Estero dwellers may pick up their P18K

It’s hoped the money would convince them to leave shanties by waterways

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Social welfare officers may start distributing P18,000 to each of the 19,440 families of estero dwellers in Metro Manila for their permanent resettlement or rent following the release of the money.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. on Sunday said the Department of Budget and Management had released the P374.4 million for the resettlement of the squatters along eight major waterways.

The government is offering the amount to families of estero dwellers either to relocate to permanent resettlements outside the capital or to rent rooms elsewhere in the metropolis to make way for the declogging of the esteros in six months.

It will be given in full to families relocating to off-site housing areas and in tranches to those who opt to rent rooms in the metropolis.

With the amount, a family of three could rent a room in a slum area for P1,500 a month for the next 12 months. However, the Urban Poor Associates, a nongovernment organization, has called the rental subsidy a “band-aid” solution.

Abad said the main goal of President Aquino’s disaster and flood management strategy was to ensure the safety of the people living in high-risk areas.

“By providing decent shelters in habitable environments to families living along esteros and other waterways, we not only account for the safety of these communities—we also strike at one of the major causes of flooding in the metro,” he said in a statement.

Abad said the Department of Social Welfare and Development, through the Interim Shelter Fund for Informal Settler Families program, would distribute the money to each family that would “voluntarily vacate” their homes along the waterways.

The fund covers the subsidies and mobilization cost of the project, he added.

It is broken down into: P75.9 million for 4,217 families along the San Juan River; P53.9 million for 2,997 families along the Manggahan Floodway; P25.8 million for 1,434 families along the Pasig River; P66.2 million for 3,683 families along the Tullahan River; P69.9 milion for 3,887 families along the Estero Trippa de Galina; P29.4 million for 1,637 families along Maricaban Creek; P25.4 million for 1,415 families along the Estero de Maypajo; and P3.06 million for 170 families along the Estero de Sunog Apog.

The relocation would clear the way for the implementation of the government’s flood control master plan, including watershed rehabilitation, river desiltation and the construction of bigger drainage systems and dams.

Local Government Undersecretary Francisco Fernandez, the official in charge of the relocation, had said that it would be cheaper for the government to subsidize the estero dwellers’ rent than to rescue, evacuate and rehabilitate them after a powerful storm.

But urban community leaders said the money would be better spent on building permanent resettlements for them. Malacañang, however, defended the offer, saying President Aquino’s main concerns were their safety and health.

The government is offering the rental subsidy because it doesn’t have enough homes for the almost 20,000 families. So far, the National Housing Authority has built 4,500 off-site units and is expected to build 3,500 more this year.

The government is also offering financing for in-city housing for the estero communities but the documentation has yet to be approved.

The government is dead-set on clearing the esteros of structures to ease flooding in the capital during the rainy season. Officials said the relocation of the families on the eight major waterways should be completed by yearend.

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