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MANILA, Philippines – "Sino ba naman ang pupunta doon kung malaki ang kasalanan mo?" (Would you dare there if indeed you've wronged them?)
The warm welcome that Vice President Jejomar Binay got when he visited Sunday, April 19, the housing site that the city government of Makati developed in Laguna was proof that he did not abandon the relocated Makati residents, one of his spokesmen said.
Speaking on radio dzIQ990, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general JV Bautista was referring to the Vice President's visit to Makati Homeville in Calauan, Laguna, after a critic told senators last week that Binay transferred the Makati residents there to live in shabby conditions.
The Vice President visited the Calauan relocation site on Sunday, 3 days after lawyer Ronato Bondal claimed in a Senate hearing that the housing project was overpriced and that it left the former informal settlers in Makati living in poor conditions.
"If they were just left there to fend for themselves, they would not have greeted the vice president warmly," Bautista said on Monday, April 20.
During Thursday's Senate hearing, Bondal claimed that the relocation project was overpriced by P500 million ($11.26 million). He, however, did not have documents to prove his allegation, and said that a visit to the side would give one a "strong feeling" that the project was overpriced.
Two residents – Edison Rivera and Domingo Arcilla – also testified that they do not have water, power, food, and other basic services. They turned out to be discredited members of the community and were not speaking on behalf of most residents. (READ: Makati Home Ville: Where lies the truth?)
Makati City officials belied Bondal's allegations, too.
On Saturday, social welfare officer-in-charge Ryan Barcelo said the city government continues to provide livelihood program for residents transferred to Calauan. It includes a cash-for-work activities, livelihood skills training, and the creation of a cooperative.
He added: "We categorically deny the allegation that residents of Makati Homeville are living in inhumane conditions…. We have remained true to our commitment that we will not leave them and continue to provide social services until they are able to stand on their own."
Responding to the proposal of Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV to conduct an ocular inspection in Laguna to verify Bondal's claims, Bautista said: "We're looking forward to that. Tingnan natin kung mainit din ang pagtanggap nila doon." (Let's see if they will also get a warm welcome.)
The Calauan site houses families relocated from various waterways and illegal settlements in Makati City.
'Makati going beyond its commitment'
Barcelo also clarified that the city government's original commitment was only to provide free land, with residents responsible for building their own homes in the 40-hectare property.
But the city government decided to step in and construct homes for the residents, Barcelo added.
"The housing component is not supposedly part of the commitment of the city.... But we have gone beyond what [has] been committed by the city prior to the relocation of these families," he said.
He added, "That’s why you can find there 395 housing units already.... The city government will add more until all of those relocated families in Calauan will be provided with housing."
Around 300 families benefit from the livelihood programs and cash-for-work programs, according to Barcelo.
He also said that the city government spends P2.4 million annually for these programs. – Rappler.com