Demand housing for homeless families from Laguna Lakeshore, Manila
Hon. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, President, Government of the Philippines
Hon. Jejomar Binay, Vice President, Republic of the Philippines. Chairman, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council\
Hon. Laarni Cayatano, Mayor, City Government of Taguig
Hon. Loreta Anne Rosales, Chair, Commission on Human Rights
Hon. Jaime Varela, Philippine Presidential Commission of the Urban Poor
Corazon Juliano-Soliman, Secretary, Department of Social, Welfare and Development
Hon. Allan Peter Cayetano, Senator, Republic of the Philippines
Hon. Pia S. Cayetano, Senator, Senator, Republic of the Philippines
Ms. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context
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We are writing to express our deep concern about the conditions in which approximately 130 families are living, following their forcible eviction and the demolition of their homes in the Laguna Lakeshore area of Taguig City.
According to reports received, the affected families lived, prior to their eviction and the destruction of their residences, in seven neighborhoods situated near the shore of Laguna Lake in Taguig Area of Metro Manila (Barangay Napindan, Calsada, Hagonoy, Ibayo-Tipas, New Lower and Lower Bicutan).
We understand that, on 30 April of the present year, the families of C6 Road, Barangay Napindan were forcibly evicted from their homes by more than 300 joint forces of the Philippine National Police, Public Order and Safety Office and a demolition team.
Following the loss of their homes, the affected families reportedly sought shelter in the covered court of Barangay Calsada, where they were provided with a small amount of food and several sleeping mats by local government representatives. However, they were told to leave the area on 2 May, after which time they proceeded to move to makeshift tents erected on vacant land adjacent to the area that had previously been their neighborhood. During the ongoing demolition and clearing operations that followed the eviction, it is reported that authorities of the Public Order and Safety Office harassed affected families and confiscated their belongings. We have also received reports of physical violence and arbitrary arrests when individuals attempted to stop authorities from seizing their property.
At present, we are informed that the families are living in a state of destitution, after being removed from the lakeshore area on which they relied in order to fish, farm and run self-created livelihoods. Many of the residents lack a stable income that would allow them to pay rent in regular housing arrangements, which had initially prompted them to build their houses in the vacant public land in the lakeshore area. The loss of their homes and access to their livelihoods due to the forced eviction and demolitions in Taguig City has resulted in serious hardship for these already-vulnerable families, who are struggling to access the minimal resources necessary to survive. Many people now face serious obstacles to their ability to work and have lacked sufficient food and drinking water since the incident, with parents also raising concerns about disruption to the education of their children. Furthermore, the rainy season is approaching in Metro Manila and the immediate security, health and survival of these families is now facing great risk. The ongoing harassment of the evicted families by officials of the Public Order and Safety Office has further compounded their insecurity.
We understand that the displacement of these families was carried out in connection with the Laguna Lake Development project, the largest public-private partnership project of the present Aquino administration, which will build a new expressway and undertake land reclamation. The project is worth 123 billion Philippine Pesos (approx. $ 2.7 billion) and allegedly involves capital from the Asian Development Bank, Dutch Pension Fund and Macquarie. Several companies based in the Philippines are active in this project, including SMDC, Ayala Land, Metro Pacific Group and San Miguel Corporations. Laguna Lake is the largest lake in the Philippines, one of the main sources of fresh water fish and vegetables in the country and the basis for the livelihoods of approximately six million people, who stand to be directly affected if the reclamation and expressway construction project is completed.
We further understand that representatives of local government offices in Metro Manila have repeatedly denied that they have any obligations to attend to the human rights of the affected families, including during a conference held on 22 April by representatives of the City Government of Taguig and the Office of the President of Philippines through the Presidential Commission of the Urban Poor. It is reported that, on 12 May, the staff of Mayor Laarni “Lani” Cayetano of the City Government of Taguig reiterated that the local government does not have any program to attend to the affected people and stated that these families are not eligible for public housing assistance. We also understand that, on May 21, 2014, the affected families through their local organization met with several government officials, including from the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Socialized Housing Finance Corporation to discuss possible solutions to the situation facing the homeless families. Reportedly, the National Anti-Poverty Commission suggested a loan of P450 000 for families to acquire a community mortgage; an amount that is excessive given the limited resources of these low-income families. In another response, the National Housing Authority reportedly offered to relocate the families to Trece Martirez Cavite, an area very far from their source of livelihoods and other basic services. According to the information we have received, the government has still not provided a viable and satisfactory solution that is consistent with international human rights standards.
We wish to remind the Government of the Philippines that, consistent with its obligation under international human rights law, it has the duty to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of its citizens. Consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Philippines has clear obligations to uphold the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing and security of tenure, the right to work and the rights to food, water and sanitation and education, in addition to the duty to refrain from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In addition, both Covenants clearly state, “In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.” The UN Commission on Human Rights has established that forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights, and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has affirmed that forced evictions are permitted only under specified conditions, including when affected people have had the opportunity for genuine consultation, adequate and reasonable notice, and the possibility of pursuing legal remedies. The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement have, further, established that any eviction must be (a) authorized by law; (b) carried out in accordance with international human rights law; (c) undertaken solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare and (d) reasonable and proportional. International standards also recognize the duty to explore strategies that minimize or avoid displacement and the right to resettlement for displaced people, including housing that is adequate, accessible, affordable, habitable and ensures access to essential services and places of work. Affected families also have the right to just compensation and sufficient alternative accommodation, or restitution, immediately following evictions.
In light of the grave abuses that have been committed against the aforementioned families and in recognition of the current conditions that are impeding their ability to live in dignity, we, the undersigned, call upon the Philippines to:
- Put a halt to ongoing clearing operations and the continued harassment of the above-mentioned homeless families;
- Ensure that the above-mentioned families have access to affordable and adequate alternative housing that is situated nearby their sources of work, education centers and social services;
- Provide just compensation for harms and losses causes by the demolition of homes and rehabilitation assistance to allow them to provide for their immediate needs such as housing, food, water, medicine, and clothing and to reimburse them;
- Ensure access to legal remedy for the victims of forced evictions; and
- Ensure that any and all development projects in the Philippines conform to the country’s human rights obligations, including the right of affected people to be consulted, and do not cause people living in poverty to become destitute or homeless as a result.