On 7 February 2004, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo led the ground breaking ceremony to mark the launch of the $114 million Cavite Coastal Road – R1 Expressway Extension Project, a toll road that will connect Metro Manila, especially the airports and piers, to the towns and export zone factories along the coast of Cavite, 11.3 kilometers to Noveleta. The President said the project was conceived 16 years ago and she wanted it to be her gift to the people of Cavite. The activity received extensive media coverage.
The CCR-R1 is a build-operate-transfer project. The project sponsor is the UEM-Mara Philippines Corporation which is owned by Cesar Virata, who was Prime Minister under President Ferdinand Marcos. UMPC leads a group of Filipino and foreign investors putting money into the project, including a $70 million loan from the International Finance Corporation-World Bank.
According to the IFC-World Bank, the first project design involved reclaiming land from the sea and would have removed some 5,000 families. This was later changed to the construction of a viaduct. However, some 600 families would still have to be removed under the new plan.
Aling Jovy and other leaders from Longos where the ground breaking ceremony was taking place waited for the President early in the day but were unable to meet her. While speeches were being made about the project and the prosperity it will bring, the Longos leaders were worried about their immediate future, their homes, and their work. Two days earlier they were told unmistakably by a presidential assistant on resettlement that demolitions would start as soon as classes ended in March 2004. They were not hopeful that they would get a fair deal from the government.
The Longos Taylan community was one of the barangays to be affected by the project. It has 177 families: 111 are structure owners, while 41 are renters and 25 are sharers. There are some 165 structures, some 54 of which would be unaffected but are close to the project. According to an Urban Poor Associates survey, most of the families earn their income from fishing or farming oysters and mussels. A few are mussel, oyster and fishpond operators, while many work at the fishpens, or plant and harvest mussels and oysters. The community women work most often as vendors. Being near Metro Manila, they have no problem selling their produce.
In February 2003, almost a year to the day before the President’s ground breaking ceremony, Department of Public Works and Highways personnel informed the people they would be removed for the project. They were promised compensation for their house structures, regardless of whether they had land titles or not. People said some of the government personnel even suggested the affected families could jack up the compensation price on condition that the extra would be divided between them and the government personnel.
Then in October 2003, the government called the Longos residents to a meeting at the barangay hall where they were informed that the government’s offer had changed from compensation to relocation with P15,000 financial assistance for each family. They were shown nice pictures of the relocation site and many accepted the offer. They were promised jobs either at the project construction site or at the export processing zone factories.
Another meeting was scheduled for the following Saturday but when the day came they were instead ferried by buses to the relocation site in Tanza which is nearly 25 kilometers from Longos. They saw dilapidated houses, without windows or doors, and overrun with vines. The site had no classrooms or clinics. Grass was taller than the houses. Water and electricity services were absent. It was built some seven years before during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos. The site is inland and far from the sea, the main source of income of the Longos families.
Most of the residents realized they would not be able to survive in such a place. Most, if not all, changed their minds after the visit.
Around this time a UPA staff person learned from a government agency that a demolition operation in Longos was being planned in connection with a project being funded by the IFC. A UPA staff person visited the area and met the people. They decided they would visit the IFC office in Makati.
To penetrate the tight building security, the 30 leaders went inside singly and were able to meet Mr. Jesse Ang, an IFC official. He claimed that IFC could not do anything about their problems and pointed them instead to UMPC, the project sponsor.
Around this time, UPA found the IFC website and downloaded the project’s Resettlement Action Plan. This information became handy when people learned that on 6 November 2003 the DPWH would start its demolition operations. Copies of the RAP were distributed to the leaders. The residents raised protest banners in front of their houses, including some calling on the World Bank to stop the planned eviction. The Samahang Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Longos Taylan wrote to Vipul Bhagat, IFC’s country manager, urging him to stop the demolition and relocation because the resettlement being offered did not conform with the RAP’s provisions. Copies of the SNMLT letter were also sent to several government agencies and UMPC.
