Uphold and support the Carbon fire victims claim to humane life!
Uphold and support their claim for gainful employment and humane settlement!
A bigger calamity now threatens the over 2,000 victims of the recent fire in Carbon.
In the January 11 fire they lost their wares, most material belongings, what they call homes. Some were hurt; a family lost a child.
But while victims of other calamities - Yolanda, Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo – are supported in picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives, in the face of international concern, the victims of the Carbon fire face the exact opposite. They are being denied the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The government that they thought would be there to lend a supporting hand is itself the source of the impending bigger disaster.
The treatment of the fire victims was shabby from the start. They were made to transfer form one area to another for temporary shelter and at this moment what was offered was a temporary space to stay on, along the road along the viaduct in the South Road Properties land. Five hundred seventeen (517) victim families, who have lost their life’s belonging, who have nowhere to go to, took the offer to share tents and three portalets. There is no water source other than that rationed; no electricity supply for their temporary use. The victim families were made to sign receipts for P10,000 while actually receiving only P5,000 as support from the local government. Little did they know that this meagre support would be a send-off token. The Cebu Port Authority is now in such haste to drive them out of that area. And the City hall bigwigs tell them they can no longer go back to their vending in the area; they cannot take off from whatever life they lived pre-fire. They simply have to disappear from sight.
The victims were vendors, trying to eke out a living sans opportunities for other gainful employment. They belong to the “jobless, but employed” people Mahar Mangahas of SWS talk of. They were homeless and thus have to make do living in their cramped, filthy place of work. Definitely, not the type of domicile a family with choice would choose. But then they had no choice. The meagre income they get from vending does not allow them to buy a decent home.
Now, post-fire, the victims were told they could no longer go back to the only means of livelihood they had – vending in Carbon, unless the few who can be accommodated in a prettified public market can shell out the P50,000 bond required. There is no plan nor offer of livelihood for those who do not have the means and those who cannot be accommodated. Neither is there any offer for a humane and fitting resettlement. The vendors and their families simply have to go, no matter where.
The bigwigs in city hall including the supposed “father” of the constituents of Brgy. Ermita are preoccupied with their big plans for the so-called ‘development’ of that piece of Carbon, and several other sections in the market area. They want to make a spacious quadrangle for parking space with an obelisk at the center, bordered by better-looking stalls that will be leased with prepaid bond. Plans that will purportedly provide the city better revenues both from rental and tourism. And for them, the poor vendors are a deterrent to implementing that plan of a “development of the city”, which seemingly has long been in the drawing board.
The city hall bigwigs’ attitude towards the poor of Cebu City is best articulated by the Cebu City Market Administrator who, when announced the plan not to allow the victims to go back to vending in the area said, “I am here not to consult, but to inform you, this is an informative meeting” of the plan. What gall! Now where is all that talk of democracy? Of inclusive growth and development?
What Cebu City is there to “develop” without the million of its poor people, who have to live their miserable lives, not by choice, but by force of circumstances? What city will exist and operate without the poor people who do their daily grind to make the city live – the poor workers, the poor drivers, the poor stevedores, the poor caregivers, the poor food providers, the poor vendors. They are the biggest bloc of consumers and thus of e-vat taxpayers. Yet the fire victims, among the city’s poor, do not figure in the city’s “development” planning.
The poor are not parasites, unlike the robbers in government who steal by the millions and billions of pesos. In this society that fails to fairly and productively harness their productive capacity, they creatively find ways in order to work, earn their keep and thus assert their right to life. Joblessness and poverty is not of their own doing. It is the condition of life society reduces them to. And they are not anti-development. They simply demand that development include them as human beings, as part of human society; not eyesores nor trash that can be thrown out when and where the powerful pleases. In fact in a real democracy, it is their will that should prevail, they being the majority.
We thus say, enough is enough. No more of any anti-poor “development”. We call on the Cebu City government: provide the poor, especially the victims of calamities such as the recent fire, the opportunity for decent employment; gainful employment that can provide for food on their tables to nourish their body, education for their children to nourish their mind; shelter and clothing to protect them from the elements. Provide them the more humane settlement close to their means of livelihood so they do not have to live in their workplaces and amidst the filth of a market. A community where their children can safely study and play, where they breathe a fresher air; homes with provisions for the necessary utilities – water, power and for proper waste disposal, for privacy for women, for rest and relaxation after a hard day’s work. Our working people, those whose labour provides for society’s needs, deserve no less. Until these are achieved, then and only then, can we talk of real, meaningful development for our people.
And we call on those who aspire for a really humane society, join us in this call. Let the victims of disaster caused by fire know they are not alone in their aspiration and struggle for a more humane existence and life.
Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya-Cebu (KILUSAN-CEBU)
19 February 2014