One dead, thousands lost homes in QC fire on New Year’s day

Fire victims not allowed to return

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By John Christopher Rafols and Jessamin Montuya

One was found dead in the aftermath of the fire in Kaingin Bukid, Apolonio Samson village in Quezon City on January 1, 2015. The fire victim was identified as Jaycelin Ang, who failed to leave her house during the incident.

Among the injured were fire volunteer Paul Manuel, who lost his right hand when an LPG tank exploded during the fire, and resident Rommel Balmaceda, whose arm was lacerated when he was trying to salvage their properties.

More than 4,000 families were affected in the fire that broke out on New Year’s Day at 6:45 am. During the initial investigation of Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP), fire came from a faulty baby rocket or ‘kwitis’ that fell on the house of resident Janine Lopez.

The fire victims barely saved any belongings.

No assistance from LGU

“The Quezon City government has not even sent any relief or financial support since the fire,” said Laura Garcia, a fire victim and a member of Gabriela Kaingin Bukid.

Some residents also complained that they could not start to rebuild their lives for they have been receiving mixed signals from the local government unit (LGU) on whether they would be allowed to return to where their houses once stood.

“We could not truly rebuild our homes after the fire because we were told by barangay officials that we can only use light materials,” Garcia shared.

Instead, the LGU are now urging residents to file an application for relocation to Bocaue, Bulacan and P18, 000 financial assistance for those who are still waiting for relocation.

 

Demolition threat prior to fire

During the last quarter of 2014, more than 2,000 families were already threatened to be demolished to give way to the three-meter easement project of the LGU and National Housing Authority.

“Kaingin Bukid was already declared a danger zone, although we fear that if we are relocated we will lose our jobs and livelihood,” resident Virginia Lagmay said.

Lagmay added that LGU measured 10 meters from the edge of the waterway instead of three meters.

Kaingin Bukid is the largest among seven neighborhood communities in Apolonio Samson village. The area razed by the fire covers 2-3 hectares of the 127,893 hectares of Apolonio Samson village.

In the Estero declaration signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista, 17 other local government officials and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), families residing along waterways shall be relocated to lessen floods and begin development projects in the area. Part of the area determined for the three-meter easement project is San Francisco river, located along Bgy. Apolonio Samson.

Lagmay also shared that Quezon City’s Secretary to the Mayor Tadeo Palma called the victims and barangay officials for a consultation on January 5, 2014 in his office at Quezon City Hall.

“They presented us Bistekville, a low cost housing program led by Mayor Herbert Bautista, and discussed the possibility of relocating in Bulacan,” shared Lagmay.

Bistekville is an in-city housing project of the LGU, named after the current mayor mayor. “Bistek” is the showbiz moniker of Mayor Bautista, an active TV and film actor in his earlier years.

Palma inspected in the area himself last January 15, 2015 and told residents they can come back to the area once the LGU’s development plan was finished and under conditions that (1) they can comply with the requirements and (2) pay the monthly dues. Residents were told that a unit in ‘Bistekville’ costs P10,000 downpayment and P2,400 monthly amortization, which will increase every five years and to be paid for 30 years under the LGU’s Community Mortgage Program. The total price that residents will pay for a 28 square meter, studio-type unit would reach P864,000.

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photo by Erika Cruz

 

Aid not dislocation

The relocation offer angered many residents since the fire just destroyed all their belongings and most of them could barely provide food for the family before this tragedy.

“Bukod sa napakaraming requirements ang hinihingi sa relocation site sa Bulacan, saan kami kukuha ng pambayad sa amortization doon wala naman kaming trabaho? At kung mag-avail sa Bistekville, saan kami kukuha ng sampung libong pang downpayment, wala ngang natira sa amin kahit na ano. Wala rin kaming regular na hanapbuhay para sa pangangailangan ng pamilya namin,” said Garcia. (Aside from the many requirements to apply for relocation in Bulacan, how are we going to pay its monthly dues? If we availed a housing unit in ‘Bistekville,’ where will we get the P10,000 for downpayment? We don’t even have regular livelihood to sustain the needs of our families).

Garcia also complained that the LGU should first help them “instead of treating them like garbage that can be thrown anywhere”.

“They have won several elections from the support of the residents here; if they were truly for public service they should help us rebuild our lives,” Garcia said.

 

 

 

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