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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Editorial: Political will, not patronage

TRUE, people living in poverty can find themselves in the most vulnerable positions. Like living under a bridge at the risk of being swept away when floodwaters come rushing down the river. Or living so close to each other with but scraps of materials used to make a shelter, and thus are first to be razed to the ground when fire hits.

But there are just laws of nature that has to be obeyed and danger zones just have to be vacated and kept clear, all the time.

Thus, we welcome the voluntary demolition by residents of Purok 1 Bolton Bridge in Barangay 40-D.

"The residents and the barangay captain asked to conduct voluntary demolition as it was arranged during the pre-demolition conference. They want to do it voluntarily to secure their belongings," Davao City Engineer's Office (CEO) officer-in-charge lawyer Joseph Dominic Felizarta said.

The residents were given the final demolition order last December 27, 2017, and the voluntary demolition was offered by the residents as it not only ensures that they have already secured their belongings once they start demolishing, but moreso, they can save some materials that can still be reused. After all, there is a lot of difference between the careful disassembly of a house by its owner as against the get-it-done-within-the-day action of demolition team members.

With the worsening aftermaths of weather disturbances, government just has to have political will. Set aside all those political favors that have to be sown just to ensure election by 2019. Stand by what is allowed by the law, and the law says, riverbanks must not be inhabited.

We have had enough of the old ways of not touching informal settlers in the most vulnerable areas just because they are voters and can spell the difference between the continued stay in power of a barangay official or a city councilor or a congressman. And for what? So that these same people who voted for them risk their lives, limbs, and lifetime investments in one night's flood.

In the end, government spends more for relief operations, for rescuers and first responders, and yes, for medical emergencies.

Seeing that the city is now growing very fast, it is time to finally push through with tenement housing. Build up, not wide. Land is becoming very expensive, maximize use of the remaining government-owned land set aside for relocation, make the housing an incentive for the poor to rise up from their present status by introducing to them what lease-hold is all about. Spur them to find better housing options after a decade or two and not let them fester in shanties upon shanties put together in a tiny lot that is made to accommodate two more generations hence.

Voluntary demolition at Bolton Bridge is a start. Next, the huge community in Bankerohan Bridge, and then, the enforcement of buffer zones along riverbanks. One step at a time, this city can make it. The laws are there, political will is what it takes.
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