Name of Research Project: Survival Means of Economically Displaced and Unemployed Former Railroad Dwellers of Metro Manila, Philippines Following the Urban Decongestion Efforts of the Government
Name of the Research Project Leader: CRUZ, FRANCISCO RELEVO (M2)
THE PROBLEM AND ITS BACKGROUND
Urban decongestion efforts by the government or State often lead to the human insecurity of informal settlers affected by its action, rendering this group of people unemployed, lacking in livelihood and economic opportunities and pushing them and their families further to hardship and poverty. This exactly was what the majority of the informal settlers of Metro Manila experienced following their relocation to Cabuyao, Laguna. Prior to their resettlement, these people have lived in some of the more impoverished rural municipalities and communities of the country and have migrated to urban Metro Manila, mostly for economic reasons.
Migration, which is defined as a permanent or semi-permanent change of residence, usually across some type of administrative boundary, is both a reality and concern that nation-states experience and grapple with within or outside their borders. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has placed the number of migrants worldwide at 200 million, with the average annual net number of migrants moving to the more developed regions estimated at 2.5 million people between 2005 and 2010. In East and Southeast Asia alone, where the Philippines belongs, the number of migrants is estimated from 5.7 to 6.5 million and 4.7 million to 5.6 million, respectively. Migration may be external, or from one State to another, or internal, when the movement is from a different region or community but still within the borders of the country where the migrants belong, and is prompted by a host of factors which may be political, socioeconomic and ecological in nature.
People migrate motivated by their own description or perception of their living condition vis-à-vis what is or should be better for them, their long-held belief that living conditions are superior for residents of cities as opposed to persons living in towns, villages, or rural areas, and their own response to urban-regional differences in expected income rather than actual earning. This situation has led to millions of people and their families to pack up their bags, leave behind their communities and residences and try out their luck in urban areas which they believe to be far more developed and progressive compared to their original communities; where government is more responsive and is more effective and efficient in basic services delivery, and where employment and livelihood opportunities abound. Gilbert and Gugler (1992) said these are the very people who first experienced relative deprivation, recognized their own poverty, and saw a few in their midst rise to levels of affluence undreamt of in the past following their migration.
While Massey (1990) contends that migration reduces geographic disparities in wages and employment over time, it cannot be denied the exodus of people from rural to urban areas puts enormous strain on the “receiving” or host local governments as the latter need to both step up the delivery of essential public services and engage in additional development programs and projects to meet the needs of a suddenly bigger constituency. This includes the construction and maintenance of facilities and infrastructures such as markets, schools, hospitals, health facilities and roads; and the mobilization of additional health, peace and order, and education personnel among others to ensure their readiness to respond to the needs of and deliver the services to these people.
This sudden surge in the population provides a stiff challenge to government executives as it is accompanied by various problems or concerns, among them marked housing shortages, increased number of squatters, unemployment and underemployment, widespread poverty, persistent disease hazards, traffic congestion and environmental pollution. Indeed, for officials of urban areas and cities, which have been viewed as engines of growth and sites of creative innovations and having the potential for economic growth, the emergence of informal settlers is one challenge they have to contend with as an offshoot of urban migration. These people live in squatter settlements usually found in private or governmental land along roads, railroads and riverbanks, on undeveloped land or wasteland at the periphery of the city, and on vacant land in the city. For Abrams (1981), these people and their settlements are major elements in the physical fabric of Third World cities and a vivid reminder of the glaring contrasts that exist between the living conditions of the rich and the poor, and their presence, along with the problems associated with or are related to them, pushed the State to pursue activities aimed to promote, manage and sustain development. Urban decongestion is, thus, carried out as one of the approaches to address those problems. The State, described by Weiss and Hobson (1995) as having the “coordinating intelligence” or coordinating capacity,” can steer, push, cajole, persuade, entice and at times instruct (the various sectors of society) to go this way instead of that, regardless of whether those affected agree or disagree with its decision and action. Furthermore, as a source of authority and an apparatus of power, as Hurrell (2006) had said, it can enforce its own laws, develop non-coercive governance mechanisms, and ensure that its plans and programs push through no matter what. On numerous instances, the State has unleashed its legitimate use of force to advance what it views as for the common good and well-being of the greater majority, regardless of what it brings to the “minority” affected by such decision.
One inevitable consequence of urban decongestion is the displacement of informal settlers that often lead to among others unemployment and loss of livelihood and income opportunities. While negotiations and dialogues at times take place between it and the affected groups, it can be said that the latter were given limited options to choose from: either they move to the resettlement site or they leave their residence altogether and go elsewhere, as non-compliance will mean their eviction just the same. While they were not always dislodged prior to resettlement, they were generally moved either voluntarily or under compulsion. This somehow characterized resettlement programs throughout the world: that they are rarely initiated from within the group involved; that the motivation comes from the outside, with the external influence (in this case, the State) imposing its values or impacts on the beneficiaries without really understanding the internal complexities of such action. Any which way, these people have to move out and face a rather uncertain future.
Furthermore, while the State attempts to rationalize its action by harking on the supposed benefits it brings to the people, it cannot be denied it has many strong ramifications such as loss of livelihood, loss of land rights or housing, or a loss of social networks. Impoverishment commonly follows (forced) displacement. Whatever the cause, though, moving from one place to another is a profound human experience with substantial consequences for livelihood and rights. Again, while the State may have valid reasons to decongest the urban areas, it cannot be denied that it has disturbed the people’s very way of life which is rather unfortunate and is, in fact, contrary to the essence of both good governance and human security, especially the latter which calls for the people’s protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life. The point here remains that, amidst all the sugar-coated rhetoric of some bureaucrats, they cannot truly hide the fact that their action has tremendously affected those who were displaced and are resettled.