Members of the community read and studied the RAP, even though it was in English. It was discussed during meetings. They found that the government’s offer varied from the provisions of the RAP on resettlement and compensation. For example, the government compensates only owners with legal titles to the land. The government also had no clear plan about jobs for them once they are relocated. It made vague promises about giving priority to Longos residents in the hiring of construction workers needed by the project and to jobs at factories in the export processing zone. But most residents complained that the government did not seem to know that in Longos and other seaside barangays, most family members earn their income from the sea, either as fishermen or mussel and oyster farmers, while the women and children work as vendors of their produce. What would they do inland?
Demolition Stopped Temporarily
The November 6 demolition did not take place. DPWH officials said only “voluntary” demolitions would take place.
On 5 February 2004, Longos leaders and UPA met with Undersecretary Nestor Ponce, presidential technical adviser on resettlement. He recounted the old information received by the people from other government officials. However, he told them the government was determined to implement the project with the President herself attending the project’s ground breaking ceremony, which actually took place two days later. He also told them demolitions would take place after the end of classes in the last week of March.
A week later, DPWH and UMPC representatives and the barangay chairman called the people to a meeting at the barangay hall. The government did not provide any new information, except to say that they had done some improvements in the Tanza resettlement site.
This was when UPA organized a research team to gather data mainly on how many families would be affected and their sources of income. The research found that, as mentioned above, some 600 families would be affected by the project and many of them were dependent on fishing and oyster and mussel farming for their income.
On February 19, UPA and SNMLT wrote to Ms. Rachel Kyte, director of the Environment and Social Department of the IFC in Washington. They raised four issues: the magnitude of the demolition, the loss of income, the resettlement site, and compensation. On 23 February, Kyte responded saying that they were preparing a response to the February 19 letter.
On February 29, a team of three leaders and a UPA person visited the Tanza resettlement site. They found the place had not undergone any repairs or improvement at all as promised by the government, except that the tall grass had been torched in some places. They met some of the Longos families who had “volunteered” to relocate in Tanza. The houses given them were still dilapidated, nearly half of the P15,000 financial assistance had been spent for water and electricity installations, while the rest of the money had all been spent for food. Two families complained they had not yet received the promised financial assistance of P15,000. The place was simply too far from Longos, their former source of income. They were not earning anything and were going hungry.
When this information spread in the community it stiffened the community’s determination not to go to Tanza which by that time had become synonymous with hunger and misery.
Upon UMPC’s suggestion, UPA and SNMLT called for an inter-agency meeting to be held at the Longos barangay hall on 3 March 2004. The meeting was called off when UPA and SNMLT found out that only minor officials would come to the meeting.
Kyte’s response came on March 2, answering point-by-point the issues raised in the February 19 letter. She responded to the six requests of the people: (1) complete and install the necessary structures and basic services, such as light and water in the resettlement area prior to actual resettlement; (2) all those who would be affected by the project be included as beneficiaries, such as structure owners, renters and sharers; (3) compensation for structure owners who do not wish to be included among those resettled, based on fair market value of the property; (4) assurance that compensation will be given to the affected families at the time of actual resettlement; (5) assurance that students will be accepted upon transfer to the resettlement site, and (6) a memorandum of agreement (MOA) would be drawn up on all points agreed upon before the affected families are actually resettled.
The Longos people in the meantime were getting worried. The end of classes was fast approaching and it seemed the government would go ahead with relocating them to Tanza. UPA and SNMLT wrote again on March 6 to Kyte about what the leaders saw at the Tanza resettlement site.
Project Adjusted To Avoid Displacement
On March 12, Ms. Jennifer Eñano-Bote, UMPC general manager, sent a short letter to the SNMLT informing them that they had found an improved project alignment to avoid demolishing the community, pending approval by the TRB. This development was met with jubilation by the community. People began repairing and improving their homes.
On April 1 a team went to visit the Toll Regulatory Board office to validate the UMPC proposed alignment and to lobby said office to favorably consider such an adjustment. The official they met there, however, said the TRB had not yet decided on the proposed adjustment. He sounded negative about the proposal, claiming the proposed adjustment would raise the cost of the project. On April 5, UPA and SNMLT wrote the IFC about the UMPC’s proposed adjustment and TRB’s possible non-agreement with it. The letter ended urging IFC to do something about the situation.
