Major News of <Manila Bulletin> : Massive Relocation Up
Gov’t To Spend P50B To Relocate 100,000 Metro Families
President Benigno S. Aquino III has allocated P50 billion or P10 billion a year to relocate in five years informal settlers in Metro Manila, particularly those living in and near waterways and danger zones, to spare them from floods.
The relocation of some 100,000 Metro Manila families will be undertaken by a government inter-agency task force headed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in five years or 20,000 families a year.
For the meantime, the government’s priority is to relocate 30,000 families living in easement of esteros.
The move to relocate Metro Manila informal settlers was announced a day after Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson told media that he has been ordered by President Aquino to dismantle structures on various waterways in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Singson had said that the government was prepared to “blast” structures should inhabitants refuse to move to safer grounds.
Under the relocation program, Robredo said priority will be given to on-site resettlement. The government will likewise look for relocation sites within the city or near the city.
“According to Robredo, we are waiting for the LGUs (local government units) because they have their preferences on where they (informal settlers) will be transferred. There is a schedule of priorities. They are looking for different areas within their vicinities where the houses can be built,” Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
If the resettlement site is privately owned, Valte said the LGU must make the necessary acquisition.
But in press conference at Malacañang yesterday, Valte took back Singson’s pronouncement that the government is prepared to “blast” illegal structures set up on riverbanks and other water channels.
Valte clarified that Singson was referring to the dismantling of illegal structures that block the flow of water in the Pampanga delta channel when he made the remark about blasting.
“Secretary Singson did also mention that we continue to work with local government units and to work within deadlines that are practicable and realistic for the informal settlers to be relocated. Rest assured that there will be no violence. That is not part of the equation,” she added.
Singson had cited that then President Fidel Ramos brought in the military to remove illegal fish pens to demolish illegal structures at the Pampanga delta channel.
Some groups have already criticized the government for planning to forcibly relocate informal settlers living in waterways and blast illegal structures if necessary.
Meanwhile, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo said there is a need to have a “flood czar” if we are to address the massive flooding, especially in Metro Manila.
In a press briefing, Quimbo said a flood czar, who will be appointed by the President, will focus mainly in solving the floods and its causes, like weak flood control programs and infrastructures.
While he admitted that there are agencies that address flood problems like the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Quimbo said we need a flood czar who will concentrate mainly in solving the perennial flood problem.
He explained that the MMDA is a multi-tasking agency that deals not only on flooding but also on traffic management and cleanliness program while the DPWH is tasked on almost all infrastructures like roads and bridges.
Because of this, he said the country must have a flood czar, who has a blanket authority from the President on how to deal and solve the flood problem.
He lamented that although past administrations have already spent billions of pesos in flood control projects, we still experience massive flooding in Metro Manila, particularly in Malabon and Navotas.
Quimbo brought up the issue in view of the massive flooding that swamped Metro Manila and nearby provinces like Bulacan, Laguna, Pampanga, and Cavite due to torrential rains spawned by southwest monsoon.
“I think we need a flood czar, who will focus his skills and energy mainly in dealing with floodings,” Quimbo said.
In the same briefing, Quimbo disclosed that more than 36,500 people were affected by the floods in Marikina alone. He said, however, that the city government is now in the stage of rehabilitation of those affected by the calamity. (With a report from Czarina Nicole O. Ong)
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