This being said, it is both just and humane for the State to, after uprooting them, provide them with the necessary skills, capabilities and opportunities for livelihood and income that they could use to pursue and live a life that is similarly just and humane. More often than not, however, the situation leaves much to be desired. Compounding their woes is the loss of their erstwhile employment and sources of livelihood and income.
Even the World Bank (WB) in 1990 has clearly underscored that all resettlement programs must be “development-oriented,” and that all steps must be taken to prevent those dislocated from becoming permanently impoverished and destitute. Furthermore, it said that resettlement activities should not be limited mainly to cash compensation but rather must deal with economic, technical, cultural and social-organizational factors in an integrated manner that can help settlers rebuild a self-sustainable production base and improve, or at least restore, their former living standard and earning capacity.
While there are no available data pointing to the actual number of unemployed among the displaced and resettled people, it can be assumed that they are either included in or add to the 192.5 million unemployed people throughout the world, per 2006 estimates by the International Labour Organization or ILO. Truly, unemployment is a phenomenon of global proportions that no less than the United Nations (UN) and close to 200 countries worldwide had taken cognizance of. In the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG), signatory countries underscored the need to provide the people with full and productive employment and decent work in order to achieve the universal goal of eradicating poverty and extreme hunger. Sadly, however, unemployment, being Herculean as it is, continues to ravage and stare us in the face which is rather unfortunate, as one of the worst things that can happen to a poor man, perhaps next to dying in hunger with eyes wide open, is to be out of work as it robs one of a fair chance to provide essential needs to himself and to his family -- decent food on the table, education, health and other necessities. Suffice it to say, the lives of their families suffer to a tremendous extent and the situation (unemployment) does not, in any way, contribute to their and their families’ alleviation.
Given with no other recourse but to leave and move to the relocation or resettlement site provided them by the State, the affected people have to adapt and adjust to their new environment and rebuild their own lives in order to survive and match, if not surpass, the kind of life they have in their former homes. What makes their struggle more formidable is that many of them became unemployed and have lost their sources of livelihood and income following their resettlement. More than its effect on the people’s economic situation or condition, unemployment has more severe repercussions on people and their families, as aptly described by Amartya Sen (1999), who said that:
unemployment is also a source of far-reaching debilitating effects on individual freedom, initiative and skills, contributes to the “social exclusion” of some groups, and leads to losses of self-reliance, self-confidence and psychological and physical health.
THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE
What’s happening elsewhere, mostly in developing countries, is also happening in the Philippines, being a developing country herself. It is truly a country whose people are so used to moving out and leaving their places of birth to communities within the country’s own borders and/or even outside of it, in order to pursue their dream or vision for a better life that, to them, may be next to impossible to achieve in their native lands.
Per figures available from and known to Philippine government officials, there are approximately eight million Filipinos overseas, with close to 1.8 million working. For the Philippine government, this exodus of Filipinos outside of the country, which began in the early 1970s, served as a conveniently available measure to ease the country’s high unemployment and foreign exchange problems. For the migrants themselves, it is their own way of improving their lives through their own initiative, effort and sacrifices. While the government has ready and available figures of Filipinos who live and work abroad, the same cannot be said for those who move from the rural communities to the to the urban centers of the country, most especially Metro Manila. But in a country where 32 out of its 81 provinces have a poverty incidence among families of 40 percent and above in 2006, and where 756 out of 1,496 municipalities are categorized as 4th to 6th class, it may be safe to assume that this alone could serve as an impetus for thousands of people to, if having enough resources, pounce on the opportunity to move out of their communities and try their luck in the more urban and progressive parts of the country.
Indeed, the perceived benefits from and amenities of living in urban areas and the grim prospects in the more backward rural areas of the country provide for a very strong pull factor for people to move to the former. In 2005, for instance, out of the 82.8 million Filipinos, some 51.8 million or 63% of them lived in 42 capital cities or urban agglomerations, with Metropolitan Manila being the most densely populated urban area with 10.7 million, landing the latter among the twenty largest urban areas of the world (see Table 1).
Table 1. The world’s twenty largest urban areas, ranked by estimated 2000 population
City Country Population (millions)
Source: Based on United Nations (1995) data
Their exodus to Metro Manila has resulted in the emergence and proliferation of slum communities or squatter settlements where people (informal settlers) live under squalid, crowded or unsanitary conditions, and whose houses are located wherever there is space and opportunity. The Philippine government, through its Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), defines slums as buildings or areas that are deteriorated, hazardous, unsanitary or lacking in standard conveniences and, as such, can be said to be generally unfit for people to inhabit. The term “slums” itself has no direct equivalent or translation in the local language and are normally referred to in terms of descriptive words such as iskwater, estero, eskinita, looban and/or dagat-dagatan. The absence of direct Tagalog equivalent of the term, though, neither diminishes nor reduces the sorry state that the informal settlers are into.
Faced with the daunting challenge to address the burgeoning need of the people and improve the metropolis to make it more livable, clean and attractive for investment and tourism, the Philippine government had to pursue urban decongestion by relocating these informal settlers, an effort that has resulted in the economic displacement of the people affected.
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY AND THE PROBLEM AT HAND
Near the middle of 2000, the Philippine government embarked on a massive resettlement of squatters and informal settlers in Metro Manila. During this time, the government was contemplating on improving the mass transportation system, including the Philippine National Railway Commuter Line (PNRCL), partly to address the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and to revive its somewhat moribund railway system which connects Manila to the Bicol Region. The move affected Metro’s informal settlers, including those who live dangerously close to the railroad tracks or what has now become known as families of Home Along Da Riles.
