PHILIPPINES: Relocation site almost wiped out by typhoon

Monday 29 September 2014

Date: 20 September 2014

Type: News

Source: Bulatlat.org

Keywords: Urban poor, flooding

Thousands of residents affected in flooded relocation sites in Montalban.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO Bulatlat.com

MANILA — “Halos nabura na.” Gina Bola, spokesperson of the Montalban Relocatees Alliance, said that their homes in Kasiglahan Village have “almost disappeared” under the flood brought in by Typhoon Mario. Kasiglahan village is a government relocation area.

In a phone interview with Bulatlat.com, Bola said the flood began to rise from 6 to 9 a.m. in the said government relocation site in Rodriguez, Rizal, affecting nearly 2,000 households.

Residents abandoned their homes and sought refuge in various multipurpose halls in the site.

Rescue teams, composed of soldiers from the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the police, arrived at around noon. By that time, Bola said, the flood was already too deep and that they had a hard time entering the community.

In Block 5 and 6 of Phase 1K1 of the relocation site, she said the flood was as high as the roof. In Block 4, on the other hand, it was waist-deep. Bola estimated that more than 600 families were affected.

In Phase 1K, she said, more than 1,000 families were also affected by the flooding. Another 50 families are currently staying in day care centers.

“Most of them were not able to save their belongings, just their clothes or whatever they could grab,” Bola said.

The relocatees were former residents of urban poor communities whose homes were demolished either to give way to big businesses such as in the Quezon City Central Business District or those who reside in so-called “danger areas.”

“This has become an annual event for relocatees here,” Bola said.

Not the first time

Typhoon Mario is not the first to bring heavy flooding in Kasiglahan Village. Bola compared the flood to that of the monsoon rain in 2012.

“Typhoon Ondoy still brought more rain,” she recalled.

GMA News, back in 2012, reported that Kasiglahan Village was formerly a stream that was reclaimed. Landslides have been reported and that the drainage systems were not properly designed.

During the monsoon rain in 2012, residents of Phase 1K2 abandoned their homes and negotiated with officials of the National Housing Authority to allow them to transfer to newly-built housing units in the area that was not affected by the flooding.

They never returned to the 1K2 units and, as they expected, it was flooded again as Typhoon Mario battered Luzon.

“They promised that they would fix it. But it was just to show the public they were doing something. Obviously it did not work,” Bola said, adding that it was a good thing that residents were firm about not going back to Phase 1K2.

She said there was something unusual about the flooding in the area.

“Rocks and sand came with the water because of the quarrying activities near the relocation site,” Bola said.

Blame the poor?

Urban poor group Kadamay dared the Aquino government — who once said that they are being brought to a safer place in relocation sites — to blame the poor for the predicament they are in now.

Carlito Badion, secretary general of Kadamay, said if there is anything to blame, it is the corrupt practices in the government, which are done in the name of serving the poor.

The Informal Settler Fund (ISF), which amounts to P50 billion ($1.12 million), is meant to fund the housing of families that will be relocated from residences along waterways, deemed by government as “danger zones.” Part of the ISF, worth $248 million, was released in October 2011, under President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional this year.

Since 2011, Kadamay said, they have been questioning the Aquino administration why the ISF is being used to construct off-city relocation sites when the DAP-funded housing project should have been an in-city relocation site.

Such project, the urban poor group added, is also contrary to the findings of a 2011 Technical Working Group Committee of the Department of Interior and Local Government that discouraged off-cite relocation sites for the lack of sustainable livelihoods for residents.

The urban poor group alleges that the government continues to seal contracts with housing firms for “kickbacks.”

Kasiglahan Village, for one, whose contractor is the New San Jose Builders Inc., is owned by Jerry Acuzar, brother-in-law of Aquino’s executive secretary Paquito Ochoa.

Badion said “the Aquino administration has been sabotaging the public fund which could have at least eased the situation of the urban poor. Monsoon flood to the urban poor will remain to be a normal scene in our urban landscape as long as corruption is a normal thing in the political landscape.”###

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