Noli affirms RP government's commitment to fight urban poverty
20 June 2006
While there has been progress in improving the lives of the Filipino
urban poor, “there is much more to be done to address urban poverty in
the Philippines,” Vice President Noli ‘Kabayan’ de Castro said in a
dialogue today, which is part of the third session of the World Urban
Forum (WUF3) organized by U.N.
Habitat in Vancouver, Canada.
The dialogue, dubbed “Achieving the MDGs: Slum Upgrading and
Affordable Housing” opened with a clip from the 1990 documentary film
“On Borrowed Land” which examines the urban crisis in Manila arising
from the post-EDSA flood of rural migrants and the emergence of
sprawling squatter communities along Manila Bay.
Asked whether the conditions of the urban poor have changed in sixteen
years, De Castro said that results have been “mixed.”
“Perhaps the most dramatic symbol is our successful transformation of
the erstwhile icon of urban poverty in the Philippines—Smokey Mountain—into
a commercial and residential center,” he said.
However, De Castro pointed out that “there are many more pockets of
urban blight and poverty that government has yet to address.”
He also revealed that while poverty incidence has gone down from 44.2%
in 1985 to 30.4% in 2003, the absolute number of poor families
continues to rise due to population growth, migration to urban centers,
and limited resources to provide for the needs of the poor.
On the so-called “voluntary-evictions” undertaken by the government
last year, De Castro clarified that demolition and evictions are
avoided or deferred “as long as the continued stay of the informal
settlers in their present sites do not pose a danger to others or to
He said that whenever feasible, the government regularizes the tenure
of informal settlers through presidential proclamations disposing
public land as socialized housing sites.
He explained that the “voluntary eviction” was part of the
“beneficiary-led and localized” resettlement program for informal
settlers affected by the clearing operations for the North-South Rail
The resettlement program has so far led to the peaceful relocation of
all the families from Phase 1 of the North Rail alignment.
Echoing his remark during the opening of WUF3, De Castro said that the
government remains “committed to wage a relentless battle against
poverty in our cities and urban areas.”
In a meeting with U.N. Habitat
Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka
following the dialogue, the Vice President reiterated the Philippines’
full support in pursuing the goals of the habitat agenda “both at the
national and international levels.”
He assured Tibaijuka that the Philippine
government continues to
champion the principles of the twin campaigns on secure tenure and good
urban governance supported by the U.N.
Among the flagship programs under the twin campaigns are the Community
Mortgage Program and the Resettlement Program, particularly for some
80,000 families along the mainline railway system.
De Castro expressed hope that U.N.
Habitat will be able to mobilize
financing for important programs such as the Slum Upgrading Facility,
which is “essential for the full implementation of the Habitat agenda
and the Millennium Development Goals.”
He also relayed to Tibaijuka the Philippine
government’s proposal for Manila
to be the host of the fifth session of the World Urban Forum.
The World Urban Forum is a
biennial gathering attended by a wide range
of partners, from non-government organizations, community-based
organizations, urban professionals and academics, to governments, local
authorities and national and international associations of local
with the theme “Our Future: Sustainable Cities – Turning Ideas
into Action” attracted some 15,000 registered participants from
Ref no. VPMEDIA 06-070