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MANILA, Philippines – While the government will not embark on operations to force homeless families to "clear out" the streets of Manila during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader's Summit, they will be encouraged to keep off the streets, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.
The DSWD made the statement on Tuesday, November 10, as it denied the alleged government plan to "hide" some street families of Manila for the duration of the international event that will bring together 21 APEC leaders.
A source told Rappler that some street families have claimed that a "family camp" will be organized by DSWD for its Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program during the APEC summit. A month ahead of the summit, Kabataan party list Representative Terry Ridon also accused the DSWD of again planning to "hide the homeless.”
The DSWD received flak earlier this year when it held its family camp in a Batangas resort to coincide with the papal visit.
The DSWD, however, clarified that there are no scheduled family camps or out-of-town MCCT activities from November 16 to 20.
Encouraged to keep off streets
So where can street families go?
“Ine-encourage pa rin sila na ‘wag manatili sa lansangan, kasi ‘yung area ay risky. Lalo na ‘pag ganyan, mabilis ang flow ng traffic diyan (We still encourage them not to stay in the streets because the area is risky. Especially as during that time, the traffic flow will be very fast), Arnel Bautista of Special Projects Unit of DSWD in the National Capital Region office told Rappler.
He was apparently referring to the convoys of APEC leaders traveling to and from their respective hotels and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), where the APEC meetings will be held.
Bautista advised them to stay with relatives or friends. “That’s their choice. But the DSWD, we offer our institutions or alternative family homes.”
Qualified families are also placed under the MCCT Homeless Street Families program which helps families rent homes.
“We are doing this because we really see the need to get these families off the streets considering the dangers that they are exposed to. We are doing this not only in Manila where the APEC will be held, but also in other LGUs like Quezon City,” Social Weldare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said in a press statement.
“Aside from health reasons and safety reasons, we also want to secure these vulnerable groups from being exploited by unscrupulous individuals,” she added.
As for those who cannot afford rent, Bautista advised them to stay in “safe places” like abandoned or uninhabited buildings. He stressed that there are no designated places where street families are forced to evacuate to during the APEC.
“There’s an ongoing program implementation like provision of education assistance, livelihood assistance,” Bautista explained, adding that such programs happen all year-round across several cities.
The MCCT-HSF is an expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which assists street families with livelihood, shelter, education, and health services.
The program extends house rental assistance of around P4,000/month from 6 months to one year. – Rappler.com