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Intramuros slum dwellers to start moving out March

/ 11:10 PM January 26, 2013

The Intramuros Administration will start relocating informal settlers from Manila’s historic Walled City, with the first batch moving to a Gawad Kalinga low-cost housing site in Trece Martires, Cavite province, in March.

IA administrator Jose Capistrano Jr. said some 120 families make up the first batch who will go to one of the three GK Villages built at the cost of P3 million each through an IA-GK partnership dubbed “Caring for the Past, Sharing for the Future.”

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There are around 3,400 families counted as informal settlers in Intramuros, according to IA estimates.

Capistrano gave this update on the government efforts to revive the 64-hectare, Spanish era enclave at the heart of Manila, in a presentation early last week at Asian Institute of Management in Makati City.

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Practically every administration had launched programs promoting the 500-year-old heritage site for tourism, but failed to stop shantytowns from forming on its fringes.

Capistrano said the current relocation efforts were part of a program expected to be finished before the end of President Benigno Aquino’s term in 2016. “We are just in the first phase of the master plan,” he said. “The challenge for us is to harmonize heritage conservation with commercialization and modernization.”

But before this initiative could take off, Capistrano said the informal settlers, some of whom had thrived in the area since the 1950s, must go.

The Trece Martires land— part of which was donated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Cityland—will host the first “Kalinga Intramuros (KI)” village, where low-cost homes are being built at a cost of P110,000 each.

But Leopoldo Toston, a 72-year-old pedicab driver who is in the first batch scheduled to move out in March, is still not too keen on leaving. “There is no work over there and we’ll just go hungry.”

Toston cited the case of his relatives who were transferred to General Trias also in Cavite under a previous relocation program but who returned to Intramuros for lack of livelihood opportunities at the new site.

“The lot (we now occupy) is the only thing important to us; we’re on our own if we give up the lot,” he said.

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Barangay Intramuros councilor Elsie Denanilla said the past relocation sites provided by the government required monthly payments of up to P250 with interest. This forced the relocated residents, who ended up unemployed, to just offer their new place for rent and return to Manila to find work.

But Capistrano said there are factories and organic farms in Cavite where the relocated families could find work, and the KI Village will also have its own public school. The KI-GK partnerships could also provide shuttle buses and a hostel for those who need to work in Manila.

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TAGS: development, Intramuros, relocation
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