The move was in consonance with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s 10-point development agenda which called for the “decongestion of Metro Manila by forming new cores of government and housing centers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” underscoring her government’s view that the “provision of decent and affordable shelter is an essential requirement towards the alleviation of poverty.” Likewise, this was the government’s response to the growing number of informal settlers or squatter families nationwide which, per 2005 projection, was placed at 1.408 million. Of this number, some 726,908 families or fifty-two percent of the total population of Metro Manila are considered informal settlers, where among others approximately 14,132 families live along esteros, 11,340 along road right of way, 67,949 along waterways, 14,072 along transmission lines, 2,821 near airports, and about 16,506 spread in areas of priority development, dump sites, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and market places. The National Housing Authority (NHA), meanwhile, has pegged the number of informal settlers living along the Southrail alone at 55,632, and this is where the bulk of the 20,000 so-called Home-Along-Da-Riles families, who were relocated to the province of Laguna which is south of Metro Manila, came from, particularly the cities of Manila and Makati, two of the more progressive cities of the metropolis, which served as hosts and homes for these informal settlers for several years and even decades.
The relocation of these urban informal settlers is not the Philippine government’s first brush with resettlement. In fact, it has a long history of resettlement, from the Public Land Act of 1903 which had allowed the distribution of land in the public domain to spontaneous settlers who were ready to pioneer in virgin areas; the “active, interventionalist” land settlement policy of extending land settlement to promote harmony among ethnic groups in Mindanao among others, that one would think that it is now more than capable of ironing out major kinks often associated with relocation, so that disruption in the people’s lives would not be painful, difficult and traumatic.
The government, in trying to appease a rather restless group of railroad dwellers unsure of the kind of future awaiting them in relocation sites in provinces like Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan, among others vowed to provide them with several things, among them the opportunity to own their own house, as well as provision of a P100,000 (US$2,000) loan per family for house construction, livelihood opportunities at the site, access to credit and jobs in the nearby areas.
Map 1. Laguna LGUs where PNR Live Lines residents were relocated
this study), 3,292 to Southville 4 in Sta. Rosa City and 3,423 to Southville 5 A/B in Binan. These families live in what the government labels as PNR live lines (see Map 1).
On the other hand, of those families living in the so-called PNR Non-Core Property, 1,636 have been relocated to Alaminos, 450 to Los Banos, 1,512 to Bay, 802 to Calauan, 907 to Nagcarlan, 914 to Magdalena, 1,418 to Sta. Cruz, and 770 to Pagsanjan (see Map 2, in yellow shade).
The transfer of these families undoubtedly resulted in their human insecurity as they experienced economic displacement as the places where they were moved were quite distant from their previous places of work and sources of livelihood and income and, thus, negatively impacted on the lives of family members, some of whom have been forced to drop out of school and suffer hunger and hardship among others. While some may have positively viewed their transfer as it afforded them the opportunity to own their own houses and lots, many have still expressed apprehension about the future that awaits them in the resettlement sites, and later on have, in fact, been correct in their prediction. Indeed, house ownership is one thing and survival another. A decent roof over one’s head may prove insignificant if one cannot sustain the daily living of his/her family. Suffice it to say, some – if not many – of those who have jobs and sources of livelihood prior to their relocation and displacement, became jobless and their number, while still undocumented, undeniably add up to the country’s overall unemployment figure which, at the moment, is pegged at 4.25 million Filipinos. In a country where 33 out of 100 Filipinos live in poverty, such figure is both very significant and alarming since it may lead to the exacerbation of poverty in the Philippines.
This situation raises two very important questions: One, why do these people have to suffer in the name of and in the State’s pursuance of development? It is quite saddening to realize that when the government undertakes decongestion program, its recipients suddenly turn to victims who are displaced and are left to trek unchartered territories, with their future uncertain. Todaro and Smith reminded everyone – States and governments, most especially – that development, as the sustained elevation of an entire society and social system toward a “better” or “more humane” life, should possess three core values, namely sustenance or the ability to meet basic needs; self-esteem or a sense of worth and self respect and of not being used as a tool by others for their own ends; and human freedom or the emancipation from alienating material conditions of life and from social servitude and which also involves an expanded range of choices for societies and their members together with a maximization of external constraints in the pursuit of development. When people themselves become victims of development initiatives, it somehow diminishes the wisdom of such programs. When people are displaced, they lose their own sense of worth and self-respect as they cannot meet and provide even the most basic of needs to themselves and their own families. This is greatly compounded when the government does not (or did not) provide them with adequate options to choose from.
This brings to the fore the second question: does not common good also apply to these very people? Common good, as the ultimate goal of the State, requires an acceptance of the individual’s basic rights in society, specifically the right to freely chart his future. But more often than not, in the pursuit of development, the rights of those affected are greatly overlooked, if not completely ignored. The point being driven here is that development should not compromise the welfare of the people. Neither should it lead to the suffering of some. Sadly, most of the informal settlers of Metro Manila who were affected by the “development” program” suffered, brought mainly by unemployment following their relocation.
EFFECTS OF UNEMPLOYMENT
One of the undesirable outcomes of relocation is the displacement and unemployment of beneficiaries and their families. Hence, the government should have taken concrete steps to mitigate or, much better, ensure that their displacement or relocation would not have led to unemployment and, consequently, their hardship and poverty.
As much as relocation provides for a traumatic experience which precipitates stress and increased hardship among beneficiaries or targeted groups, unemployment that follows their movement similarly provides enormous stress and hardship to individuals and families. While families and individual family members vary in the extent of which they experience stress or are otherwise affected by the hardships which occur due to the unemployment of the family’s primary breadwinner, the marks that it leaves on them takes enormous time to heal, if it heals at all. This is because unemployment results in loss or lack of income that seriously affects and alters their and their family’s lives. Furthermore, the link between poverty and unemployment is well-recognized and -documented, with the example of Australia in 1996-1997 showing this glaring relationship and saddening reality:
Among households with one adult aged 25-55 years, if the adult worked at least part time, 8.9 percent of households were in poverty; if the adult was unemployed, 52.2 percent of households were in poverty;
Among households with two adults aged 25-55 years, if at least one adult worked at least part time, 8.8 percent of households were in poverty; if neither adult was employed, 43.2 percent of households were in poverty.
