AKBAYAN Representatives Mario Aguja and Etta Rosales, together with urban poor leaders from Pasig communities, today denounced government plans to displace over 60,000 urban poor residents along the Pasig River via the Pasig River Rehabilitation Program (PRRP). While agreeing with the aim of cleaning up the river, both solons rejected what they called the “technocratic approach” to the undertaking, which ignored the social and human costs of the rehabilitation program.

Rep. Aguja, who had visited the affected communities last year scored the unjust ten-meter wide clearing area designated by the PRRP implementers, among them the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). “The MMDA came up with Resolution No. 3 in 1996, designating a 10-meter easement policy when the Water Code and the Civil Code specify only 3 (three) meters,” Aguja argued. ” Sa 3 meters, marami nang naapektuhan. Sa 10 meters, 65,000 ang apektado. Paano sila?” he asked.

Rep. Aguja, who had also visited a resettlement site for evicted Pasig dwellers in Rodriguez, Rizal, further decried the miserable conditions of relocated settlers. “They hardly have basic services and there is a severe lack of employment opportunities.The Resettlement Action Plan is not being implemented properly! Gustong buhayin ang Pasig, pero ang mga tao naman ang ipapahamak.”

For her part, Rep. Rosales stressed the human rights angle to the massive displacement that could occur should the 10-meter easement policy be implemented. “All individuals have the right to a home and to security. The ecological and economic reasons for the Pasig’s revival are important, but so are the rights and welfare of the people who live along it,” she emphasized. She added that the
injustice of the PRRP was evident in the unequal implementation of the 10-meter policy. “Bakit yung Pandacan oil depot na health and security hazard, hindi nila tanggalin? Bakit inuuna nila ang mga residente, samantalang 70% siguro ng establishments diyan sa Pasig ay industrial at commercial establishments?”

Both solons had passed a resolution in November 2003 calling for Congress to investigate the PRRP before any further demolition of urban poor settlements is undertaken. Rep. Aguja, meanwhile, delivered a privileged speech on the same theme later in the afternoon. They were joined by over 50 guests from Pasig River communities.

The PRRP is being implemented by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), chaired by the Department of Budget and Management and co-chaired by the MMDA. It is composed of 13 other government agencies, among them the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Housing Authority.