Friday, April 29, 2011

Squatters... Will we ever see less of them?

On the tail of news about the violent crowd dispersal at the Laperal Compound in Makati City, home of the country's premier business district, I felt compelled to comment through twitter about the connection between the country's direct popular vote and the flourishing of squatter colonies in Metro Manila.

This incident follows a fire disaster which left a number of people in the compound homeless.  The fire that hit Laperal compound was one of several in a series of fire disasters that hit other large squatter colonies in Metro Manila in the past few months.

The Squatting Situation

Squatting in the Philippines is, for the most part, still defined as the illegal occupation of public and private land.  And yet, there are places in Metro Manila where huge squatter colonies exist and at one time or another, thrive.


These squatter colonies are vulnerable to fire disasters, the outbreak of contagious diseases, and flooding or typhoons -- if they are located in low lying areas, riverbanks or seashores. Squatter colonies are also areas with high incidences of crime drugs, prostitution, homicide, rape, robbery and theft.  The residents of these colonies comprise the larger block of beneficiaries of National and Local government programs in urban areas that provide free or subsidized health care, free public education, free or subsidized food, housing assistance, and other free or subsidized benefits.

For the most part, squatters colonies are regarded as a housing problem for which the national government built up and maintained several government agencies devoted to either building houses or financing the construction of houses for the poor, on the top of which is the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council or HUDCC.

Looking at the HUDCC website, one comes across the page "Housing Databases" and on this webpage, one comes across the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan on Shelter.  On page 2 of the PDF document one finds a description of the challenges faced by government in providing housing:
B. Key Challenges
To ensure shelter security for the Filipino family and the provision of access to affordable and decent housing especially for the poor, the housing construction sector will continue to be formidable challenges to the Arroyo Administration. The key challenges for housing include the following: 
1 . Meeting the rapidly growing housing need.
Demand for housing continues to grow as the Philippine population continues to grow rapidly. Government resources are, however, limited and most public programs tend to produce complete shelter packages largely unaffordable to the poor. Annual population growth rate is estimated at 2.36 percent while urbanization rate (i.e., the proportion of urban areas to total land area) is 52 percent. For the period 2005-2010, the housing need is projected to be 3.75 million units broken down as follows: 
In terms of geographical location, more than half of the total housing need (56%) is in Southern Tagalog, Metropolitan Manila, and Central Luzon, 21 percent in the Visayas and the remaining 23 percent in Mindanao (Table 4-4).

Above, in Table 4-3, what draws my attention is the need for 3.75 Million housing units.

The descriptions of the housing needs is heavily couched in euphemisms and it is difficult to decipher whether the numbers presented point to people living in squatter colonies or living in extremely low cost rental units who desire to buy their own home.

Further down the document one comes across a table that describes the country's housing relocation needs and having actually gone to the places referred to here, I can say that these probably represent squatter colonies:

This represents a cost of P19 Billion for 108,358 families or P175,630 for relocation and housing per squatter family.

Perhaps, the squatters cited here are different from squatters in general, in the sense that perhaps these represent squatters who live on government properties (railway easements) and along riverbanks.  This accounts for a lower figure (108,358) when compared with Housing backlog for Replacement/Informal Settlers in Table 4-3 (588,853) -- which I would guess represents the number of squatter families nationwide, assuming that 1 family equals 1 housing unit.

Totalitarian solutions to squatting

For the most part, it seems the government has gone beyond treating the squatting problem as a matter of merely evicting people from an area and relocating them.  There is a multitude of programs aimed at not only providing housing but also capability building (education, livelihood training, health services, etcetera).

However, for all the money spent on low cost housing and capability building services, the squatting situation still persists for a number of reasons -- the chief one being poverty.

For decades now, the idea that relocating and providing housing for squatters without enabling them to rise above the poverty that drove them to become squatters in the first place has produced programs that attempt to provide both housing and poverty alleviation.

