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Quezon City and Taguig are leading Gawad Kalinga’s campaign for a slum-free Metro Manila.Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte and Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga are spearheading efforts to uplift the lives of the poor in their localities through decent homes and productive communities. 

Quezon City has a big investment in Gawad Kalinga (GK) and has purchased numerous privately owned lands to establish communities for the poor beneficiaries of GK.  But more than homes, Quezon City invests much in the infrastructure and site development of the GK communities to make sure that these sites are well-organized and livable.

A good example of this initiative is the GK village in Sitio Pajo in Baesa, where roads and alleys were concreted, drainage systems and anti-erosion structures constructed at a cost of P27 million.

In each site, the Quezon City government made sure that roads were fixed, drainage and sewerage systems set up.

“Quezon City has hosted a lot of GK projects and we have a big investment in GK in terms of the land we purchased and provided. The investments in infrastructure are bigger than the housing structures themselves. The infrastructure is in place; we have rehabilitated roads, constructed water sewerage and drainage systems,” Belmonte said in an interview.

“We work hand in hand with a lot of partners, the private sector, different schools, companies and we very much appreciate their efforts in working with us. We work with them to ensure that we build first-class and livable communities for the GK beneficiaries,” he added.

To date, there are 70 GK villages in Quezon City, which all have provision for livelihood and livelihood training, values formation programs and Sibol pre-schools. Belmonte lauded the efforts of GK and all their partners in helping turn into a reality their vision of a slum-free and progressive Quezon City.

Their partners are the National Housing Authority, Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo Alumni Association, World Youth Alliance, St. Paul University, Telus Philippines, Colgate-Palmolive Phils. Inc., Ancop USA, Ancop Canada, Ancop Australia, Ancop Singapore, Ancop New Zealand, Ancop Spain, Philippine Axa Insurance, Citigroup, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Handmaids of the Lord, Bellestar Promotions, Eveready Philippines, PhilamLife, Angels of Hope, and Miriam’s Parent-Teachers’ Association.

“We appreciate the efforts of our partners in building homes for the poor and likewise the efforts of the GK people who watch over GK villages and use neighbor power. GK is one of the many NGOs that we’ve worked with that has done a tremendous job. They’re the most aggressive and beneficial to the needs of many people,” Belmonte said.

                                            A solid partnership

Architect Sonny Rodriguez, head of the Quezon City Subdivision Administration Office, said the partnership with GK started three years ago.Their office is the one coordinating with GK through its Community Mortgage Program (CMP) takeout projects facilitated by the city government’s Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO). The homes that GK and partners provide are free but for the land, the residents pay a very small amount to the UPAO. By paying for their lots, which they would acquire later on, the poor are showing that they can help themselves, Rodriguez said.

In 2006, beneficiary families totaling 1,154 were able to win their homes on 52,475 square meters of land, through CMP projects facilitated by UPAO. Altogether, since 2001, the CMP programs have benefited 2,587 families who now live in 59 communities.

The villages kept on sprouting and before they knew it, the total is already at 70 GK villages all over Quezon City. The city government’s latest big project with GK is the construction of more houses in Sitio Pajo, Baesa. He said the Quezon City government supports GK because it doesn’t just build homes but gives livelihood and values formation to the residents.

GK Champion Tony Meloto agrees with Rodriguez. “Our dream for Metro Manila, where I also reside, is for everyone to live in a beautiful community that he can be proud of, that will also be safe for his children. It is our experience in GK that a beautiful environment built and maintained by the residents themselves, with our help and the support of the local government unit, is a deterrent to vice and criminal activities,” he said.

                                           More homes for the poor in Taguig

Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga is just as passionate as Mayor Belmonte in raising the quality of life of poor Pinoys by giving them decent homes. 

“I think the leadership of Taguig is committed in creating a slum-free metro. We share the vision of GK and if we do it right in Taguig, we can serve as an example. It’s not an option of doing this but it’s something all of us should do. I have great respect for GK,” Tinga said. 

Their partnership with GK started four years ago when Tinga attended the Globe summit.“We weren’t too sure if they’re real and serious about helping the poor, but more hands mean helping solve the problems better, so we partnered and we hit it off, ” he said.

Taguig’s latest project with GK is the relocation of its 10,000 squatter families living along the railroad tracks. Four thousand squatter families in Taguig area will be relocated in Trece Martirez, Cavite while two thousand families will be relocated in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Four thousand are on the onsite development already starting with the 12 villages in Pinagsama. Livelihood will start by putting up commercial stalls along C-5. The city will provide the paved sidewalks, lampposts, tricycle terminals and other beautification facilities.

GK is also working closely with Vice President Noli de Castro and the shelter agencies for the rehabilitation and beautification of old slum communities like Bagong Silang in Caloocan City and Smokey Mountain in Manila with support from Mayor Enrico Echiverri and Mayor Alfredo Lim, respectively.

GK’s biggest effort now is to rally private support in the relocation of 40,000 families from railroad tracks to their new communities in Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal.

“We want to focus on values formation and community empowerment, livelihood training, child and youth development and building a healthy and beautiful environment with volunteer doctors, teachers, and architects and engineers working closely with the HUDCC and other government agencies.

Our dream by working together is that the new sites will not become slums again and breeding places for criminals and that the new settlers will not become professional squatters like the patterns of relocations in the past. This is a big challenge but we can do it if everyone will help,” Meloto said.

Source:  PhilStar.com, By Patricia Esteves
Sunday, April 6, 2008

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