Again, unemployment scars individuals, marking them for a future of constrained labour market opportunities and reduced chances of finding employment, with its psychological impact persisting beyond the specific period of unemployment. This, Sen has seconded, saying that it causes psychological harm, loss of work motivation, skill and self-confidence, increase in ailments and morbidity, disruption of family relations and social life and hardening of social exclusion. Ensuring the employment and the availability of livelihood and income opportunities for relocatees should therefore also be of great concern for government policy makers, planners and program/project implementers.
The situation painted in the previous pages exactly describes the predicament most of the former railroad dwellers of Metro Manila, including the informants in this research, face and continue to confront following their relocation to Southville 1. It has been said that when peoples are forced to migrate and relocate their well established communities, the immediate result is a period of upheaval in economic and social routines which can be expected to last for approximately five years, before they are sufficiently reestablished in their new areas to see themselves as settled communities. Given with no choice but to swallow the pill offered them by the government, which is relocation, it is therefore timely and important to examine their life in the relocation site – how they handled the transition they went through and continue to go through; how they, themselves, mitigate the harsh impact of displacement on their lives as well as how they adapt or adjust to their new community/environment, in the hope of bringing into fore their real situation and to later on help in efforts to alleviate their plight.
This paradigm attempts to detail the factors that could help explain how the informants go through with their transition and adaptation or adjustment in living to the relocation site provided them by the government:
Given with not enough choice but to relocate, resettle and face a rather uncertain future in the relocation site provided them by the government, these people had no other recourse but to endure and survive the transition from their old place to the new one; and employ some adaptive strategies in order to survive, restore the previous lives they had or improve it in a new environment and setting.
Meleis (1986) defines transitions as periods in which change takes place in an individual or an environment and which possess certain commonalities. They are characterized by a disconnection from previous social connections and supports, absence of familiar reference points (objects or persons), the appearance of new needs and/or the inability to meet old needs in accustomed ways, and incongruence between former sets of expectations and those that
→ Suburban ADJUSTMENT
& Livelihood Facilities &
Support & Networks (Collective) Personal
Motivation, Capabilities & Qualification
of Employment & Livelihood (Inability
to address basic
of Previous Familiar Support System ABILITY
TO COPE &
Urban → Suburban
ADJUSTMENT & ADAPTATION
Community Acceptance & Integration
Employment & Livelihood Facilities & Opportunities
Social Support & Networks (Collective)
Personal Motivation, Capabilities & Qualification (Individual)
Coping Mechanism/ Strategies
RELOCATEES & FAMILIES
Loss of Employment & Livelihood
(Inability to address basic needs)
Loss of Previous Familiar Support System
ABILITY TO COPE & SURVIVE
prevail in the new situation. Being in a community for a long time and living with people we are all familiar with offer individuals with among others security, acquaintances and connections, and a sudden change, whether chosen or forced, can cause uncertainty, suffering and disempowerment. This is also a time when individuals and their families become vulnerable, owing to their unfamiliarity with the new environment and the uncertainty of life there in general.
In this particular research, transition means the process or the path the informants took or take in order to bridge their uprooting from their old place and their transfer to their new community. This could mean enduring some hardship while trying to “feel” their way in their new community and mitigating the impact of their transfer and the loss of whatever they have prior to their transfer in order to stabilize their lives.
On the other hand, adaptive strategy, as defined by Moran (2000), is the conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit plans of action carried out by a population in response to either external or internal conditions. Human adaptability, in his words, underscores the plasticity of human response to any environment where people live or find themselves into, and its study focuses on how population interact with each other and their environment with the end in view of accommodating themselves to specific (environmental) problems. Usually, adaptation processes involve the interdependence of agents through their relationships with each other, with the institutions in which they reside, and with the resource base on which they depend.
These definitions point to the need for the relocatees to rely on themselves, tap their neighbors and, to some extent, the government and other institutions in order to hasten their adjustment to the environment where they are made to live.
While the term or concept (human adaptability) is used to study or describe how populations or peoples inure or adjust themselves to wider global environmental upheavals such as global warming or climate change and other ecological concerns, this seems applicable to the current study as the latter attempts to bare the strategies or tacks people use when placed or situated in an environment entirely different from the ones they lived before. Given this, they have to either alter their way of life or innovate and develop new forms of adjustments – or both – in order to have a better chance of surviving and living.
When applied to this particular study, both transition and adaptation deal basically with how the informants make themselves used to living in a new environment and community, and how they deal with – and how they interact with or utilize such -- forces within and outside to cushion the impact of relocation and hasten their adjustment or adaptation to their new residence. It should be helpful to remember that the displacement and relocation of these informants have resulted in their loss of employment and livelihood as well as the previous support systems or networks that they have in their previous communities.
However, several factors may be deemed crucial in their transition and adaptation to their new community. For example, transition may depend on the presence, availability and adequacy of the following, namely support services, infrastructure and facilities (such as schools, hospitals, markets, etc), employment and livelihood opportunities; and community acceptance (which include the views or receptiveness of the old-time residents of the town towards them and the local government unit (LGU) which hosts their community). The same goes true with their adaptation and adjustment to the community that the absence, presence, shortage or adequacy of some factors will either improve the residents’ plight or further push them down to hardship. In both transition and adaptation, though, the residents’ personal motivation, capabilities and qualifications; the “presence” of government and the availability or continuation of social support and networks would greatly spell the difference in the way they cope, survive and possibly improve their lives.
In this researcher’s view, at least three factors remain constant and pose a strong influence on how individuals undergo with their transition and adaptation to their new environment. These are the individual’s personal motivations, capabilities and qualifications; social networks, and the government.
