Urban Blight

Published front page at SunStar Davao

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FIVE years ago at another residence, 53-year-old Bucana resident Nanay Violeta Bustamante defecated and urinated in old rice sacks and bags of cellophane. A mother of eight, she recalled how she and her children would sometimes go to the beach to attend to the calls of nature. Now five years later, what serves as her toilet is no longer the beach, but instead, the fish pond that she, along with other informal settlers, live around.

The pond which used to house fishes like bangus or milkfish for consumption is now a slough full of bags of feces and garbage.

Nanay Violeta is one of the informal settlers of Barangay 76-A Purok 22 San Isidro Kalubihan, Kabacan, who has no access to proper sanitation. Kabacan is an area which is part of Bucana, one of Davao City’s largest stretch of villages. Bucana’s 466 hectares of land is home to over 200,000 residents many of them fishermen, laborers, drivers, and other daily wage earners.

Nanay Violeta now lives alone, earning enough for her daily expenses from doing laundry, home massage, and pa-suhol or baby-sitting. Her house which she had assembled herself from assorted pieces of wood and tarpaulins has only a spread out rice sacks as a roof with no electricity and water connections. She buys water from her neighbor.

Barangay Bucana is part of the Philippine government’s Slum Improvement and Rehabilitation (SIR) Phase 1 project, which is a World Bank-funded urban poor mass housing program established in 1985. To date, it is home to informal settlers who live in shanties, and many of whom have no access to proper sanitation.

In a 2010 study by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) it placed the estimated unmet housing needs or backlog as of January 1, 2011 to 1.225-million housing units.

The bulk of this backlog, the report said, are intended for informal settlers households “comprising 57.15 percent while the doubled up households consisted 35.7 percent of the total unmet needs.” Doubled up households means houses that more than one family live in.

“Incremental needs from 2011 to 2017 averages about 729,000 households. Come 2017, total housing needs already reached 6.3 million households,” the report further said.

As of May 1, 2010, HUDCC estimates the backlog in Davao City at 27,774 households.

In 2010, the Davao City Council passed the Septage and Sewerage Management Ordinance, a legislation that orders local governments to provide communal toilets in villages inhabited by informal settlers.

Two years after, the NSSMP (National Sewerage and Septic Management Program) was approved. The program was said to be designed for the improvement of water quality and public health in the Philippines by 2020 by improving the ability of local implementers to build and operate effective wastewater treatment systems.

But the inaccessibility to proper sanitation for informal settlers, according to residents, has been a pressing issue for quite some time now, yet they still wait for a response from officials.

“They know about it,” Marilou Dumama, a resident of Kabacan, said referring to the barangay officials.

Marilou is the stepdaughter of the fish pond owner. She said she would often call out to children of the settlers as they defecate or urinate directly to the pond even in broad daylight.

She used to be one of the pond’s caretakers. Marilou narrated they used to grow fish for their personal consumption, until such time that they decided to stop their efforts, seeing that the fishes ate human feces.
But that is not the only problem, Marilou said. She claims that a septic tank from a nearby area excretes its waste directly to the pond, giving off a foul stench.

“Sa kabaho, minsan kabuhi-on nalang mi (Sometimes the foul smell would make us feel nauseous),” she said.

The only action taken, Marilou said, was fogging, a preventive action for dengue. But, she added, the fogging was sponsored by Korean health workers, and not from the barangay.

“Naa may bayanihan didto saluyo, pero diri wala gyud (They have bayanihan in some areas here, but never here in our place),” Marilyn said when referring to the mound of garbage filling up the pond.

Bayanihan is a Filipino term for “helping each other out.” It is considered a culture and also a trademark for Filipinos that residents will all come to help a neighbor in need.

The Asian Development Bank, in a 2009 study, said 58 percent of the country’s groundwater was contaminated by infectious waste coming from unsanitary septic tanks, wastewater discharge from industries, and runoffs from agricultural fields and dumpsites.

Michelle de Leon, a barangay official, admitted that one of Bucana’s problems is the lack of public toilets.

While for the Davao City Health Office (CHO,) Curtis Larrazaga, head of the sanitation division, said the lack of clean communal toilets is a sanitary and public health concern. “Without clean toilets, we can only expect infections and diseases,” Larrazaga said in an interview.

DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Ramon Paje said that only less than 10 percent of the Filipino population is connected to piped sewerage, while over 20 million Filipinos do not have access to proper sanitation.

Paje also said that local governments must take the initiative of putting up their own sanitation and wastewater treatment facilities to prevent their constituents from dumping garbage into waterways and to avoid toxic sludge excavated from septic tanks reach the rivers.

Barangay Bucana was reported to have internal revenue of 30 million pesos for the previous year alone, with over 20 million allotted for public infrastructures and reforestation projects.

