by Chito A. Chavez
The government has reconsidered its plan to evict nearly 6,000 urban poor families that has taken over vacant housing units in relocation sites in Pandi, Bulacan, since March 8.
The National Housing Authority (NHA) had taken out advertisements to announce that it was against chaos and the illegal occupation of the housing units. But in a meeting with the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the seven-member Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, NHA officials agreed to set aside its eviction notice and instead look for ways to accommodate the 6,000 families.
Yesterday, hundreds of members of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) also went on a “Mercy Mission Caravan to Urban Poor of #OccupyPabahay” in Pandi, Bulacan, after offering ecumenical prayers at the NHA office in Quezon City at 8:30 a.m., followed by the delivery of an open letter to the NHA signifying their support and encouragement to President Duterte to award long-vacant houses to homeless urban poor families.
PCPR organizers said the caravan will deliver food and provisions to the urban poor families in the relocation sites.
Kadamay welcome the NHA decision to reconsider the eviction plan but reiterated its commitment to fight for government assistance in mass housing for the poor.
“This initial victory has come from the bravery and strength of the urban poor Filipinos who have been holding their ground for nearly a month. Collective action amid the worsening crisis of poverty and housing is more just than ever. The poor are powerful and our demands will not be denied. Eviction is one thing, we will continue to push for free and mass housing for all urban poor Filipinos as a matter of right,” said Kadamay national chairperson Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano.
With regard to the housing sites for uniformed military and police personnel which the Kadamay people had taken over, the NHA will look into the reasons for the low occupancy rates.
It will hold consultations with the uniformed personnel to find out why many families did not relocate to the homes built for them.
“Kung hindi dahil sa pag-occupy ng mga maralita, hindi mabubuksan ang usapin ng matinding krisis sa pabahay. Hindi rin mapipilitan ang gobyerno na harapin ang sarili niyang mga kakulangan,” said Arellano.
The group called for free mass housing as opposed to the current socialized housing program of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA.)
“The socialized housing program is a failure. Placing the occupants under the same system will only produce the same mistakes that led to thousands of idle homes and greater hardship for the poor. We must not repeat the cycle that has made many people suffer. Neo-liberal policies serving capitalist interests like the UDHA must be scrapped to make way for genuinely pro-poor policies,” Arellano added.