The first refers to the respondents’ resolve and determination to improve their lives with the use of whatever skills and capabilities – including their own survival instincts – they possess and the scanning of the environment or community they are made to move into as well as its surroundings, to soften the impact of their relocation and hasten their adaptation to the latter. Their personal motivation to change or succeed is very crucial in making them overcome the hardships and challenges that often entail relocation, although this will greatly depend too on their own skills and capabilities, and the external support or help they can get from the social networks they have and the government which brought them there in the first place.
The social networks refer to friends and relatives that they have and formal or informal organizations where they belong to whether in their erstwhile residences or living in with or operating in the new community, as these can offer them both emotional and non-emotional support. This (social network) is part of what is known as social capital, which serves as a source of social control, family-mediated benefits and resources mediated by non-family networks, with the latter usage exemplified by personal connections that facilitate access to jobs, market tips, or loans. Indeed, one’s neighbors matter in defining one’s opportunities and constraints, and individuals not considered isolated entities but rather as part of networks of friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues that jointly provide cultural norms, economic opportunities, information flows, social sanctions and so on.
While often derided for being absent most of the time, the government is also crucial in the people’s transition and adaptation, as it has the resources and manpower that can help them cope and overcome. This is not to say the people cannot make it on its own without the government. But since the government is there and exists using people’s hard-earned money, perhaps it is not unfair – although maybe futile at times -- to demand something from it. Furthermore, since it has uprooted these people and shoved them away from their employment and/or sources of income, the government cannot avoid its moral responsibility to assist in rebuilding and improving their lives.
The ease in transition and adaptation of the unemployed former railroad dwellers to their new community hinges on both internal (personal) and external (social networks/groups, government) factors.
Statement of the Problem
This study aims to examine the transition of the relocated former railroad dwellers from their previous residences in Metro Manila to the new resettlement site and the strategies they employ in their adaptation to their new environment, given the absence or lack of adequate choice or alternatives provided them by the government.
Specifically, the study will attempt to provide answers to the following questions:
1. How did the informants handle the transition process? What hardships or challenges did they face or experience following their transfer to the relocation site? Which proved to be more difficult a transition and adaptation – the first time they moved to Metro Manila by their own choice or this resettlement when it was the government or the State which decided for them?
2. What gains did they achieve – if any -- following their transfer to Southville 1 and how do they utilize them to adjust to their new environment and cope with their predicament? What did they lose – if any -- and how these were mitigated by them or by external agents?
3. How do they view their situation vis-à-vis that of their neighbors and what is the impact of being with them on their own efforts to improve their life? What are the deterrents to their own adjustment and their having a better life?
4. What are the factors – and how – do they stall the informants’ smooth transition and adaptation to their new community?
5. What are the factors -- and how -- can these help hasten their transition, cope up with their situation and, eventually, contribute to the achievement of their human security?
THE TOWN AND THE RELOCATION SITE: Getting a Feel of the Research Site
According to Baldassare (1992), suburban communities are municipalities
and places in metropolitan areas outside of the political boundaries of the
large central cities whose economic activities and businesses are mainly in
manufacturing and services, rather than in agriculture. Given such definition, Cabuyao, Laguna,
where Southville I is situated, perfectly fits the bill. The town is some forty (40) to fifty
(50) kilometers away from the country’s capital and boasts of
Southville 1 Subdivision: What It Is
Southville 1 is a 55 hectare relocation site made available through the initiative of the national government, with the Housing and Urban development Coordinating Committee (HUDCC), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), NHA and PNR leading the way. Lots given to the beneficiaries measure 42 square meters each, while those occupying the so-called corner lots have bigger slices of lot. Recipients or beneficiaries of these lots need to pay Php 200.00 (roughly Y600) every month for the next 30 years to have the titles transferred to their names. Of the amount, Php 150.00 goes as payment for the lot and the remaining Php 50.00 for the so-called Housing Materials Construction Loan (HMCL). An initial loan of Php 25,000.00 (Y70,000) is released by the government to each beneficiary to commence the construction of their houses. Government authorities then inspect these structures to find out whether occupants and/or owners have complied with the specifications set forth, before the final tranche of Php 25,000.00 (Y70,000) is released to complete the construction of their houses.
A health center regularly manned by a doctor operates in the area, along with a day care center. Likewise, a four-storey, twelve (12) room school was constructed and currently operates to cater to the educational needs of the children.
Why Southville 1 as the Research Site
First, Southville 1, being close to the researcher place of residence, is very accessible and convenient to visit anytime. On the practical side, its proximity saved the researcher enormous amount of money and energy when compared to doing a similar research in another province, city or municipality in the Philippines. He need not go far to observe the lives of relocatees as those who live in Southville 1 could possibly provide a picture of what life is in relocation sites and how the resettled people go through with their lives. The situation in the other resettlement sites may be better or worse but the point is that, at a certain period, residents had to go through a stage of transition, adjust their lives and adapt to their new environment as it is a given or a natural when persons move from one place to another.
Second, residents of Southville 1 are victims of seeming discrimination by some residents of the community and the provincial government of Laguna, a factor that perhaps, could have made their transition and settlement in Southville 1 truly more difficult. Being a “long time” resident of Sta. Rosa City which is but a few kilometers away from Cabuyao, this researcher has heard of several stories about the surge in peace and problem problems such as pickpockets, burglary, illegal drugs and even prostitution, following the establishment of the said resettlement site. The Laguna Provincial Police Office (LPPO) even had records showing that Sta. Rosa, Binan and Cabuyao itself as the localities with the highest crime incidents in the entire province (and these localities are really close to each other). However, this may just be part of the larger community’s show or manifestation of displeasure to the government’s decision to make Southville 1 a home to informal settlers of Metro Manila and the negative perception they have about the latter. While some positive attitudes and perceptions linger about squatter settlements, such as the resourcefulness of the inhabitants as they provide themselves with at least some shelter using minimal inputs available, many negative perceptions still prevail and abound about such settlements, among them their being havens for criminals and racketeers that impede the orderly development of the community, even as they promote juvenile delinquency that threaten the community’s overall economic, social and political stability.