Later on the very same day (April 5), IFC’s letter came. It mentioned that UMPC had made “additional changes in the road alignment to avoid the involuntary resettlement of the families currently living in the 42 dwellings” (which had grown to 165 structures), and “DPWH has agreed to suspend all relocation activities on March 11, 2004.” On April 21 another letter came from IFC as a response to UPA’s and SNMLT’s April 5 letter which reiterated its information on the improved road alignment. She mentioned that if TRB “were to reject UMPC’s proposal and the families in Longos were affected in the final alignment, IFC will ensure that these families are included in the updated RAP and the compensation and relocation measures meet World Bank Group standards.”
On 20 May 2004, Longos leaders and UPA were invited by TRB and UMPC to a meeting. Present at the meeting were representatives from UMPC, Eng. Nick R. Tancioco, and TRB’s Exequiel C. Mangahas. It was presided by Amado A. Salvador, an independent consultant who works with Asia Halcrow. At the meeting the TRB representative mentioned that TRB had agreed to the proposed adjustment. UMPC said that their engineers had found a way of improving/ strengthening the road alignment and expanding some meters to the sea instead of into the houses of the people. The expansion into the sea will not affect the fishpens and oyster and mussel farms. This will entail additional expense but will not delay the project.
The meeting ended with smiles and clapping, with one leader saying their Tanza nightmare had finally been laid to rest.
The community was united and it had good leaders. Although some members were not active, they did not openly oppose the people’s proposals and moves. Even the barangay chairman who was not on good terms with the leaders did not create trouble.
The women of the community were outstanding in their resoluteness, articulateness and courage. They were the ones who made up the bulk of mobilizations and could be counted on to speak their minds.
A strong bond of trust had developed between UPA and the community, even if the first UPA personnel assigned to Longos had gotten into some problems in another community.
This trust was built on constant communication (visits and meetings at the community and NGO office), information sharing, and transparency between UPA and the community and among the community members. Letters were jointly signed by UPA and the community leaders, and all the proposals came from them with some facilitation and polishing by UPA. Copies of letters from IFC and other government offices were disseminated among the community. Frequent community meetings were held to inform and update members and to get their agreement on proposals and action plans.
Access to and knowledge of the RAP which was facilitated by UPA strengthened the people’s determination to assert their rights and interests.
The research activities provided the people with good data which they were able to use to bolster their positions. It also indicated to the government and UMPC/IFC that UPA and the community built their arguments on facts.
The private investors realized that project delays would have negative consequences and were therefore willing to fork over additional funds to avoid delays. They probably also realized that spending on the adjustment was perhaps better than spending on repairs of the housing units in Tanza and on the provision of basic services there which would need time and additional expense as well. This pushed them to look for technically feasible alternatives, such as the improved road alignment.
IFC’s openness, fast response and firmness. The IFC, in particular its Environment and Social Department in Washington, responded quickly to the letters from UPA and SNMLT, carefully studied the issues raised, sent an independent consultant, and sided with UMPC’s proposed improved alignment to avoid forced eviction and relocation to a bad resettlement site. In its 5 April 2004 letter, IFC wrote, “DPWH suspended all relocation activities on March 11, 2004. …the resettlement of informal settlers should not continue until UMPC and DPWH have agreed on procedures that ensure compliance with World Bank resettlement policy and until displaced persons are fully informed about their entitlements under this policy.” IFC asserted again in its 21 April 2004 letter that “the resettlement associated with this project must meet World Bank Group standards to receive IFC financing.” Such firmness probably persuaded government agencies such as DPWH and TRB to agree to the proposed new alignment.
The election campaign going on probably provided some reason for restraint by government officials.
* Longos is a barangay of the municipality of Bacoor in Cavite Province and was scheduled to be demolished because of the toll road project.
CCR-R1: Cavite Coastal Road – R1 Expressway Extension Project
SNMLT: Samahang Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Longos Taylan (Organization of the United People of Longos Taylan)
IFC: International Finance Corporation
WB: World Bank
RAP: Resettlement Action Plan
DPWH: Department of Public Works and Highways
TRB: Toll Regulatory Board
UMPC: UEM-Mara Philippines Corporation (United Engineers Malaysia-Majlis Amanah Rakyat Philippines Corporation)
UPA: Urban Poor Associates