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A policy of safe, sustainable relocation

SO many times in the past, we have seen news photos of mothers and their children crying as they watch their squatter homes being demolished. At other times, the photos were of young men and boys fighting with stones and, at times, with their bare hands, demolition teams out to clear a government project site or a private lot.

The new Duterte administration has announced a policy, to which Vice President Leni Robredo gave her full support as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), that should make such confrontations a thing of the past.

At the center of the government housing program is a new policy: No demolition shall take place unless a relocation program has been worked out in advance. And the relocation area must have “safe and sustainable housing” with access to schools and livelihood.

The schools are a must for the children of the community. Wherever the family is moved, there must be a school where the children can continue the school year. As for livelihood, this is the all-important factor, as far as the family is concerned. Too many times in the past, families were transplanted to remote areas in the provinces, so that the income earners had to travel long distances, at great expense. Either that, or the family gradually made its way back to the old neighborhood where they had work, no matter how humble. The houses in the new site must have running water and connections to electric power.

Eviction or demolition is to be discouraged as a practice, in accordance with RA 7278, the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992. It is to be allowed only under certain conditions, such as when an area must be cleared as it is close to danger, such as an estero, seashore, riverbank, railroad tracks, or garbage dump. In case of a government infrastructure project, there must be a court order for the relocation.

With all these conditions, we should no longer have the violent, sometimes bloody, confrontations of the past. The role of local governments is important, as they are to provide the relocation sites. The illegal occupation of government and privately owned lots by homeless people is a big problem in many towns and cities of the country. In time, the problem will be solved but it must be done with all due consideration for the families who are affected.