Squatters along railways given three months to move out

By Julie M. Aurelio
Last updated 07:52pm (Mla time) 07/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Squatters living along the railroad tracks in Parañaque City on Wednesday were given three more months to move out of the area in order to give way to the modernization of the South Luzon Railway.


City mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr. said the affected informal settlers along the rail tracks are currently being polled on their preferred relocation sites as the Philippine National Railway (PNR) continues its clearing operations.


“The informal settlers along the railroad tracks in Barangay (village) San Martin de Porres have expressed their desire to be relocated to San Pedro town in Laguna as it would keep them close to their places of work,” the mayor said.


Under the guidelines set by the Community Mortgage Program, the city government would ascertain the legitimacy of the residents’ claims to the land and would find the most suitable relocation area for the residents.


Mayor Bernabe added that he is holding a dialogue with seven homeowners associations and one traders group in the 2.5- to 3-kilometer strip within the jurisdiction of San Martin de Porres.


He also expressed concern over the concrete commercial structures some residents have built along the railway.


“Some claim to be sitting partly on PNR property and partly on private properties. These residents have expressed fears over the possibility that their business establishments would be demolished without due compensation,” the city official explained.


In a recent visit to San Martin de Porres, vice president Noli de Castro gave the city government and the settlers until October to clear the area.


“The clearing operation and relocation of the settlers should be completed within three months,” de Castro said while commending the city government for ensuring the settlers’ orderly transfer to the relocation areas.


Part of the modernization of the South Luzon Railway includes four railroad tracks which would be placed 15 meters apart of each other, the vice president added.


However, de Castro voiced his opposition to San Pedro, Laguna as a relocation area because it was near an open dumpsite and would pose health hazards to the 1,650 families due to relocate there.


Instead, the vice president offered Biñan, Laguna or Trece Martires City, Cavite where ready-for-occupancy houses and 100 to 125 square meter lots are available.


De Castro said the houses already have running water and electricity, and that the settlers would only pay a monthly rate of P200 for the homes plus the bill for water and electricity.


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