This seeming discrimination, sadly, extends to the provincial government of Laguna which has labeled the squatters “nuisance” who are detrimental to the situation of the province and whose presence did not redound to the overall benefit of community development. Aside from this official resolution from the local government, a veteran politician and provincial board member, whom this researcher had interviewed but who asked that he remained anonymous, blamed pointblank the existence of the resettlement site – and the residents -- as the direct cause of the decline in the value of lands and properties in areas close to and around the site, and described the relocation as a direct insult to the province and people of Laguna. The provincial government may have its own reasons for believing so, but negatively generalizing and unfairly lumping together these people to a particular corner are indeed cruel and saddening, especially if coming from government officials themselves and maybe contributory to the lack of ample available opportunities for most of its residents to improve their lives.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This modest attempt at looking into the lives of the unemployed former railroad dwellers of Metro Manila and their families living in a relocation site provided them by the Philippine government brings to the fore the struggles and the hardships that they live and go through since their transfer to Southville 1, as well as the strategies they apply and utilize in order to endure and overcome their situation. The depiction of their daily lives thus provides for a wealthy source of information that can be used to inspire their kind and those who, while not living in a relocation site, continue to experience and sail in an ocean of hardship and poverty in the Philippines, and thus use their examples as springboards to alleviate their own lives and improve their situation, and for various sectors and segments of the Philippine society to re-examine their views and actions towards these people and, hopefully, rectify them so as to contribute to their speedy transformation and development. Specifically, the following are expected – or hoped – to enormously benefit from this research:
The Residents of Southville 1, Informal Settlers and the Urban Poor: By looking at the experiences that the informants shared to this researcher, which probably mirror the very lives that majority, if not all, of the residents of Southville 1, the latter can utilize the positives or strengths that the former possess to improve their lives and, at the same time, discard the weaknesses of and/or threats that stall their own improvement. As an example, the residents can perhaps organize themselves into support groups that can provide moral, emotional and instrumental support among themselves and for each other that would empower them to mitigate the impact of their daily hardship and actually help them change and/or improve their very lives – through their own efforts. Admit it or not, the government is not – and will not always be -- on their side, beck and call to provide the things basic and necessary for their daily survival and alleviation. Hence, some initiatives should come from them and their kind in order to overcome their plight. In that way, unfair accusations of over-dependence on the government will be quashed, and the chances for a better life may be a lot stronger. It is by looking at their own selves – what they are capable of doing, what they ought to do and not do -- and not by solely looking somewhere else or to the government, that real changes in their lives and condition can take place.
The Philippine government, its policy makers and officials: Findings could help rouse the Philippine government to re-think its programs on urban decongestion and resettlement, or expand its view of the program to include the provision of adequate safety nets or programs and projects that would benefit the people affected, in order to mitigate the impact of relocation especially economic, on the lives of these people. Accept it or not, the oversight or lapse committed by the government is the culprit – or among the culprits – on why these people suffer or experience hardship in the relocation sites. Relocation, after all, is not just about uprooting and moving people away from sites of development programs and projects, but more importantly, about ensuring that the beneficiaries do not fall into hardships. In this sense, the government, its policy makers and implementers, can begin to look at how they can provide follow-through or supplemental programs and projects that would prove beneficial and helpful to the relocatees and their families. Furthermore, the situation of these people as exposed and highlighted in this research can pave the way for the national and local governments to similarly re-think their partnership or relations on how they can ensure that the needs of these people are properly and adequately addressed. In this way, we can see a situation where the national and local governments are moving in sync for the alleviation of the lives of resettlement program beneficiaries.
International and Local Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and Institutions: As this research mirrors or provides a microcosm of the situation in the relocation site and the predicament of the relocatees, foreign and local institutions and NGOs can take a closer and clearer look at how these people really live, then fine tune or re-adjust their existing or formulate altogether new assistance programs and packages in order to ensure that they really fit into and/or address the predicament of these people, zeroing in on how they can truly alleviate their plight and, eventually, empower them and make them capable of seeking and working for their own progress and development.
DATA OBTAINED DURING THE FIELDWORK
Interview with the Respondents: During the fieldwork done during the Summer Semester Break in the relocation site, thirty (30) unemployed residents were selected and subsequently interviewed in-depth with the questions revolving mainly on the following things or subjects: Their decision to move or transfer to Metro Manila from their native provinces; their view or perception of their situation in the relocation site; the problems they experienced or still experiencing following their transfer from the railroad tracks of Metro Manila to Southville Subdivision; their expectation of both the national and local governments as far as the latter’s ability to alleviate and/or improve their situation/plight; their description of both institutions’ performance with regards to delivering basic services to them; their perception on whether these institutions hold the answer or solution to their problems; how they (informants) address their daily and basic needs considering their condition; and the needs or activities that they sacrifice or forego in order to survive.
Likewise, the respondents were asked about their view of or perception on the following, namely their view of their neighbors and government; their own efforts to overcome their plight; and the importance of information in easing their predicament and their expectation in the future.
Respondents’ Brief Profile
Of the thirty respondents, majority are male, married and are high school graduates. Moreover, the informants’ family size range from three to ten members, with majority of them having five family members or more. Furthermore, majority of them are unemployed in the last 4 years, with three unemployed in the past 6 to 8 years, have lived near the railroad tracks for 2 to 30 years prior to their relocation to Southville, and they came mostly from provinces which are considered the poorest provinces in the Philippines.
