Raised on Promises: How the Sustainability Goals of the Urban Housing and Development Act of the Philippines Fall Short

Author:Alexandra Nolan
Position:J.D. Candidate, American University Washington College of Law 2020
Pages:32-33
 
CONTENT
32 Sustainable Development Law & Policy
Raised on PRomises: How tHe sustainability
Goals of tHe uRban HousinG and develoPment
act of tHe PHiliPPines fall sHoRt
Alexandra Nolan*
Forty percent of Manila’s population is impoverished and
living in communities of scrap material, makeshift hous-
ing. 1 Meanwhile, business tycoons from China, Japan,
and Korea dominate the city’s economy. 2 In order to compete
with other modern Asian cities, the Filipino government passed
the Urban Housing and Development Act of 1992 (UDHA) to
pursue a path of sustainable urban development focused on cre-
ating business centers in Manila.3 After its enactment, Manila
transformed into a city that attracts foreign trade and global
investment. 4 But despite the UDHA’s sustainable urban devel-
opment plan, informal settlers, whom are the people living in
makeshift housing communities, are losing their homes to for-
eign corporations so that Manila can compete in the Asian econ-
omy. 5 As a result, citizens have challenged the constitutionality
of the UDHA’s mass evictions of informal settlers from their
communities.6
The UDHA’s goal to create an attractive Manila for foreign
investors is masked by its stated purpose of providing safe
housing and employment for its informal settlers.7 The UDHA
provides terms to evict and relocate the settlers: “Eviction or
demolition . . . may be allowed under the following circum-
stances: (a) When persons or entities occupy danger areas . . .
(b) When government infrastructure projects with available
funding are about to be implemented, or (c) When there is a
court order . . . .”8 After eviction of the settlers, settlements are
demolished so that a company may build a business center.9 The
business centers epitomize the government’s idea of sustainable
urban infrastructure development.10 Yet the government’s failure
to keep its promises to the displaced settlers negates its overall
sustainable urban infrastructure development goals.11
The UDHA requires that evicted settlers are provided new
housing, livelihoods, and adequate transportation access to
Manila.12 While the settlers are often provided new housing,
their new communities are without the promised livelihoods
because the new communities are built in remote areas without
commercial opportunity or access to Manila.13 For example, a
community was built three hours north of Manila to house 1,200
residents.14 Additionally, the residents were promised employ-
ment in a grocery store so they could pay their monthly rents.15
Only ve of the 1,200 residents were to be employed in the gro-
cery store.16 As a result, only those ve could earn an income to
pay their new monthly rent.17
Without the promised livelihood component, settlers aban-
don their new communities and return to Manila to seek employ-
ment, thus building a new informal settlement community in
the process.18 The cycle of construction, eviction, and demoli-
tion repeats itself, costing the government signicant capital
that could be allocated into a more successful program.19 Other
groups of informal settlers are not afforded relocation under the
UDHA and also create new makeshift communities following
eviction.20 The settlers of Manila have little means of combat-
ing the UDHA’s program compared to the arsenal of resources
the large international corporations have.21 Despite their lack
of wealth, citizens have challenged the UDHA in the Filipino
court system.22
Before the UDHA’s enactment, the Supreme Court of the
Philippines (“Supreme Court”) held in Martires v. Court of
Appeals that a “squatter,” which is a derogatory term for an
informal settler, was not entitled to a land parcel despite his
basic need of shelter. 23 Following this case decision, the UDHA
dened “professional squatters” as “individuals or groups who
occupy lands without the express consent of the landowner and
have sufcient income for legitimate housing.”24 An “under-
privileged or homeless citizen” is dened as “individuals or
families living in urban and urbanizable areas whose income or
combined income falls within the poverty threshold . . . . This
shall include those who live in makeshift dwelling units.”25 As
both of these terms are applicable to informal settlers, the gov-
ernment applies the former to justify the eviction of all informal
settlers without notice and without warning as squatters under
Sections 27 and 28.26 Section 27 justies the immediate evic-
tion of squatters, without warning or warrant.27 Whereas, under
Section 28, underprivileged or homeless citizens are afforded a
thirty day notice before they are evicted.28
The biased squatter-homeless distinction extends beyond
the denitions to further diminish the possibility of successful
infrastructure development. Under Section 16, squatters are
explicitly precluded from receiving the benets of the UDHA.29
Under Section 27, the act of being a squatter is criminalized and
punishable by nes or imprisonment.30 Thus, some citizen chal-
lenges to the UDHA pertain specically to the constitutionality
of the squatter-homeless distinction, having standing rooted
in their classication as squatters and not underprivileged and
homeless citizens.
For example, the petitioners in Galay v. Court of Appeals
were evicted under the classification of squatters, without
warning or a warrant as permitted under Sections 27 and 28.31
*J.D. Candidate, American University Washington College of Law 2020
224813_AU_SDLP_Spg-Sum18.indd 32 10/18/18 1:53 PM
33
Spring/Summer 2018
Citing the Martires decision, the Supreme Court in this case
rejected the petitioners’ challenge to the squatter-homeless citi-
zen distinction: “While we sympathize with the millions of our
people who are unable to afford the basic necessity of shelter . .
