearing the wide and prime public lands where the ISFs were formerly settled to give way to projects of big private banks and corporations under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme of the government.
Thousands upon thousands of families will continue to experience poverty and dislocation, to the benefit of banks and capitalists in real estate.
A backward social order spawned uneven development of cities and rural areas. It created a big number of impoverished and informal communities.
While Philippine society is dominated by big local and foreign banks within the neocolonial control of imperialist US, national industrialization and agricultural development remain stunted. This prevents the creation of adequate stable jobs for the burgeoning number of jobless and under-employed Filipinos.
The struggles for a humane, progressive and safe communities should not be actions that are specifically for resettlement localities only. This should be a part of a more comprehensive movement of workers and other people. We should fight for people’s welfare and for a free and progressive Philippines. K