Blocking Progress; (Editor's Note: Squatters by the Hundreds of Thousands Can Stop Progress Cited in This Article.)

Manila Bulletin, November 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Blocking Progress; (Editor's Note: Squatters by the Hundreds of Thousands Can Stop Progress Cited in This Article.)


WE have inherited an inferior political and social trait that gives us few choices in confronting problems we repeatedly try to solve over the decades. And the problem remains unsolved in 2004.

Squatting evolution

For example, the squatter problem has evolved into an enormous nightmare in the last 60 years. It started with a few hovels in Intramuros in the late 1940s, spreading slowly but surely to riverbanks, unoccupied public/private land, buildings destroyed by Liberation 45, creeks and land near the shoreline.

Colonies and their number

Squatter families tend to gather and create a colony. In a matter of 10 to 20 years squatter colonies became unstoppable as they overran zones like long stretches of land "along the riles."

Dealing with five or 10 squatter families is easy. It becomes hazardous when squatter families are counted by the thousands.

When the number rises to 38,000 families on railway land from Metro Manila to Bulacan the figure can make the government realize that squatting has become a huge political and social question.

Living conditions

Describing living conditions in a squatter colony or ghetto should be left to sociologists. Most politicians cannot tell pathetic poverty from a base of support or exploitation.

Among the lower middleclass, 38,000 families classified as "poor" can be multiplied by five for a total of 190,000 people living in squalor along the "riles" from Caloocan to Malolos.

New jargon for squatters

According to Northrails full-page ad "the railway system will be brought back to life to start on Nov. 8, 2004."

The same ad has a new term for squatters, calling them INFORMAL DWELLERS, a jargon in extreme euphemism.

Its akin to "undocumented" in lieu of TNTs in the US and Europe.

More delays in sight

But various news accounts should be considered that "the relocation of thousands of families to be displaced" may delay the project.

The House committee on housing is determined to stop the eviction or relocation of thousands of squatter families until the authorities "agree on a final relocation site."

With this development implementing the railway system, a project to connect Caloocan with Clark (Phase I, Sections 1 and 2) is still subject to the mood and choice of 38,000 families.

One barangay offered as relocation site was rejected, because parts of this zone are under water most of the time and the rest of the area is too expensive to develop.

Efficiency in 2004 and 1890 compared

The Northrail project, which will finally stop in San Fernando, La Union, years from now, has been initially derailed by the squatters of 38,000 families or 190,000 members. …

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