Ambrosio R. Villorente
Launching National Slum
May I give way in this column to publish the report of Vice President Jejomar Binay on the National Slum Upgrading Project. I believe this is not only of national importance but local as well. Almost all cities and big towns in the Philippines are inhabited by slum dwellers. This is a huge eyesore and national embarrassment.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay led recently the launching of the country’s National Slum Upgrading Strategy (NSUS) project that will guide the efforts of national and local government units in upgrading slum communities and improving the living conditions of settlers in the cities.
Funding for this Project will come from the US$455,000 grant from Cities Alliance, a global coalition of cities and their development partners committed to scaling up successful approaches to slum upgrading, city development strategies, and poverty reduction. The Cities Alliance is housed at the World Bank.
"Slum communities in the Philippines endure poor living conditions such as cramped living spaces, lack of proper housing and insecure tenure, inadequate access to basic services such as water and sanitation, and exposure to health risks," Binay explained.
"The formulation of a national slum upgrading strategy, supported by this Project as well as the resources of the government, will boost Philippine efforts to alleviate the plight of communities and improve the liveability as well as the global competitiveness of our cities," he added.
The Philippines is among the rapidly urbanizing countries in Asia with 60 percent of its population living in urban areas. At its current urbanization rate, its urban population is expected to account for 75 percent of the total national population in 25 years.
Binay said that Metro Manila alone houses an estimated 12.5 million Filipinos - three million of whom are considered informal settlers. Of this number, about 525,000 live in vulnerable areas near waterways, esteros and under bridges completely exposed to and unprotected from the hazards of urban living and climate change.
As part of the process of developing a national slum upgrading strategy, the Project will provide resources for coming up with a comprehensive assessment and database on the condition, issues, opportunities, and risks confronting slum communities. This assessment will form the basis for possible interventions related to slum upgrading.
"Community empowerment is at the core of any slum upgrading initiative. More than ever, we need to step up and effectively address the repercussions of urbanization," he pointed out.
"We will ensure that informal settlers are empowered by involving their organizations in the preparation of the strategy. They will be engaged in the process, as well as be able to collaborate with the concerned LGUs in designing a strategy that actually responds to their needs and aspiration." Binay added.
According to Binay, the national slum upgrading strategy will help local government units identify policy and program options for local slum upgrading that will be integrated into the local planning process.
"As we move forward to bring the shelter programs and services closer through the Pabahay Caravan, we are sharing this NSUS initiative with the LGUs," Binay said.
Binay calls on the LGUs to support the government in this endeavor, share success stories and best practices in slum upgrading, so that we will move towards achieving sustainable urban development.
The launching was attended by representatives from the country’s Key Shelter Agencies, World Bank, United Nations Habitat, Metro Manila Development Authority, and local chief executives of the National Capital Region.
Members of Cities Alliance include local government units, govern-ments of Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States; non-government organizations including Slum Dwellers International and Habitat for Humanity International; and multilateral organizations including the European Union, United Nations Environmental Protection Agency, UN-HABITAT, and the World Bank.
I sincerely greet my readers "may you have the happiest Christmas ever this 2011". /MP