Escalating suppression against the urban poor in Manila
During the first meeting of the newly formed National Capital Region Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NCRTF-ELCAC) of the the Duterte regime last September 10, regional police chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar baselessly claimed that Metro Manila is a hotbed of the armed revolutionary movement, especially the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela (CAMANAVA).
While there is no armed conflict in Metro Manila, he is making it appear that the vast urban poor communities in the CAMANAVA area are communist bases. He is asserting that the deployment of additional state forces is necessary to purportedly maintain “peace and order” in the area. It is clear, however, that he only aims to justify the regime’s vicious counter-insurgency campaign which suppresses the democratic struggles of residents for decent housing and livelihood.
Istead of addressing the plight of the urban poor, the regime is using the NCRTF-ELCAC to sow fascist terror not only in the said areas but also in other parts of Metro Manila to intimidate and silence them.
BAYAN Metro Manila pointed out that many residents and activists in the CAMANAVA area reported several cases of harassment and intimidation against them by the police and military since the NCRTF-ECLAC was formed. The Defend the Defenders Network (DDN) reported that Major Jeoffrey Braganza is spearheading the attacks of state forces against KADAMAY members in Caloocan City.
In response, the DDN led the protest of CAMANAVA residents on September 18 at the Monumento Circle in Caloocan City to condemn the intesifying suppression of the regime against them.
Urban poor situation in Metro Manila
Metro Manila is known as the world’s densest region with an average population density of 19,988 individuals per square-kilometer (km2). Manila is considered the densest city with 41,515 individuals/km2. Meanwhile, Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas are also among the densest with 27,915, 22,419 and 21,674 individuals/km2, respectively. The largest urban poor communities in the country are concentrated in these areas.
Due to the high population density and the lack of affordable and decent housing in these areas, many residents are compelled to live in slums along creeks, rivers, railways, alleys and even at dumpsites. Data by the reactionary government in 2014 indicate that about 32% of the population in NCR or around 4.64 million residents live in slums, most of which are without proper water and power supply. The said rate is expected to reach 36.7% (6.3 million residents) by 2020.
Majority of residents in these communities are semiproletariats or those without a regular source of income. Amid the continuous growth of the slum population, the government shows no intent to address their plight while livelihood opportunities remain scarce.
Conservative estimates by the reactionary state indicate that the national housing backlog (housing demand) is expected to reach 6.8 million by 2022. In sum, ₱3.4-trillion is needed to address the housing gap.
Despite this, the regime is deliberately turning a blind eye to the housing problem and only proposed a ₱6.2-billion budget allocation to the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) for the next year. The agency is mandated to administer the housing programs of the regime. The proposed allocation does not meet even 1% of the aforementioned budgetary requirement.
Meanwhile, it only allocated ₱3.2 billion to the National Housing Authority and ₱1.3 billion to the Social Housing Finance Corporation which are mandated to support the DHSUD.
This miserable condition along with the adverse impact of the regime’s anti-poor and fascist policies such as the TRAIN Law and Oplan Tokhang leave millions of urban poor residents, not only in Metro Manila but also across the country, with no other option but to fight for their rights.