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Railway people stage rally outside South Korean Embassy
25 January 2008. Protesting the refusal of Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to talk with them, about fifty people from railway communities gathered outside the South Korean Embassy in Makati City from 9:00 to 11:00 am.
Demonstrators, some of them carrying banners “Mr. Ambassador, speak, listen to us!” patiently waited at the grounds of the Pacific Star Building along Makati Avenue where the embassy is located.
Blue-red-and-yellow paper house boxes, matching the colors of the Philippine flag, were put on some protester’s head to show that a roof over people’s head is a human right. A train made of plywood would run over them to show how the project is violating their rights since the relocation component does not conform to Philippine law and international standards.
The groups picketing are people being evicted due to the Northrail Southrail Linkage Project which is funded by the Korean government. Some are residents of the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna. They are helped by Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization working on urban poverty.
The Korean government has judged the relocation of the families as adequate based on two surveys it funded that were headed by a person employed at the Asian Development Bank.
“The surveys which play such a key role have never been made available to us though we have asked to see them several times. Now the Korean Embassy refuses to talk to us. What are they hiding, we want to know,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA.
“We want to stress that the affected families are not opposed to the railway project. Our only concern is the observance of the rights of the affected families as enunciated by domestic and international laws,” Añana pointed out.
He announced that today Thai urban poor organizations will also hold a demonstration at the Korean embassy in Bangkok to raise the issue of the southrail project in solidarity with the urban poor in Manila. In Seoul Korean NGOs will also hold a rally with government authorities and will include the issue of the southrail project in the dialogue.
Today’s activity is part of the Global Day of Action “Housing Rights For All” being observed in many countries.
The railway project involves the eviction of 50,000 families from Caloocan City to Calamba, Laguna. About 30,000 families still remain on the tracks. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) under Vice President Noli de Castro is in charge of the relocation.
After learning that the embassy officials refused to dialog with them, the Koalisyon ng mga Samahan sa Riles Katimugan (KOSARIKA) wrote a letter addressed to Lee Myung-bak, President-elect of Republic of Korea. “Your embassy officials here refuse to dialog with us. It is as if we were not of value.”
“We write this letter to seek your help, since the relocation provided for us is woefully inadequate. We also want the Korean government to make another survey to be done by a university here in a very transparent manner with the results revealed publicly,” the letter read
The Korean government through its Finance and Economy Ministry has expressed concerns regarding the relocation of railway families in a letter sent to KOSARIKA dated May 11, 2007. “Our government is well aware of the importance of the issue of relocating local residents in that project, and we emphasize once more that we plan to continually watch to see whether it is being implemented according to international standards.”
In order to relieve the transportation jam in Metro Manila and at the same time to develop parts of Metro Manila that were becoming slums, South Korea decided in December of 2003 to support the railway project. However it has consistently maintained the position that “preparing and implementing adequate relocation for the residents alongside the railway is a precondition for providing support for the project.”