We join the Urban Poor Associates and other housing rights groups in reminding the authorities to be mindful of their constitutional duty to respect the rights of the urban poor as the Supreme Court ruling on the cleanup of Manila Bay and its tributaries is carried out.
The need to restore Manila Bay, we believe, should not put law enforcers and informal settlers at loggerheads as the rehabilitation of the iconic water body is, without doubt, for the common good of the people and the environment. A humane, just and violence-free implementation of the SC order is possible if the rule of law will prevail.
To prevent inhuman eviction and defuse potentially volatile incidents, we urge the authorities to fully adhere with the mandatory requirements of RA 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act, which, among others, requires no less than 30-day notice prior to eviction or demolition.
We further urge local government units, in coordination with the National Housing Authority, to “provide relocation or resettlement sites with basic services and facilities and access to employment and livelihood opportunities sufficient to meet the basic needs of the affected families,” as also required by RA 7279.
The government, we hope, will take all necessary steps to ensure no forced eviction of waterways dwellers without assured relocation in non-danger areas with employment and livelihood possibilities and access to all essential public services.
As much as possible, the government should prioritize in-city relocation of affected dwellers in public lands to minimize disruption of work, education and vital social networks. Let public lands be made available to shelter and serve the poor who play indispensable roles in the society, including as recycling workers and entrepreneurs and as partners in the preservation of Manila Bay and adjacent rivers and waterways.
We urge everyone, particularly those in the government, to also consider the cleanup of Manila Bay as an occasion to express our solidarity with the urban poor in their struggle for inclusion, dignity and respect and to affirm our support for their right to live in a clean, healthy and caring environment.