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Politicians allowed estero settlers, says Singson


The thousands of informal settlers living precariously along waterways in Metro Manila have remained where they are at the request of local politicians, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said on Wednesday.

But once their relocation is pushed through, local officials who will allow these people to return to the esteros or estuaries will be sanctioned, he said.

The government had been keen on clearing the esteros of settlers since  floods hit the capital in August last year, but local officials seeking reelection in the May 13 balloting got in the way.

“We wanted to do this, but I’ll be honest with you. Many requested that we shouldn’t do it before the elections. Now, they might come back to us again in view of the barangay elections. This time, we won’t give in. We have to do things immediately,” he said in a Malacañang briefing.

In 2011, the government announced a five-year P50-billion project to provide “on-site” or “in-city” housing for more than 100,000 families living near estuaries, waterways, rivers and creeks, or 20,000 families a year.

President Aquino approved a P10-billion fund for the implementation of the project in 2011, and committed P10 billion a year until he steps down in 2016.

Problem downplayed 

Singson declined to identify the local politicians. “There are many LGUs (local government units) involved here. Take your pick,” he said.

In an attempt to downplay Singson’s comment, Strategic Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said, “How they got there and who’s responsible, it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

He said, however, that officials in Quezon City and San Juan had been very cooperative.

Singson, tasked with implementing a P351-billion master plan for flood control in the capital after last year’s massive flooding, claimed that the clearing of eight major waterways of 19,440 families would be done between now and December.

In 2012, the National Housing Authority built 18,000 homes and would build twice as many this year for the informal settlers, Carandang said.

“The national government will take the lead, clear them out. But they can’t go back. There will be sanctions,” Singson said, pointing out the Local Government Code and the Urban Development and Housing Act prohibit people from living along waterways. “The President has given instructions that there will be sanctions.”

Climate extremes

Informal settlers and people living in coastal towns in the Philippines are affected the most by severe weather conditions caused by climate change, according to a new World Bank study released on Wednesday.

In its report, titled “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience,” the World Bank said the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries may be affected by widespread food shortages as a result of unprecedented heat waves and more intense storms due to global warming.

“In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the earth’s temperature,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

The report said the Southeast Asian region was particularly vulnerable to the sea-level rise, increases in heat extremes, stronger tropical cyclones, and ocean warming and acidification because many are located within a tropical cyclone belt and have relatively high coastal population densities.

“In the Philippines, the biggest risks are due to more severe impacts storms will have on informal settlements and coastal communities,” the World Bank said.

The multilateral lender said it was working with the Philippine government to enhance the country’s capacity to deal with climate impacts as well as help ensure its overall national public expenditure is appropriately targeted to deal with the challenges outlined in the report.

“Together with other development partners, the Bank is also helping in the preparations for priority projects that aim to improve flood management and resilience in Metro Manila,” it added. With a report from Paolo G. Montecillo

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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Flood , floodwaters , Philippine estuaries , Philippine politics , Rogelio Singson

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