*Statement of AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology for the People
We in AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People express solidarity with the participants of the #OccupyBulacan movement where urban poor families led by Kadamay occupied thousands of vacant housing units in Pandi, Bulacan to assert their right to adequate housing. We are one with them in calling on the National Housing Authority (NHA) and President Duterte to immediately withdraw the eviction notice issued to the occupiers and to address the housing crisis in the country.
The right to housing is a universally acknowledged human right and a basic social condition to ensure an adequate standard of living. It is enshrined in both international and national laws that the state shall undertake measures to make housing available and accessible to the people especially the poor. In spite of this, we are witness to the continuing inability of the government to provide houses for its citizens along with the worsening situation of the urban poor.
In 2015, AGHAM conducted an assessment of the Structural Integrity and Flood Risk in Kasiglahan Village, Montalban, Rizal, one of the areas identified as a relocation site for informal settlers living along the Pasig River. In the said study, it was found that the socialized low-cost housing facilities in the site failed to meet standards set by the National Structural Code of the Philippines, such as concrete reinforced columns, spacing of rebar reinforcements, and elevation, causing various structural and hydraulic concerns in the face of disasters.
The situation of the socialized housing facilities in Montalban, Rizal is not a far cry from the general situation of the urban poor in the country. Estimated at over than 5 million in major metropolitan cities, the number of slum dwellers in the country is steadily increasing at an annual rate of 3.4% as of 2006.
According to the implementing rules and regulations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 220 (BP 220), all economic and socialized housing projects should provide the basic needs for human settlement, enumerated in descending order as: 1) water; 2) movement and circulation; 3) storm drainage; 4) solid and liquid waste disposal; 5) park/playground; and 6) power.
Despite the fact that only the most basic needs are defined by the law, the government is unable to comply with such a standard. Many housing units occupied by the protesters in Pandi, Bulacan lack a stable source of water and connection to electricity even though they have been idle for about 5 years.
In recognition of the just action done by the occupiers in asserting their right to housing, we demand NHA and Pres. Duterte to immediately withdraw the eviction notice for the #OccupyBulacan participants and to face the demands of the urban poor. The government should not evict them and instead provide them with appropriate social services as is its duty.
We call on all scientists and engineers to use our expertise to assist the urban poor communities by providing temporary water, electricity, and sanitation measures to their camps, along with asserting that the government should deliver these facilities and other social services as part of fulfilling its mandate to provide adequate housing for all Filipinos.