. this sympathy cannot extend to squatting, which is a criminal
offense. Social justice cannot condone the violation of law nor
does it consider that very wrong to be a justication for priority
in the enjoyment of a right.”32 In The Republic of the Philippines
v. Mijares the petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the
squatter-homeless distinction under Section 27.33 The Supreme
Court reinforced that the UDHA’s benets and protections were
not applicable to squatters, ruling the petitioners were squatters
despite their impoverished state.34
Other citizen challenges to the UDHA are continuously
dismissed due to procedural shortcomings. The Supreme Court
dismissed the petitioner’s challenge to the constitutionality of
Section 28 in Macasiano v. National Housing Authority for lack
of standing.35 In Kalipunan Ng Damayang Mahihirap, Inc. v.
Robredo, the Supreme Court again failed to reach the question of
Section 28’s constitutionality because the case was dismissed.36
The Supreme Court in Kalipunan held that the petitioners failed
to meet the necessary standard of “unequivocal breach” of the
constitution, and thus failed to establish the abuse of discretion-
ary power by the government in evictions.37
The Filipino courts have faced claims against the UDHA,
but they have been unable to reach the substantive question of its
constitutionality. The eviction of non-favorable groups in pursuit
of the government’s vision of a globalized Manila that attracts
foreign business investment is marginalizing, discriminating,
costly, and unsuccessful. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the
Filipino legislative bodies to replace the UDHA with new legis-
lation that includes all members of society for the Philippines to
have a truly sustainable urban infrastructure.
EndnotEs
1 See Agence France-Pressee, Gov’t to Move 100,000 Squatters in Metro
Manila, InquIrEr.nEt, (Jan. 12, 2013 5:23 PM), http://newsinfo.inquirer.
net/339527/govt-to-move-100000-squatters-in-metro-manila; see also Gino
Antonio P. Trinidad, Rethinking the Urban Housing and Development Act of
1992, BusInEssWorld, (Jan. 25, 2018 at 12:03 AM), http://bworldonline.com/
rethinking-urban-development-housing-act-1992/.
2
See e.g., SM, Robinsons, Megaworld Take Top Awards for Retailing, thE
PhIlIPPInE star (June 20, 2016 12:00 AM), https://www.philstar.com/busi-
ness/2016/06/20/1594524/sm-robinsons-megaworld-take-top-awards-retailing
[hereinafter Megaworld].
3
See France-Presse, supra note 1; Trinidad, supra note 1.
4
See France-Presse, supra note 1; Trinidad, supra note 1.
5
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 (Phil.) (1992),
available at: http://www.nha.gov.ph/about_us/2015-pdf/RA7279.pdf; see also
Nancy Kwak, Manila’s “Danger Areas,” PlacEs Journal (Feb. 2015), https://
placesjournal.org/article/manilas-danger-areas/.
6
See generally Kalipunan Ng Damayang Mahihirap, Inc. v. Robredo, 730
S.C.R.A. 322 (2014); The Republic of the Philippines v. Mijares, G.R. No.
170615-16 (2009); Galay, v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120132 (S.C. Decem-
ber 4, 1995); Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. 107921 (S.C.
1993); Martires v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 78036-37 (S.C. 1990).
7
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 § 2(a)-(b)
(1992); Kwak, supra note 5.
8
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 § 28(a)-(c)(8).
9
Kwak, supra note 5; Grace C. Ramos, The Urban Development and Hous-
ing Act (UDHA) of 1992; A Philippine Housing Framework, InquIrEr 12-1,
12-2 (Oct. 25, 1999), http://www.lth.se/leadmin/hdm/alumni/papers/ad2000/
ad2000-12.pdf.
10
See Ramos, supra note 9, at 12-6.
11
See Kwak, supra note 5; see also Ramos, supra note 9, at 12-4.
12
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 at §§ 22, 27-28,
30, 35.
13
See id.; Trinidad, supra note 1.
14
See e.g., Alexandra Nolan & Alexandra Green, Feasibility Study Grameen
Australia Philippines Housing Co-op Santa Ana 2-4 (Aug. 1, 2016) (on le
with Author).
15
Id. at 3.
16
Id.
17
Id. at 3-4.
18
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 at §§ 22, 28(8),
29; see also Ramos supra note 9.
19
See e.g., Trinidad, supra note 1 (providing 2017 budget percentages for
the program); see e.g., Nolan & Green, supra note 14 (providing 2016 budget
amounts).
20
See Urban Housing and Development Act, Rep. Act 7279 § 27; see e.g.,
Nolan & Green, supra note 14, at 3.
21
See Megaworld, supra note 2.
22
See generally Kalipunan Ng Damayang Mahihirap, Inc. v. Robredo, 730
S.C.R.A. 322 (2014); The Republic of the Philippines v. Mijares, G.R. No.
170615-16 (2009); Galay v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120132 (S.C. Dec. 4,
1995); Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. 107921 (S.C. 1993);
Martires v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 78036-37 (S.C. Aug. 3, 1990).
23
Martires, G.R. No. 78036-37 at *2, *4.
24
Urban Development and Housing Act, Rep. Act 7279 § 3(m).
25
Id. § 3(t).
26
See Kwak, supra note 5.
27
Urban Development and Housing Act, Rep. Act 7279 a§ 27.
28
Id. § 28.
29
Id. § 16.
30
Id. § 27.
31
Galay, v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120132 *3 (S.C. Dec. 4, 1995).
32
Id. at *8
33
The Republic of the Philippines v. Mijares, G.R. No. 170615-16 *3 (2009).
34
Id.
35
Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. 107921 *2, *5 (S.C.
1993).
36
See Kalipunan Ng Damayang Mahihirap, Inc. v. Robredo, 730 S.C.R.A.
322, 322-23, 325 (2014).
37
Id. at 325.
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