In the Welfareville People’s Consultation led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on October 2, residents aired their concerns to the current administration over the still-present threat of being displaced from the community that the people have lived in for more than 30 years. Residents brought placards heeding President Rodrigo Duterte to award Welfareville compound to the residents, mostly poor, occupying the government property.
“Pinag-aaralan na ng ahensya ang usapin na ito at nais naming malaman ang kalagayan ninyo kaya kami pumunta rito para makaharap kayo. Ang gusto lang namin ay magpatupad ng mga aksyon na makakabuti sa mamamayan. [The agency is studying the issue and we want to know your situation that’s why we came here to meet with you. We want to implement only actions favorable to the people],” DSWD Assistant Secretary Malou Turalde told the participants of the consultation.
Turalde also mentioned Duterte’s pronouncement against demolition without decent relocation.
The Pinagkaisang Mamamayang Naninindigan sa Welfareville (PAMANA-Welfareville), an alliance of groups pushing for the awarding of the Welfareville compound to the residents, raised the displacement threat concerns in the consultation.
“Matagal na kaming nabubuhay sa banta ng demolisyon at ito ay napakahirap para sa mahihirap na ngang mamamayan [We have been living with the threat of demolition for a long time and this is difficult for the already poor people],” said Sonny Lambino, spokesperson of PAMANA-Welfareville.
The group said they had been standing guard against the demolition of their community that became a grave concern of the people once more in 2011.
A stakeholders’ meeting was held in June 2011 for the Welfareville Development Project, headed by then-DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, without inviting the residents. But the residents of Welfareville soon got hold of documents from the meeting. In this public-private partnership project by the Benigno Aquino III administration, the whole area of Welfarevillle would be converted to a commercial, recreational and residential center. Soliman pushed for the sale of Welfareville, invoking Republic Act 5260 approved in 1968, and public bidding was first scheduled in July 2012. The Asian Development Bank was said to have a stake in the project.
Said project would have displaced 30,000 families living in Welfareville, or an estimated 150,000 individuals. The National Center for Mental Health would have also been demolished based on the project’s blueprint, affecting more than 6,000 living-in patients and rendering jobless around 1,700 health workers. The Correctional Institute for Women would have also been relocated.
The years following the planned sale of Welfareville saw successive fire breaking out in various blocks in the community, after which the affected residents were disallowed from returning to where their homes stood, according to PAMANA-Welfareville members. Residents have raised suspicions that these fires were intentional rather than accidental, meant to dislodge them from the urban poor community.
“Dapat kayong magpalakas ng hanay para kalampagin ‘di lang ang DSWD, kundi ang batas [RA 5260] para isaalang-alang ang kapakanan niyo. Iyong mga nais ninyo mangyari ay mangyayari batay sa lakas ng inyong pagkakaisa [You should strengthen your ranks to rattle not only the DSWD, but also the law the should put your welfare into consideration. What you want to happen would happen based on the strength of your unity],” Turalde told residents.
Lambino echoed this sentiment.
“Kailangan natin itulak ang ating kahilingan na i-award ang lupa ng Wefe [Welfareville] sa pamamagitan ng ating sama-samang pagkilos. Ito ay para sa kinabukasan ng ating pamilya [We need to push for our demand that Welfareville be awarded to us through our collective action. This is for our families’ future].,” said the community leader.
Self-sufficiency and self-reliance as model to help poor
Turalde also shared the thrust and priorities of the new administration, as well as the services under the DSWD that the people can avail.
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps (also Conditional Cash Transfer) is being reviewed to lead to beneficiaries gaining self-sufficiency and self-reliance, rather than the program remain a kind of dole-out system, shared Turalde.
“Andiyan pa rin ang 4Ps, pero ang gusto natin makatayo sa sariling paa ang mamamayan. Marami ring serbisyo ang ahensya na hindi conditional [The 4Ps is still there, but we want the people to become self-reliant. The agency also has many services that are not conditional],” said Turalde.
Located in the heart of the metro, Welfareville is surrounded by various commercial centers and closely connected to the cities of Makati, Pasig and San Juan. The whole of the Welfareville compound, estimated at 100 hectares, is government property under the management of the DSWD.
PAMANA is gearing to join the October 7 people’s rally in Manila on the first 100 days of President Duterte’s administration to continue to lobby for their demands.