Urban poor Filipinos make history: #OccupyBulacan 6.000 vacant houses
March 8, the International Women's Day, Filipinos women and KADAMAY led a large contingent of those living in relocation sites/resettlement areas in Bulacan, to occupy about 5,280 vacant houses. The government has not responded kindly to the mass action.They have set up food blockades, harassment is non-stop, against urban poor Filipinos. On March 10, the government gave Kadamay and the thousands of urban poor Filipinos an ultimatum to vacate the premises within 7 days or they will evict all with extreme force.
As a response about 20,000 people have so far occupied about 6,000 houses.
The IAI stand up in solidarity and call for support Kadamay and the people for Zero Evictions Bulacan!
Those who occupied are living in dire conditions with hardly any water, electricity and livelihood yet still forced to pay the sky high amortization rates set by the National Housing Authority and the national government. Most of them are renters or sharers in homes that are only about 15 square meters each. More than one family in each home and yet still having to pull together to barely make ends meet.
With this, we call our friends in the international community in publicly supporting this historical occupation. Thousands of homes and lives are at stake.
We call you and your organization to help in creating noise directed at the Philippine government to recognize the occupation. Material support will also help greatly as the food blockades are persistent.
Thousands of urban poor occupy idle homes of Bulacan housing projects on Women’s Day
KADAMAY says action also in response to failed and empty administration promises
Reference: Michael Beltran 09554571061, Carlito Badion, Secretary General - 09283508777
On International Working Women’s Day thousands of women led a massively coordinated occupation of vacant and idle housing units situated in numerous resettlement areas all over Bulacan. The move was led by national urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) to assert the rights of the residents to free and mass housing which the group says the Duterte government has both failed to implement and is on course to do the opposite. Renters, sharers and everyone without a home occupied across six areas: Villa Luis AFP – PNP Housing, Pandi Heights BJMP Housing, Padre Pio, Pandi Residence 3 and Villa Elis of Masuso and San Jose Heights in Muzon, San Jose Del Monte.
Other contingents of KADAMAY directly joined Gabriela at Mendiola for the protest. The women of Bulacan however chose the occasion to rise up and claim the longstanding idle houses that would otherwise be left to collapse without anybody living inside. The said housing units were built around five years ago as part of the socialized housing projects of the National Housing Authority and HUDCC.
According to an NHA report last year, there 52,341 idle houses nationwide meant for PNP and AFP personnel. Only 13% or 8,327 are occupied. This is very much apparent in Bulacan where KADAMAY estimates 15,000 to 20,000 idle units including those meant for relocatees. The NHA has also admitted in the past that high amortization costs, lack of jobs, decent wages and public services are top reasons behind the exodus of people from resettlement areas returning to their former communities.
Kadamay Chairperson Gloria Arellano said that “The Duterte government has failed poor Filipinos. Along with HUDCC chief Evasco they have consistently neglected the plight and calls of the poor for mass housing in pursuit of a profit-oriented neo-liberal roadmap that favors treating housing like a business. Masgugustuhin pa nilang singilin ang taumbayan sa pabahay kahit na lugmok na sa kahirapan. Ngayon, ang mga mahihirap naman ang maniningil. ”
Arellano referred to the five dialogues and consultations KADAMAY and the residents of Bulacan have gone through with shelter agencies and Malacanang itself. Covenants were signed and agreed upon but all ignored by the government. KADAMAY maintains that the poorest people are effectively barred from housing by the amortization scheme and it seems that the government would rather have them homeless.
Housing units cost around 300 to 500 thousand over a period of 30 years. Even if blessed with receiving a minimum wage of P348 (Central Luzon), it is near impossible to complete payments and cater to basic needs of a family.
“Poor Filipinos have a right to housing especially since it is paid for by the Filipinos including the anomalous P50 billion informal settler fund. Police and military personnel don’t even want to live in relocation sites, it is too far and they can afford in-city homes. This can be seen in the overwhelming majority of vacant houses allotted for them. These units should be given freely to those without a home.”
Arellano called on the public to support the Occupy Bulacan movement. “This occupation is historic and should be lauded for showing how women and people in general can reclaim what is rightfully theirs. The NHA should help to award these homes immediately. Would they rather that the vacant homes continue to decay? We urge the public to join and show their support.”
Failure of NHA and national government prompted occupation says KADAMAY
Urban poor demand free distribution of idle houses and a stop to harassment of authorities
Reference: Michael Beltran 09554571061, Carlito Badion, Secretary General - 09283508777
Around 5280 houses have been occupied by urban poor Filipinos in resettlement areas led by KADAMAY. The occupation started on March 8, Women’s day and while the occupation in one area was harassed and locked in by police and security personnel, another area (Pandi Residence 3) was occupied by at least 1,500 people last night at 8:30 PM. KADAMAY lauds the tireless and brave efforts of those who occupied and took matters into their own hands to assert their housing rights.
KADAMAY slammed the National Housing Authority for its blatant anti-poor and neo-liberal message of deeming those who occupied as mere illegal trespasser, likening them to common criminals. The NHA maintained their stance against the occupation in a dialogue with KADAMAY leaders earlier today.
Many have come out in support of #OccupyBulacan by saying the action is just since the houses have been empty for years despite the fact there are thousands without a home living in close proximity.
“We decided to take matters in our own hands. The NHA talks a lot about following processes yet in the past year we held massively attended dialogues five times with even HUDCC representatives present, all to no avail. Even Malacanang turned a blind eye in the two times we sought an audience. It is time we took back our housing rights. The collective power of the people must be recognized. Every day that housing is treated like the government’s money making scheme through neo-liberal policy making, more urban poor Filipinos sink into deeper poverty,” said Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano, KADAMAY Chairperson.
“The government should cater to the rights of the people. The processes, political and economic roadblocks the government has put in place are undemocratic. Our occupation will make us of idle housing, we did the government’s job for them,” added Arellano.
The NHA has also called out KADAMAY and those who occupied by saying that supposed beneficiaries of socialized housing were disenfranchised by the action. This was made apparent in the dialogue with the NHA and local officials earlier today. KADAMAY says that all the houses occupied have been idle for 5 or more years. It is clear with some being in near dilapidated conditions.
“We did not rob anyone of their opportunities for housing. In fact, we invite all poor Filipinos to join the occupation against an oppressive system. Everybody already living in relocation sites are also enjoined in our fight as we call for free and public mass housing. The unrealistic and unjust costs of amortization payments continuous push people out of relocation sites and must end. The massive number of idle housing is a testament to the failures of government in the housing sector,” said Arellano.
“The government should cater to the rights of the people. The processes, political and economic roadblocks the government has put in place are undemocratic. This is further enshrined in the Urban Development and Housing Act which is religiously followed by Bureaucrats for 25 years this month,” added Arellano.
The group is insistent on their occupation and demands the immediate recognition and awarding of idle housing to those who occupied.
“All idle housing occupied and unoccupied must be freely distributed to the people, KADAMAY is willing to work within this process. Free and mass housing for those who occupied and the homeless. Besides this, food, water and basic utilities must also be provided. LGU officials and authorities must cease and desist from erecting food blockades and harassing the members,” said Arellano.