Urban poor's #TheLeaderIWant: Consult, listen, deliver
MANILA, Philippines – Urban poor community leaders Milagros Bendeho and Paz Seming have seen anti-poverty projects both fail and succeed in Caloocan City throughout their more than two decades of service.
One of them, Bendeho said, are the housing projects of the National Housing Authority (NHA). The absence of opportunities in relocation areas, she said, puts residents in harsh conditions or gives them no choice but to leave instead of improving their lives. (READ: Hungry homes in resettlement areas)
“Tayo nang tayo ng bahay pero wala naman tao kasi umaalis sila,” she told Rappler. “Paano kasi, iyong mga kailangan nila sa buhay tulad ng trabaho, eskwelahan, at ospital, wala sa lugar na iyon.”
(They always build houses but there are no people because they leave. The places they’re relocated to lack the basic necessities in life such as work, schools, and hospitals.)
They sometimes resort to debts just to make ends meet while household heads stay in Metro Manila to work – only to seldom go back to their families so they can save the money intended for transportation fare. (READ: Families under Quirino bridge strive to survive)
Both Bendeho and Paz believe that communities can get out of the poverty trap if their exact needs are met. The next president, they said, should lend his ears to the poorest communities in the Philippines. (READ: Where is money to fight poverty going?)
Paz and Bendeho, together with the urban poor communities of Caloocan, said a person who will push for the improvement of the lives of poor Filipinos through effective, inclusive, and consultative projects and programs is the leader they want.
The two mothers, who also double as parent-volunteers for a community-based non-governmental organization (NGO), have long been involved in elevating issues and needs of their areas to the government as part of Kilos Maralita, an organization composed of urban poor groups.
When it comes to informal settlers, what they want themselves is to be involved in planning and implementing these housing projects. According to Seming, the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s approach to affordable housing worked.
“Importante maisama sa plano kung ano talaga ang kailangan,” Paz said. “Dapat malapit ang mga bagay na makakatulong para maiahon sa hirap ang buhay ng mga tao.”
(It is important that what’s needed is included in the plan. Things that can help poor people improve their lives should be accessible.)
Under this initiative in 2011, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Social Housing Financial Corporation (SHFC) encouraged a participatory relocation process. A group composed of NGOs and members of communities were tasked to identify sites based on the needs of informal settlers.
Bendeho said they were consulted through a “People’s Proposal” where they highlight what they need to improve their lives.
Almost 546 families in Bendeho and Paz’s community were able to benefit from a condo-type housing project built on a 1.5 hectare land. This new home isn’t far from their former settlement and most importantly, from their livelihood and education.
Aside from shelter, Paz said that former informal settlers went through seminars and trainings on livelihood and attitude development to jumpstart their progress.
“Binabago ang behavior nila para walang basagulero at binibigyan ng oportunidad,” she emphasized. “Kapag nabigyan ka na ng bahay, simula na ito ng pagbabago.”
(Their behavior is changed so there are no trouble-makers and they’re given opportunities. Once you’re given a house, it’s the start of change.)
Fighting for their needs
There are still an estimated 523 families awaiting resettlement from their area. Paz and Bendeho hope they will be given the same opportunities like the first batch.
The uncertainty roots from alleged mishandling. In January 2014, Maralita questioned the SHFC – which Vice President Jejomar Binay chaired while he led the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) – over pending projects stemming from People’s Proposals.
Community leaders of Caloocan and all of Maralita want the project to be implemented properly and to eventually benefit all of the poor in the Philippines. If it cannot be done, the high involvement and participation of poor communities should then be assured in the drawing up of projects intended to benefit them.
“Sinusulong namin ito kasi naaawa naman kami sa mga kapwa naming mahihirap na Pilipino (We fight for this because we pity our fellow poor Filipinos,” Paz said.
Bendeho added, “Hindi naman maayos na sariling bayan natin tapos wala tayong sariling lupa o tirahan. (It’s not right that we don’t have our own land or home in our own country.)” – Rappler.com
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