Shanties cleared as city hosts ASEAN conference
MANILA, Philippines -- In her wooden shanty by a creek marking the boundary between the cities of Makati and Pasay, Erlinda Justiliano waits.
The 66-year-old woman who lives with three grandchildren in the hovel has heard from the grapevine that men from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority will come to their community on Tripa De Gallina to clear out their home and those of others like them.
"I have heard about that, but we have not received any official word yet," the woman told the Inquirer. For as long as the wrecking crews don’t come, she said she planned to stay put.
The ministerial meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) matters little to her, but she does know that such big events mean that eyesores like her shanty would have to swept under the rug.
In the past few weeks, authorities have been sprucing up the roads near and leading to the Philippine International Convention Center, where the five-day meeting will be held starting Sunday.
The MMDA has been working double time in landscaping center islands, rounding up beggars and suspected criminals, and clearing the shanties that mar the view of Metro Manila.
Along the MIA Road in Parañaque City, for example, metal frames have been set up on the bridge to be covered later to hide the view of trash floating on the Parañaque River.
On Saturday morning, truckloads of MMDA crews worked both riverbanks as they painted the houses of the squatters in bright shades of blue, yellow, and green.
The houses, unlike Justiliano's wooden shanty, are made of concrete and steel and therefore more difficult for the authorities to knock down.
"They're just painting the houses to make the view more pleasant," a female resident said.
Justiliano said she doesn't mind moving out in order not to be an eyesore to the visiting foreign dignitaries -- as long as she and the other 27 families in her area have a place to stay.
"We were told that we have not been transferred yet because there's no place yet. I don't mind, as long as they tell us, and we have a place to stay," she said in Filipino.
She has been living along the creek, which is near Senator Gil Puyat Avenue, since 1986. A few paces away, another family lives under the bridge, oblivious to the plans to have them move out.
"We have not yet received any notice, actually. But I heard that squatters' areas are being cleared," Loreta Alba said.
Meanwhile, a housing rights advocacy group criticized the government's harried makeover of Metro Manila as a weak way to make "good impressions."
"Fresh paint, landscaping, rounding up beggars and clearing squatters will not do the trick," Urban Poor Associates said in a statement.
The group expressed concern that big events such as the ASEAN Summit are often accompanied by human rights violations, such as the demolitions of poor communities in host cities and forced evictions.
The UPA also called on the government to "stop the culture of self-deception," pointing out that in 2006, nearly 42 families were left homeless when the authorities demolished their houses in front of the Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Spa on Mactan Island to make way for a parking lot.
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