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Philippines Working to Create Safe, Resilient Communities for the Urban Poor

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Government focused on assisting the urban poor

A study released by the Asian Cities Climate Resilience group highlighted efforts by the Philippine Government to assist the nation's urban poor become safe and resilient against poverty and natural disasters.

According to the study, increased urbanization and explosive population growth around the world is occurring at an extremely rapid rate. In most instances, poor city/urban planning, weak governance, and a lack of infrastructure to supply adequate water, sanitation, and other basic services compounds the issue because impacted cities are not able to meet the explosive demand.

Furthermore, many of the settlements are on or near marginal lands at risk from a variety of natural and human-caused hazards, including flooding, earthquakes, mudslides, hazardous waste facilities, refuse dumps, toxic industrial plants or next to railways and waterways.

The impact of climate change

Climate change is exacerbating these issues, especially in low-lying coastal areas such as Metro Manila, where flooding is becoming more frequent due to sea-level rise. According to the report, the 2011 World Bank Risk Index places the Philippines third in the world for nations most at risk to natural hazards.

In 2008, the Philippine's Metropolitan Manila, the National Capital Region (NCR) consisted of an urban poor population of over 4 million people, or approximately 37 percent of people living in the area. The 2009 typhoon season had a devastating impact on the urban poor in the NCR when super-Typhoon Ondoy heavily flooded area slums, leaving a path of death and destruction. Action was needed to address alarming conditions of these vulnerable populations.

This squatter settlement is next to a market and a river. There are no privat or public toilets. The holes are full of polluted water and the whole place is full of rubbish and excreta. Photo by Philipp Feiereisen 2007 (during a geographical excursion 2007 of the University of Mainz).
This squatter settlement is next to a market and a river. There are no privat or public toilets. The holes are full of polluted water and the whole place is full of rubbish and excreta. Photo by Philipp Feiereisen 2007 (during a geographical excursion 2007 of the University of Mainz).

The People's Plan

In 2010, the Philippine Government embarked on a resettlement plan that would assist the most at-risk urban poor populations situated along vulnerable waterways in Metro Manila to acquire housing. The People's Plan, as it was labeled, was the legal framework that would help move more than 100,000 families to housing within the city or into housing developed on-site.

According to the study, President Benigno Aquino committed funds of P50 billion to the program initially, with another P10 billion per year until he left office in 2016. The targeted completion date for the initiative was December 2015. Meant to empower local citizens and community leaders, the People's Plan also required community organizations to coordinate requirements with diverse agencies at all levels (local, national), and their disparate rules and procedures, which made plan development and implementation extremely challenging.

The study concluded that while the People's Plan set the framework for addressing issues associated with housing and basic infrastructure services for Metro Manila's urban poor, the plan also involved complicated negotiations "with agencies that have different rules, agendas and interests" making it complicated to implement. By March of 2015, only 3 of the 52 approved housing construction projects had been started.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.