None of these programs have completely succeeded in either providing housing for all informal settlers or lifting people out of poverty.  Moreover, whatever gains made are quickly overtaken by population growth.

Now, being in somewhat of a crackpot mood this morning, I'm kinda toying around with a number of ideas:

An Internal Passport System

An internal passport is an identity document used in some countries to control the internal movement and residence of its people.

Squatter colonies actually bloat much faster due to in-migration rather than mere population growth.  While provinces and cities can base their development plans on population growth based on births and deaths, their plans and provisions may be overwhelmed with influxes of people who take up residence in their province or city.

An internal passport, as a means of controlling population movement, would make it easier for national and local government to control where people choose to live through a number of ways:

  • People who want to relocate from one area to another would have to apply for a transfer of residence both from the place where they currently reside and the place where they want to move to.  They will be required to either provide proof that they can support themselves in the new area and pay for all taxes in that area or can be sponsored by a family who can support them and pay for their taxes.

  • People will not be allowed to reside in area or receive benefits in an area where they have not secured a permit to reside or have not paid taxes in the area.

  • People without the necessary residence permits cannot vote in local elections.

A National Labor Pool

Able bodied citizens above 18 years of age, who are not employed or engaged in livelihood that allows them to provide for their basic needs will be encouraged to join the National Labor Pool.

As part of the National Labor Pool, they will be made to work on government projects and in economic zones depending on the skills they have.

They will be provided all their basic needs.

They may or may not receive wages, depending on the skills they possess, the demand for their skills, the government project they are working on or the economic zone they are working in.

Those in the labor pool will be given training and further education that will enable them to qualify for higher level jobs and higher pay.

Worker Centers

Worker centers are areas situated near manufacturing centers where members of the National Labor Pool will live while they have work in manufacturing centers.

Sanctioned and State Supported Pregnancies and Child Rearing

Workers in the National Labor Pool may qualify for Sanctioned and State Supported Pregnancies and Child rearing.

Healthy workers with a desired high level of intelligence and other traits will be encouraged to have children who will be provided for by the state with all basic needs, medical care, and education.

Members of the National Labor Pool who do not qualify for Sanctioned and State Supported Pregnancies will be encouraged to have vasectomies or tubal ligation.

3 comments: said...

INTELLIGENT THINKING. My only reservation is on the internal passport system and the social engineering aspect which may be contrary to fundamental rights (movement and choice). The social engineering aspect in your proposal however is non-coercive, as a state privilege for the preferred breed. I am certain however that even if I personally agree with you on this, the limitations of some people in terms of expanding their perspective, will exhaust all your patience in getting this idea to stage 1. Ok na ok yung di sila puwedeng bumoto. Marami sa mga informal settlers ang ayaw irelocate ng mga LGUs dahil sila ang mass base ng mga politiko. This sector has been the base of Jojo Binay in Makati, which enabled his family to reign in this city with no hope for a let up in the foreseeable future.

Paul Farol said...

I realize the "internal passport system" will be opposed by some sectors, not only by those who protect all perceived freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, but also those who'll look at it in terms of enforcement.

It's just an idea and not even a compelling, original one.

What I am merely pointing out is the reality that "soft" measures only protract what is already a costly process of relocating people. Moreover, the mere relocation of people (even if they are given housing) do not work fully and they still manage to find a way back to Metro Manila.

Anonymous said...

China has a similar system AFAIK. Yeah, it's a good idea to segregate the classes so as to avoid class wars that somehow leads to rampant criminality and other societal ills. Even foreigners who come to our country are baffled that we have squatter colonies side by side with posh buildings and residences. They probably have a gut feeling that it only leads to problems that I've mentioned earlier. But, while the poor are on the other side the government should provide them with support structures i.e. good schools, health facilities etc. so they might eventually qualify or be sponsored to live and work in the more progressive side of the metropolis. At least we can start with the idea on a small scale and if it works or shows potential then we should gradually implement it in the rest of the urban centers.

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