Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Burned out in Manila

Rapid & massive urbanization into slums & shanty towns by rural people displaced in predatory land-grabs & by IMF economic policies is an international phenomenon. But so is urban gentrification which involves forcible evictions creating massive homelessness so cities & landowners can build high-priced condos & shopping malls. Because residents have mounted fierce resistance to the evictions in so many  countries, cities & landowners often employ a policy of simply burning down the slums. This is no reckless accusation; it is a charge frequently repeated by burned-out residents in many countries. Because there is no provision of public housing, residents have fought many legal battles against evictions, along with street protests against demolition bull dozers--often confronting extreme police brutality (including the use of water cannons & other assaultive weapons) when cops protect the demolition squads sent to evict them.

The housing battles in Quezon City (a section of Manila) in the Philippines go back years with appeals by residents to the Commission on Human Rights, to the Manila Development Authority (which deploys the demolition squads), & attempts to the get the Quezon city council to declare moratoriums on evictions until there are enough relocation sites--which does not mean public housing provided to evictees, but empty lots where they can move. Most of these housing battles are not won by the residents--either in the courts or on the street. Quezon City was identified in 2008 as the richest city in the Philippines & has embarked on a massive infrastructure program including business parks, IT call centers, malls, & other projects designed to attract investment. Shanty towns stand in the way & must be demolished--or burned down.

This is the scene of a predawn fire today in Quezon City which destroyed a slum, killed two residents, including a small boy, & displaced 800 residents. Massive urbanization & homelessness are both the result of economic predation. Housing is a primary human need denied millions of people in every country. It must become a primary demand in all political agitation. Money for housing, not for war!  (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP)

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