By Ellson Quismorio
Over 2,000 families, which are facing displacement amid the ongoing cleanup of Manila Bay, have been assured of land by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) through the intervention of former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
This was revealed during the hearing of the Oversight Committee on Housing called by Arroyo to address the delay in the release of titles to the recipients of urban poor housing proclamations she issued when she was president.
During the hearing it was revealed that more than 2,000 families living in a property owned by PPA in Isla Puting Bato will be displaced because of the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
This prompted Arroyo to inquire about what arrangements are being made for the transfer of the affected residents.
The Pampanga 2nd district congresswoman also asked the PPA to ensure that they would not be deprived of their source of livelihood.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago responded that the agency, which is the owner of the property, was willing to give them five hectares of its property in a nearby area in Tondo. He also vowed to allot P1 million for the social preparation of the residents prior to the transfer.
The announcement was met with jubilation by Isla Puting Bato residents, who attended the hearing at the House of Representatives.
Mansor Utto, who is a long-time resident of Isla Puting Bato, said they could not believe that they will be given a chance to acquire their own land. “Matagal na po naming pinapanalangin na mabigyan kami ng seguridad sa lupa at sobrang nabigla kami na ito ang matutupad na sa tulong ng ating Speaker GMA. Kung hindi sa kanya, baka kung saan na lang kami mapupunta dahil sa paglliinis sa Manila Bay,” Utto said.
(We’ve long prayed to gain security when it comes to land and we were so surprised that this will be attained with the help of our Speaker GMA. If not for her, we don’t know where we would end up because of the Manila Bay clean up.)
Isla Puting Bato Barangay Chairman Bryan Mondejar said the thousands of residents of his village have been worried about their condition for years especially with the Manila Bay clean up and have decided to come to the hearing to bring to the attention to Speaker Arroyo about their condition.
“Sobrang malaking pasasalamat na dahil kay Speaker GMA ay nagkaroon ng katiyakan na meron silang malilipatan at hindi na sila squatter kundi kanilang bahay at lupa na talaga yun (We are very thankful since because of Speaker GMA, they have been assured of relocation wherein they will no longer be squatters but owners of their own house and land),” Mondejar said.
Arroyo has called for the oversight hearing of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, chaired by Rep. Alfredo Benitez (3rd District, Negros Occidental), to see why 15 years after she issued Proclamation No. 581 which reserved a parcel of land in favor of residents in Parola, Tondo, titles have yet to be awarded to qualified residents through the National Housing Authority (NHA).
The House members discovered that the delay was mainly caused by the contention on some parts of Parola that are overlapping with the properties of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). This prompted the Speaker to call on the PNR to waive its claim over its 1,000 square meter property in Parola, Tondo, Manila in favor of the urban poor beneficiaries.
Arroyo, who served as president from 2001 to 2010, also moved to summon Philippine National Railways (PNR) Chairman Roberto Lastimoso to take part in the scheduled proceeding of the Committee to explain his agency’s position on the matter.
The former Chief Executive stated that the Oversight Committee will most likely reconvene even during the session break and the election period to ensure that the socialized housing projects carried out at the soonest possible time.
The Committee scheduled a hearing on the third week of February to proceed with its deliberation on the matters discussed and to acquire updates from the PNR and the GSIS.