Urban Poor Workers Marched for Jobs, Moratorium on Demolitions and Budget for Socialized Housing

Workers from urban poor communities swelled the ranks of today’s SONA mobilizations to demand decent work for all, moratorium on demolitions and budget for socialized housing.

“We are tired of being neglected. We refuse to be bought by cheap dole out programs. We want a comprehensive response to poverty now!”. Fatima Cabanag, KAMAO Secretary General, declared.

It has been estimated that there are at least 30 million urban poor or informal settlers around the country. This would include at least 700,000 families or 52% of the population in Metro Manila.

“The jobless growth and low income has led to an explosion of urban poor workers,” Cabanag said. ” This was exacerbated by the fact that government has neglected its housing program for a very long time,” the labor leaders added. According to the General Appropriations Act of 2007, government allocated a measly amount of P28.33 per capita for housing and community development. This is just 4% of the 6,908.15 per capita budget for debt servicing for the same year.

“To make matters worse, the Arroyo regime has opted to literally eradicate the housing problem by issuing Executive Order 708,” Cabanag said. EO 708 amended EO 152, series of 2002, and devolved the function of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor as clearinghouse for the conduct of demolition and eviction of informal settlers to the local governments.

EO 708 is now being abused by some local government units to demolish urban poor communities, sometimes even without the proper court ruling. It even allowed incumbent LGU leaders to use the policy to hostage informal settlers during elections by suspending demolitions during elections in exchange for votes, only to be implemented right after the ballots are counted.

It is clear that the Arroyo regime, like any other governments, treats urban poor workers as the problem, rather than the victims of a far deeper problem – the poverty caused by flawed government policies.

“Nobody wants to be poor. We remain poor because we are locked in poverty by anti-poor policies and by repression. And when it comes to repressing urban poor rights, the Arroyo regime holds the worst record next to the Marcos dictatorship,” Cabanag said. “Arroyo regime should be ousted!” she added.

KAMAO is demanding for the shifting of debt servicing to comprehensive socialized housing program. This would not only help solve the housing shortage, but would even generate millions of jobs.

KAMAO is also calling for a moratorium on all demolitions and an investigation into fraudulent claims for land ownership, especially the so-called friar lands like Tala Estate, with the end in view of identifying public lands for socialized housing.

KAMAO stands for Kapisanan ng mga Maralitang Obrero. It is a 10,000 strong confederation of urban poor workers organizations from Quezon City, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Bulacan and Rizal. KAMAO is a founding member of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL).

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