Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate inquiry into the construction of the PhP23-B North Luzon Expressway–South Luzon Expressway (NLEX-SLEX) Connector Road Project and the PhP171-billion North-South Commuter Railway Project which would displace some 180,000 families in Metro Manila.
In filing Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 927, De Lima has urged the appropriate Senate committee to look into the impending demolition of thousands of residents in 38 communities in Manila affected by the two construction projects.
“Mega-infrastructure projects such as these rarely, if at all, mention the social costs of these endeavors, particularly the physical and economic displacement of thousands of people just to give way for their construction in Metro Manila’s densely populated areas,” she said.
“Some residents of Sampaloc, Manila have long been apprehensive of their forcible eviction and relocation to give way for the construction of these projects. They have repeatedly stressed that the concerned agencies have failed to adequately consult with them concerning the right-of-way negotiations,” she added.
The Build, Build, Build (BBB) program, which is the centerpiece program of the Duterte administration, has scheduled to roll out the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road Project and the North-South Commuter Railway Project this year.
These two construction projects, however, will result in the massive demolition of houses in at least 38 barangays in Manila composed mainly of homes and small businesses. Thousands are reportedly to be relocated in far and inaccessible sites.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development, pointed out that wrong displacement and relocation of these affected residents would further exacerbate economic and social problems.
According to her, their relocation to unfamiliar locales would result to zero-to-low occupancy rates of the housing projects due to lack of access to livelihood opportunities, power, water, community facilities, and poor estate management.
‘There is a need to closely scrutinize the plan of our government agencies with respect to urban development regarding these projects and give due consideration and proper recognition to the individuals and families who stand to be uprooted,” she said.
“The government should ensure that the rights and interests of the people, first and foremost, are safeguarded and protected, and as such, should exercise due diligence and exhaust all possible alternatives prior to the development of any infrastructure project that involves the acquisition of private lands and the relocation of its inhabitants,” she added.
The Senator from Bicol said the government should make changes in its National Resettlement Policy Framework and operationalize it through an executive order or a law that would set up a clear roadmap to address gaps in “no relocation, no demolition” policy.
“There is a need for the government to ensure that in its ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, essential institutional reforms are simultaneously undertaken,” she added.