Road widening shoos Tondo informal settlers

MANILA, Philippines – Informal settler communities from 5 barangays along Road 10 in Tondo, Manila have been demolished to give way to the government’s road widening project.

When the road widening is completed, there will be 6 lanes each in the northbound and southbound directions.

According to lawyer Rocelle Melliza, legal officer of the Department of Public Works and Highways-National Capitol Region, “The road-widening project will improve traffic flow in and out of the Manila North Harbor, speed up the delivery of goods and services, and ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila by providing motorists with an alternate route.”

Road 10 is connected to C4, and may be used as an alternate route to the North Luzon Expressway, particularly by trucks and cargo handlers.

However about 300 informal settler families will be rendered homeless by the “massive demolition.” This is according to Leona “Nanay Leleng” Zarzuela, chairman emeritus of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)-National, and a long-time resident of the area.

On the other hand, Melliza said, “Since 2011, we have had dialogue with the communities, surveyed the households, and came up with a master list of relocatees.”

But Nanette Felices, president of the residents’ association in Bgy 123 and also a member of Kadamay, said, “The National Housing Authority conducted their census during weekdays, when most of the adults are not in their homes, and are out making a living.”

There are many cases of undocumented settlers, or what Felices refers to as “un-census.” But there are also many cases of returning relocatees.

“Those who have been relocated before will not be given new homes,” said Melliza. “Priority will be given to those in the master list.”

Felices explained, “The residents of Road 10 who were relocated returned here because they do not have any means of livelihood in the resettlement areas.”

Most of the informal settlers in Tondo are stevedores, porters, pedicab or jeepney drivers, and vendors.

The demolition started Tuesday, April 22. The DPWH has until April 30 to clear the area. But Melliza said they may be done within the week.

However, Nanay Leleng claimed the road widening was being rushed in time for the US President Barrack Obama’s visit on April 28.