Three profiles derived from the respondents proved to be very critical and important to this current study: one, that majority of them came from the 20 poorest provinces of the Philippines, indicating a pattern that is reflective of the very weak, ineffective and inefficient governance in the community where they came from and the lack of enough employment or livelihood opportunities in there, which had prompted them to try their luck elsewhere or in Metro Manila (prior to their relocation); second, that majority of them became unemployed in the past four years, which could point to the seeming failure of the resettlement program, as these informants have lost their source of income or livelihood or became unemployed following their transfer to the said relocation site – a breakdown in the policy and program implementation of the national government in terms of providing the appropriate safety nets to the program beneficiaries, and the inability of the host local government to attend to their needs or making sure of substantial employment or livelihood opportunities for the new residents or relocatees.
HOW THE INFORMANTS LIVE
In order to understand how the selected informants live and try to make ends meet, so to speak, in the relocation site, they were asked the amount of money they earn or gain monthly before and after being relocated to Southville. Below are a graph and pie charts showing their monthly earning and how they budget the money for their family.
How they budget
Below is the breakdown of how the informants spend their meager money every month. What is noticeable is that a great chunk of their income goes to repaying debts and loans obtained from neighbors, friends and relatives that they try very hard to pay every month in order not to lose the latter’s trust, thus, would still give them loans and debts the following month/s.
Informant with P1,500 (Y3,488) monthly income
P500.00 – loans/debts
P300.00 – electricity
P200.00 – education
P200.00 – food
P100.00 – transportation
P50.00 – medicine for sick
P50.00 – R and R (cigarette, etc.)
P100.00 – food
P200.00 – loans/debts
P100.00 – electricity
P50.00 – transportation
P50 – medicine for sick family members
What was rather striking is that most of the informants never included in their budget the P200.00 or Y500 they are supposed to pay every month for their housing amortization. While they seem to be very meticulous in paying the debts they obtained from friends, relatives and neighbors, the same cannot be said when it comes to paying the government for the house where they live. Can this be considered a form of protest to make the government feel or realize the hardship they experience in the government-established relocation site?
The figures presented manifest a rather saddening development indicating perhaps the failure of the national government and the host local government to provide ample safety nets to the program recipients and strongly conflicts with the basic tenet of good governance and human security for that matter which states that people should be protected at all times from “sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of basic life.” Obviously, the relocation of these people to Southville had disrupted their patterns of basic life as it kept them away from their previous places of work, thus, lost their job that eventually reduced their monthly income or erased it altogether.
How the Informants Live
In order to survive, the informants seek loans/debt from friends, relatives and neighbors which they try to repay within three months. Likewise, they take on odd jobs that do not provide them with fixed income on a monthly basis, then save a portion of whatever they have earned during the month. One of the odd jobs they take on is the peeling of garlic and onion – five kilos per family at Y50 per kilo or Y250 a day. While this somehow helps them survive, it has some effects on their health like darkened skin and some difficulty in breathing as garlic emits a rather strong odor that the people themselves find to be unpleasant. During times when they do not have odd jobs, they are forced to pawn or sell whatever valuable and “saleable” items in their possession, even as they also try their luck in games of chance (lotto).
What the Informants Forego to Survive
Top three things/activities they forego: going to hospital when sick, eating three times a day and the education of family members. The third activity (education of family members or sending children to school) is something that the poor are always criticized for – that they do not engage in human capital, or the cumulative result of investment or expenditure that increases the future earning capacity of individuals. But who can blame these people, when, they cannot even make sure that they can eat three square meals a day?
Interpersonal Relations with Friends and Relatives
Majority described their relations with neighbors, friends and relatives to be good, that they trust them and are willing to extend whatever help they can, as helping others is better than being the ones helped. They are “on the same boat” as their neighbors, prompting them to strive to become better than them. With regards to whether they feel deprived or sorrier than their neighbors, some of my informants said that at times they feel relatively deprived, especially when they see their neighbors who came from Makati City receiving bags of rice and canned goods from the Makati City government every month and during Christmas.
During the interview, the researcher asked the informants on how they determine whether their life is better than their neighbors and, based on their response, developed some sort of a criteria used along that line in a ranking order:
1. Monthly income
3. Number of friends willing to help
4. Money saved
5. Healthy family members
6. No. of children going to school
While money or the amount of money one has sits on top of the criteria, it is important to note that the respondents consider the number of friends willing to help (No. 3) as a yardstick when ranging one’s situation with others. This is an acknowledgement that a strong social capital or network is necessary to both survive in the short run and lift or alleviate their situation in the future.
Informants’ View of Their Transfer to the Relocation Site
Most of them said it afforded them to have their own house and lot, but decried its distance from their previous places of work and the lack of employment opportunities. Other dilemmas they face in the site are the lack of adequate health facilities/establishments and the discrimination they feel from the old-time residents of the municipality.
Their View of Government
Majority still believe the government adequately provides them with what they need, although some have scored the government for not doing enough. They also said government should provide them employment and to make their environment/community conducive to growth.
Instances wherein they felt the presence and support of the government - providing them shelter, medical and health missions, cheap NFA rice sold to them and financial assistance when someone from the family was hospitalized.
They said there are concerns that they themselves should address personally like: lack of skills, education and health, while government should address these: lack of employment opportunities, skyrocketing cost of prime commodities, peace and order and the negative impression on relocatees.
Importance of Information in Overcoming Their Plight
Most of them believe an effective information program by the national and local governments is important, esp. in finding jobs. Most of the time, they rely on information they get from their own neighbors. However, the sheer number of unemployed people prevents or blocks a freer or smoother flow of “word of mouth” information.
SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM THE DATA/INFORMATION OBTAINED
Following the data and information I have gathered from the respondents, I formulated a framework or a diagram which shows how the informants manage to live and survive in spite of their situation.