Nanay Violeta and the rest of the settlers are still waiting for help.

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Davao City’s speed limit reduces accidents, but businesses also affected

Published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer

DAVAO CITY — Speeding, overtaking, and racing. These have been rarely seen on the streets here since the implementation of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 39 (EO39), which put a cap on how fast vehicles can run in specified areas of the city.

In the first quarter of 2014, the year the order was implemented, a dramatic 41 percent decrease in vehicular accidents in the city had been noticed, according to Traffic Management Center chief Rodelio Poliquit.

Vehicular accidents, he said, decreased to 4,000 from January to September 2014 alone from 7,000 cases during the same period in 2013.

The speed limit has certainly slowed down the accident rates, but for jeepney and taxi drivers, it slowed down not only their vehicles, but their profits as well.

Taxi driver Rey (not his real name) has four kids and struggles to make ends meet with his average profit of P450 before EO 39’s implementation. With the speed limit, a substantial amount was lost because they can no longer speed up to be able to haul more passengers.

“Sometimes I earn only P200. How will we be able to meet our needs especially when the cost of living is very high? I can’t do anything about it, I can only work hard,” he said.

The recent reduction of the flag-down rate by 10, he said, added to the difficulty of meeting ends meet.

But for Rey, the speed limit was the big culprit. While he sees it as unnecessary, he could do nothing but comply with it.

“If I go against the law, I wouldn’t be able to afford to retrieve my license,” he explained.

Duterte has maintained that imposing the speed limit was timely to curb overspeeding drivers, who contributed to the sharp increase in the number of vehicular accidents here the past years.

He cited the September 2010 accident here, in which two people died and 16 others got injured. Most of the victims were students.

Under EO 39, which was described as “an order setting the speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City,” all motor vehicles are covered by speed limit. Exempted are legitimate emergency cases such as those involving ambulances and law enforcement agencies.

The EO specified that the fastest that vehicles could run from Sirawan in Toril district to Ulas Crossing is 60 kph. The same rule holds true for those taking the Lasang to Panacan in the north; Calinan to Ulas Crossing and C.P. Garcia Highway-McArthur Highway to Panacan.

From Ulas to Generoso Bridge/Bolton Bridge in Bangkerohan; Panacan Crossing to J.P. Laurel Avenue-Alcantara; and Ma-a Road Diversion to McArthur Highway, vehicles have to slow down to 40 kph already. And within the city proper, vehicles have to travel at 30 kph only.

Jeepney driver Noel Panay says the 30 kph limit in the downtown areas was absurd.

“A bike can run faster,” he explained. “We can’t run fast to pick up more passengers,” he said, adding that the speed cap allowed jeepney drivers like him to make only four round trips per day.

This, Panay said, lowered their take home money.

Mass communication student Aivy Villarba saids that it took her a while to get used to the new routine of leaving home an hour earlier than usual, but believes that EO 39 should still be implemented. “Mayor Duterte’s aim was public welfare over welfare of other sectors,” she explained. “Also, there are no car racers anymore at midnight because if they race, they will get caught”, she added.

Gwena Caubang, who was originally from Baganga, Davao Oriental, thinks that the speed limit was “a great way to discipline drivers, especially in a populous place like Davao City.”

“It decreases the rate of accidents, and hit and run incidents especially along the highways,” she said.

Caubang said she wished a speed limit would also be implemented in her hometown, where many drivers were reckless.

For private car owners Steely Caballero and Prince Canda, the slow pace of travel in the city was “a hassle,” and they prefer that the minimum speed in the downtown areas is upped to 40 kph.

Manila-based entrepreneur Moje Ramos-Aquino, who writes a column for a national broadsheet, recounted her experience in coming to Davao, where she claimed that it took her an hour and a half to travel six kilometers.

“I’ll go back to Davao when they lift the speed limit. Meantime, I will bring my business and my money somewhere else,” Aquino wrote in her column once.

But Poliquit said business shouldn’t be based on the speed by which vehicles can travel in certain areas.

“It would be more inconvenient if people were not safe to walk on the road, such as the elderly, the children who are going to school, and the pedestrians. If the people were not safe here, then who would invest?” he said.

Social strategist Reymond Pepito thinks that even if EO 39 was unappealing to some, for the majority it was important.

“Others may say that it affects their business transactions but I felt like the implementation of speed limits is not a problem. Road widening and well-functioning traffic lights can address the issue of congested roads and traffic in the city. One should not compromise safety. I live in Tagum City where roads are less busy but I still wish for us to have our own vehicular speed policy to avoid road accidents,” Pepito said.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/684841/davao-citys-speed-limit-reduces-accidents-but-businesses-also-affected#ixzz3rGrCA3VY
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