THE resettlement of the first batch of informal settlers in the walled city of Intramuros will likely be completed by 2021, as the Intramuros Administration (IA) finally inks a socialized housing program with relevant government authorities.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, IA administrator Guiller Asido said the first batch of informal settler (ISF) beneficiaries, comprised of 500 families, are currently living on the property owned by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) along General Luna St., and another property near the Lyceum of the Philippines University.
“Last March 27, we signed a memorandum of understanding with [Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council] Chair Eduardo Del Rosario and the Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC) for a housing program for 500 family beneficiaries. After Holy Week, social preparation and site selection will now begin as well. We have briefed the property owner and the ISFs and we are all now working on this,” he said.
Asido added the SHFC will select possible sites for the resettlement of the first batch of beneficiaries. “It will be finally selected with community consultation,” he underscored. The housing program, he explained, also includes a livelihood component, so the families are able to transfer to a location where they are still able to go to their jobs, or earn from local work. He also noted the beneficiaries have agreed to invest in setting up their homes.
There are two larger ISF communities in Intramuros that may be included in the second phase of the resettlement program, with about 1,000 families. “We are currently talking to them as well but they cover two barangays, and as such, there are political considerations,” he noted.
But Asido expressed optimism that by the end of the Duterte administration in 2023, all ISF beneficiaries will have been resettled.
At the same time that the IA is discussing with the ISF communities regarding their relocations, it is also talking with the property owners where the ISFs are currently located, on the redevelopment of their lots.
“The next stage is for the property owner to redevelop their property based on the land development plan we [the IA] presecribes,” he stressed. In the case of the TUCP property, once the lot is vacated, the organization wants to develop it into a “labor center.”
For the two barangays eyed for resettlement under phase two of the socialized housing program of the agency with HUDCC and SHFC, discussions are still ongoing with the property owners on what they plan to do with their properties.
Asido, meanwhile, assured the public of an orderly and organized procession and other events in the walled city to commemorate Holy Week, which began on Palm Sunday.
Nine churches/chapels/prayer grounds will be open to pilgrims and tourists alike on April 18, 19, and 20 or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday, respectively. On regular days, only the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church are accessible to the public. Last year, there were only seven venues open during Holy Week. IA was able to work out the opening of two more sites this year, some located inside schools or government offices.
The IA, in partnership with its parent unit, the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Parish Church, along with the support of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Knights of Columbus, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Lyceum, Mapua University and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), will be staging several activities during the observance of Holy Week in Intramuros, until April 21.
The churches that will be open during the Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursday include the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Parish Church, Fr. Willman Chapel at the Knights of Columbus Building, PLM Chapel, Mapua Chapel, Lyceum Chapel, Colegio de San Juan de Letran Chapel, St. Matthew’s Chapel at the BIR Building, and the Guadalupe Shrine at the Fort Santiago.
Included in the activities is the Penetencia around Plaza Roma and the Manila Cathedral on Maundy Thursday at 7 pm by the Cainta Nazareno Inc.
Stations of the Cross installations will also be displayed at the stretch of General Luna, from Beaterio Street to Muralla (side of PLM) from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday.
Last year, there were 900,000 local and foreign tourists that flocked to Intramuros for Holy Week. In 2019, this number is expected to further increase, which is why the cooperating agencies have urged the public to follow the rules set by DOT and IA to ensure a safe, organized and meaningful observance of the Lenten activities.
To facilitate traffic within Intramuros, General Luna St. will be closed to all vehicles from the evening of Holy Wednesday until Good Friday, said Asido. There will be designated areas for the public parking in the various locations.
Security is a priority, and the Philippine National Police- Manila Police District, the Philippine Navy-Naval Reserve Command, and the Philippine National Red Cross will be on-call to ensure the safety and security of devotees and tourists.
There will be two stand-by ambulances from the Red Cross in front of the Manila Cathedral at Plaza Roma and at the Red Cross Headquarters at General Luna.
Portalets will be installed all over the city and near the churches for public use.
As part of the DOT’s approach to sustainable tourism, IA has partnered with Maynilad Water Services to give pilgrims and tourists free drinking water at Plaza Roma. The public is encouraged to bring their own reusable tumblers.