The Department of Transportation (DOTr), through the Philippine Ports Authority, signs a memorandum of understanding, in collaboration with the National Housing Authority, local government unit of Manila, International Container Terminal Services, Inc., and the Manila North Harbor Port, Inc., to donate five-hectare land for the relocation of informal settlers in Isla Puting Bato in Manila. (Photo courtesy of the DOTr)

MANILA – Resonating the Duterte administration’s drive for social responsibility, five hectares of government land will be donated for the relocation of at least 2,086 informal settler families (ISFs) long living on Isla Puting Bato in Manila.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), through the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, in collaboration with the National Housing Authority (NHA), local government unit (LGU) of Manila, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), and the Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. (MNHPI).

Through the MOU, the ISFs from Isla Puting Bato are now beneficiaries of new housing units in the five-hectare property owned by the PPA in Tondo, Manila.

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, who also chairs the PPA Board, commended the collaborative efforts of all parties, and vowed to increase the capacity to benefit more ISFs.

Napakaganda ng balita na ipinamahagi sa atin ng PPA na kung saan sila po ay magbibigay o magdo-donate ng five hectares para sa relocation ng mga kababayan natin sa tubig. Ito ‘ho ay mag-a-accommodate ng 2,400 families na target natin (This is a very good news the PPA has imparted to us where they will donate five hectares for the relocation of our fellowmen living in the area. This would accommodate 2,400 families which is our target),” Tugade said.

Legal Protection of ISFs

PPA general manager Jay Santiago announced the good news during the regular session of the House committee on housing and urban development, which was held remotely at Rosauro Almario Elementary School in Tondo, Manila.

Santiago assured that ISF beneficiaries will receive legal protection for ownership of the housing units, as documents are being prepared to prevent their eviction. PPA targets to secure the beneficiaries up to 25 years. The land property, meanwhile, will remain under government ownership.

Peligroso po ‘yung nasa malapit sila sa katubigan. Ito po ay hindi magiging pagmamay-ari ng kung sinuman kundi ng pamahalaan pa rin. Mayroon po tayong dokumentasyon na kasiguruhan na kung sinuman ang benepisyaryo ay hindi siya mapapaalis diyan sa units na gagawin (It is hazardous to be living near the waterway. This [property] will not be owned by anyone else but the government. We have documentation to ensure that the beneficiaries would not be evicted from their units),” Santiago said.

Additional land from PNR

Currently, a rail line of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) runs through the relocation area for the Isla Puting Bato ISFs. Both the DOTr and the PNR agreed to adjust the rail line to give way to the housing plan.

Gagawa tayo ng paraan para magkaroon ng balance nang sa ganoon, ‘yung hangarin natin sa kabuuan na mapaayos ang kalagayan ng mga pamilya ay mabigyan ng katuparan (We will make a way to strike a balance to achieve our goal of giving them [ISFs] decent homes,” Tugade said.

“The PNR will redesign its alignment of the said property to allow NHA and their actual occupants to use it. We would make available the 1,064 square meters that was requested by the Key Shelter Agencies that they would require for the fruition of the project,” PNR general manager Junn Magno added.

Long wait for relocation

Meanwhile, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo expressed joy over the MOU signing, as the relocation plan was unattended for nearly 15 years until now.

“I am very happy with the developments to finally give the people of Isla Puting Bato a place they can call home,” Arroyo said.

Senator Cynthia Villar also conveyed her excitement for the relocation of the ISFs, which coincides with the full rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.

“Not only are we giving our citizens on Isla Puting Bato proper shelter, but we are giving the Manila Bay a chance to return to its former glory,” she said. (DOTr PR)