Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag
Residents of Sitio Maligaya, San Isidro Sur, Sto. Tomas, Batangas continue to face the threats of demolition and displacement because of an infrastructure development in the area.
17 houses in the sitio have been demolished since 2020 as the local government makes way for the construction of the Malvar-Sto. Tomas Diversion Road, a project under the Regional Development Investment Program.
While the diversion road is said to be aimed at developing the economy, Maligaya Homeowners Association asserted that this project is different from their idea of progress.
“Naninindigan kaming hindi dapat kapalit ng kaunlarang sinasabi ng gobyerno ang pagsagasa at pagyurak sa aming mga karapatan,” the association said.
[“We believe that the developments being forwarded by the government must not trample our rights.”]
The Duterte administration has been keen on developing the infrastructure sector in the Philippines with its Build, Build, Build program, but it has been criticized for its environmental damage, displacement of residents, and prioritization of foreign investors.
In Sitio Maligaya, 12 houses were illegally demolished in 2020, while five more were destroyed last December 29.
“Mayroong residente [na] sinementuhan ang kaniyang matabang lupa na taniman ng pinya, atis, niyog, atbp. nang walang karampatang bayad sa mga nasira ng proyekto. Nawalan siya ng kabuhayan at nawalan ang bayan ng Sto. Tomas ng mapagkukunan ng mga agrikulturang produkto,” the association added.
[“A fertile residential area that served as a plantation of various fruits has been cemented without justifiable compensation to the owner. The owner lost their livelihood and Sto. Tomas lost a resource of agricultural products.”]
Maligaya Homeowners Association said that the demolitions pushed through despite the lack of written notice or compensation.
As to why no notice was given to the residents before the demolition, Hailey Pecayo of Tanggol Batangan asserted that this is part of the government’s tactic to immediately drive away the residents.
“Parte ito ng kanilang taktika para sa pinakamabilis na pagpapalayas sa lahat ng mamamayan ng karilesan,” Pecayo said in an exclusive interview with the Perspective.
[“This is part of their tactic to immediately drive away the residents near the railway.”]
The demolition in Sitio Maligaya violates the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 or Republic Act (RA) 7279, which provides a “comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program”.
The demolition violated a section of RA 7279 that enacts that residents must be given a notice for at least 30 days prior to their eviction or house demolition, and that adequate consultations must be done with the affected communities before the demolition proper.
Despite a dialogue held last December 16 between the sitio’s locals, paralegals, and the local government unit (LGU), no formal resolution was presented by the politicians and the LGU for the community issue.
“Natapos man ang dayalogo sa pagitan ng mga lokal, paralegals, at LGU ay walang naging kahit anong pananagutan o commitment ang LGU patungkol sa isyu,” Pecayo said.
[“The dialogue between the sitio’s locals, paralegals, and the LGU ended without any commitment from the LGU regarding the demolition issue.”]
According to Pecayo, the local officials are unwilling to act upon the requests of the residents of Sitio Maligaya who are affected by the demolition.
“Hanggang ngayon ay nananawagan pa rin sila para sa pananagutan ng mga nakaupo sa posisyon na nagpapalaganap ng iligal na demolisyon sa buong karilesan, hanggang ngayon ay tuloy-tuloy ang implementasyon ng DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways], LGU, at barangay,” Pecayo explained.
[“Until now, residents still call for the commitment of officials who approve of the illegal demolition in the community. Until now, the demolition is being continuously implemented by the DPWH, LGU, and the barangay.”] [P]
Photos from Hailey Pecayo / Tanggol Batangan
Layout by Arianne Mer Paas