Stayin’ alive-A A +A
Friday, August 17, 2012
THE Bee Gees sang it right in the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. “Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother/You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’/And were stayin’ alive, stayin alive.”
Except any dancing to be done that will break and shake would be the removal of informal settlers along creeks, riverbanks, esteros and other waterways to keep them alive.
Or to quote Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Arnett who in turn quoted a US army major during the US-Vietnam War, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” This time, however, to be destroyed are slum settlements in order to save them from the ravages of floods.
In Metro-Manila, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is zeroing in on the relocation of 100,000 informal settlers away from flood-prone areas within five years. DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo confirmed that the Aquino administration has been relocating informal settlers in waterways, esteros, bridges and other hazard zones since 2010.
The National Government has allotted P10.55 billion for 2012 for the building of affordable medium-rise buildings for informal settlers along creeks and rivers in the National Capital Region.
The Cebu City Council on its part requested P-Noy for funding to relocate Metro Cebu’s informal settlers and house them in affordable medium-rise buildings at the Old Lorega San Miguel Cemetery and will develop a City property in the mountain barangay of Sinsin.
Push has turned to shove in Metro-Manila and Metro-Cebu. In Bacolod’s case, City Hall’s response is more into the pushing, even the cajoling part.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia is flabbergasted that many of the city’s slum dwellers along the city’s waterway danger zones refuse to be relocated to the Arao property in Bgy. Vista Alegre. “They must understand that flood cannot be predicted and the banks of the rivers are always the first to be affected,” he said.
Identified as danger zones are Barangays Banago, 1, 9, 10, 11, and 12. The biggest area covers Barangay 10 up to 12. Bacolod Housing Authority cited illegal structures in Mambuloc Creek in Barangays 8 and 9, and Maupay Creek in Bgy. 14. Others are in Purok Lampirong in Bgy. 2, and Purok Saylan in Bgy 4.
The refusal to leave their homes in dangerous zones whether in Metro-Manila, Metro-Cebu or Bacolod can be summed up with views of Bgy.8 residents who said they would relocate as soon as the relocation site is ready, while others opt to remain near their sources of livelihood.
The United Nations system tasked the UN-HABITAT Member States to monitor and gradually attain the “Cities Without Slums” target, one of the three targets of Goal 7, “Ensure Environmental Sustainability.” Target 11 is: “By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.”
The UN further projected that in the next 30 years, the number of slum dwellers worldwide will increase to 2 billion if no firm or concrete action is taken to arrest the situation.
In other words, rapidly urbanizing cities can expect the influx of informal settlers, largely rural migrants, who are out looking for greener pastures. Relocation or onsite housing developments near the settlers’ sources of livelihood might be short term and medium-term solutions.
But the long-term solutions in Negros Occidental might be to diversify and develop the provincial rural economy away from the sugarcane monoculture to agri-industries developed in provincial centers such as San Cárlos, Cádiz, Silay, Talisay, La Carlota, Binalbagan, and Kabankalan.
Their economic development could serve as urban magnets for rural migrants, away from highly urbanized areas as local governments toughen their housing policies against new migrants. Strong local economies in these cities would in fact look at them
as assets as demand for labor grows.
Then, maybe stayin’ alive would simply gyrating to the tune of Stayin’ Alive, not stayin’ to survive.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 17, 2012.