Launching of Back to Development Report in the Philippines
It was September 2009, the clouds looked dense and it has been raining since four o’clock in that Saturday morning. I was on my last year in college and it was my first time to experience such heavy rainfall. When our Professor dismissed our class, the ground floor of the building was already flooded. I had to climb on the roof of the pedicab to get me to the nearest train station. The flood was already waist deep at that time. Looking at the window, one can feel the devastating impacts of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) already.
According to news reports, the onslaught of Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain over a 24 – hour period. The raging waters and cars floating on the streets caused Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, including Rizal which I live, trapped into homes without access to electricity. I finally was able to reach home Monday morning and only then I was able to have a full grasp of what Typhoon Ondoy had left Metro Manila.
Destructive typhoons such as Ondoy have hit the country causing floods, damage to property, displacement of people and at times event fatality. After 2009, the government began to conduct studies on flood risks in Metro Manila. In 2012, the government announced the completion of a “Flood Management Master Plan” that called for the development of eleven infrastructure projects around Laguna de Bay. These projects included the Cavite – Laguna Expressway around the lake, the West Laguna Lake Shore Land Raising projects as well as the construction of spillways, a mega – dike, dredging works and the improvements to the urban drainage systems.
This was my own personal experience of how flooding became a way of life for millions of Filipinos. Coming back home for three weeks, I had the opportunity to witness the launching of Back to Development report that was initiated by International Accountability Project’s Global Advocacy Team (GAT). The team designed the research process and created a survey to investigate the communities’ experiences with forced evictions. The report is a product of community – led research in eight countries namely Burma, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Egypt, Mongolia, Panama and the Philippines. It is designed to serve as a tool for diverse actors and groups involved in development projects around the world.
I was giving a short message in behalf of IAP
Context and Current Realities
In the past years, seven most destructive typhoons have hit the country, flooding homes and displacing people. Accordingly, most of the people who will be evicted are informal settlers living in poor conditions. The government has not announced any plans for the people or consulted the communities who would be affected. Ever since Typhoon Ondoy, typhoons are becoming stronger and stronger each year. These short intervals have left communities with no almost no time to recover. However, despite these devastation of the flooding the communities have become equally concerned on the potential impacts of the government’s response to such calamities.
The launching of the report was attended by the respondents of the survey and some government officials.
Findings of the report:
- The communities agree that flood control is a priority. Accordingly throughout the survey, community members in the area are in agreement with the government and international donors that flood control is a priority for development. However, the people that were surveyed strongly disagree with the process by which the government and development partners are proposing to address flood control measures. Specifically, they are opposed to the lack of consultation and opportunities for them to participate in designing the approach to flood control.
- The government has not consulted with the community neither did they inform them how will the flood management program will impact their lives. According to the report, the lack of consultation in Biñan City is not unique. Community members have been reported that the national and local governments rarely allow citizens to participate in development projects. 85% said that the government has never consulted them on development priorities for country or region. With the exception of some government social welfare programs, people do not have an opportunity to provide inputs into the government’s decisions.
- Despite lack of government consultation, local people are organizing to create alternative solutions to housing and flood control plans. Of all the people surveyed, 83% provided specific comments on how they would like to be consulted and how a meaningful consultation process should operate. Many people insisted that if they are resettled, it should be to a location nearby where they could access jobs, schools and basic services without having to travel long distances. Many others stressed the importance of having secure land tenure at their new homes.
- Several existing factors could lead to problems during the resettlement process. Lastly of those surveyed, 76% said that they do not have title to the land on which they are currently living. This creates a risk that they are treated as second – class citizens when they are resettled. 83% also said that they believe their source of livelihood will change in the future. Many expect to face the difficulties in finding new jobs, especially if they were relocated far outside the city.
The report also highlighted some lessons learned. The Philippine’s Flood Management Control projects are clearly in the public interest and if built carefully, they will help to prevent future damage from floods and typhoons. The People’s Plan is a model that can be mainstreamed in the country. It is a strategy that can be pursued in finding for permanent and inclusive solutions to the settlement issues the government is grappling with. It is a clear understanding of the community’s role in pursuing development and being part of governance.