Capabilities E M P OW E R M E N T Appropriate
Government Response to their Plight E M P O W E R M E N T Strong
SURVIVAL OF INFORMANTSS
Own Actions/ Capabilities
Appropriate Government Response to their Plight
Strong Social Network/Capital
This framework shows that the survival of the informants and their families – as I see it -- depend on three factors, namely themselves (their own action and capabilities), their strong social network or social capital inside and outside the community where they live and the government and its response to their situation. Hopefully, these factors would have helped or could help these people survive and live a more decent and dignified life. The strong social network or social capital is present and is helping these people cope up with their situation by way of obtaining loans and getting non-cash or –monetary help from their neighbors and friends, like getting some information on sources of livelihood or even part-time jobs. Likewise, the informants strive on their own, relying on whatever limited capabilities they have to earn money to feed their families, even as they believe that their own survival is something that the government alone cannot do.
Sadly, however, the third factor seemed absent or inadequate (the government). In a situation where the people are poor and un-empowered, government should try to make its plans, programs and project appropriate and suitable to their needs. Otherwise, they may find it truly difficult to get out of the rut.
This should not be viewed as the informants’ plain dependence. I rather look at it as the prevalence of paternalism among them or the belief that the government should be of help to them, whether directly or indirectly. And why not? It exists in the first place and, hence, should make it work for the people and to justify its very existence. We may ignore or overlook its existence, but one cannot deny the fact that it exists just the same – although I concede that it is absent or invisible most of the time.
However, it would be more ideal if survival (middle box) would be replaced by improved or enhanced quality of life, as this would signify that the informants through the help of themselves, the government and the social network they have established with their neighbors, friends and relatives. In this day and age, survival should not be the benchmark of how people live, for this signifies being with the impoverished or the marginalized sector of society deprived of the basic things in life. Instead, quality of life or the state or condition wherein the people can utilize or maximize their full potential and receive quality basic services due them from the government should be aspired for by the government for its people and by the people for themselves, with the aid of both the government and their strong social network.
SOME READINGS MADE RELATED TO THE RESEARCH
Before and during the fieldwork, several books and literatures were read by the researcher in order to equip him with the necessary idea and information pertaining to the questions he should ask to the informants and, more importantly, enlighten him insofar as the direction the research is going to take. Among the books and literatures he read are the following (including some of their parts that have direct relevance to this paper):
1. Internal Migration and Development in Vietnam
Anh Dang, Sidney Goldstein, James McNally
International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 312-337
The Center for Migration Studies of New York, Inc.
Population mobility is of increasing importance not only because it is the major cause of interregional variations in population growth, but also because of its influential role in social and economic change in the affected areas. (p.312)
Economic development (theory) has provided a major framework of migration for explaining labor migration (Massey et al., 1993:433). The income/wage differentials between origin and destination are generally seen as the main motive for migration. (It assumes that) economic rationality leads people to choose to migrate to where they can be most productive, given their abilities. They want to maximize the returns of migration by relocating to a place that they expect offers higher positive net return (Sjaastad, 1962; Harris and Todaro, 1970; Todaro, 1976). In many cases, the locus of the migration decision lies with the household rather than with individual members (Trager, 1988). (page 313)
Prevailing conditions in land shortage, education opportunities, health care, and recreational facilities can all enter into decisions to migrate or not to migrate. (page 314)
Like Thailand, the government in the Philippines has been most concerned with the problem of overurbanization, especially in the Manila metropolis. Yet, the urban bias in investment strategies makes the big cities most attractive and encourages rural outmigration. Indirect measures were instituted to draw migrants to secondary urban centers outside Manila and to newly established industrial estates in various parts of the country in an endeavor to ameliorate regional disparities. However, these efforts tended to trigger more mass movements as a result of increasing contacts between more- and less-developed areas (Perez, 1985). (p. 314)
2. Suburban Communities
Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992), pp. 475-494
Suburban communities…are the municipalities and places in metropolitan areas outside of the political boundaries of the large central cities. Suburban communities differ from central cities in the presence of sprawling, low density land use, the absence of a central, downtown district, and the existence of a politically fragmented local government. They differ from rural areas in that the economic activities of suburban residents and businesses are primarily in manufacturing and services, rather than in agriculture. (476)
Their presumed benefits included urban decongestion, lower residential densities, greater separation from the city’s business district and, importantly, home ownership. These early suburbs became the public’s ideal for future suburban developments. They also were seen as desirable solutions to emerging urban problems. (477)
Tiebout (1956) argues that residents move to areas whose local governments satisfy their preferences for public goods. In a suburban region, residents select among the multitude of municipalities the one which offers them the best services. (478)
3. Development as Freedom
Unemployment…is a source of far-reaching debilitating effects on individual freedom, initiative and skills. It contributes to the “social exclusion” of some groups, and it leads to losses of self-reliance, self-confidence and psychological and physical health.”
4. Coping: The Ethic of Self-Reliance
Paul Sniderman, Richard Brody
Paternalism insists on the responsibility of the government to provide for the needy…assist those hit by unemployment…make sure that more people do not lose their jobs and that all who want to work can find a job at a fair wage.
5. Social Comparison, Social Justice and Relative Deprivation
Edited by Masters and Smith
While Relative Deprivation theories are predicated on individuals perceiving they have less of something than someone else who is similar to them in many respect…it may have other results like the emergence of “achievement-oriented behaviors designed to reduce differences in outcomes or in resignation and apathy.”
6. Social Interaction, Local Spillovers and Unemployment
Friends, relatives and neighbors (informal channels) matter a lot in the unemployed finding jobs.
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 Poverty incidence refers to the proportion of families (or population) with per capita income less than the per capita poverty threshold to the total number of families (population)
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