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TAMPEI launches iSyudad 2021, gets NBDB accreditation

TAMPEI conducted a three-month research which aimed to identify current conditions in urban poor communities given their varying contexts, build on their existing coping mechanisms as immediate response to the pandemic, and co-create possible solutions in community planning that factor in the safety measures needed to be implemented during the pandemic. The case studies covered 8 different communities in Luzon (Ang Payatas Scavengers Homeowners Association, Inc. (APSHAI), United Libis Homeowners Association (ULHOA), Del Rosario Compound Neighborhood Association, Inc. (DRCNAI), Langyaw, Unity, and New Bilibid Prison Communities), Visayas (Riverview Homeowners Association (RVHOA), KABALAKA), and Mindanao (Bago Aplaya Settlers Homeowners Association (BASHA), BONPENCUEN).

From the results, 7 different emerging themes were identified:

1.Inaccessibility of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene(WASH), and Healthcare

2.Informal economy and labor inequalities

3.Food sustainability

4.Disaster resiliency and climate justice

5.Tenure insecurity and inequalities in publicspace planning

6.Blended learning and the digital divide

7.Social capital and social accountability

On the inaccessibility of WASH and Healthcare, community-led initiatives such as partnership with LGUs, civil society organizations (CSOs), and universities, independent initiatives, and health monitoring training, online check-up, and community care were identified. These initiatives led to the formation of new normal habits such as frequent and proper handwashing, physical distancing, and the regular use of face masks, face shields, and alcohol or hand sanitizers. Upon analysis, some notable outcomes of these initiatives were the heightened outlook on hygiene and sanitation, the importance of personal hygiene and community care, and that mental health is now more emphasized to be just as important as physical health. Some recommendations identified were the need to set-up community based health monitoring systems and to construct public handwashing facilities.

The informal economy and labor inequalities became one of the key issues identified throughout the course of the research. Due to the numerous lockdowns, many found themselves unemployed especially those who relied on daily wages. Though there were cases where the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) helped relieve the loss in income, this was only temporary and without a stable source of income, the people had to find creative ways to be able to feed their families. Many turned to online selling mainly using Facebook as their platform. Some members of communities located far from town centers buy products in bulk and resell them to their neighbors and others get their vegetables from their community gardens.

These urban gardens proved to be a viable source of food during lockdowns when transportation options were very limited. Most used available open spaces in their neighborhood such as empty lots.

In relation to food security and sustainability, another environmental issue that exacerbated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is that of disasters and climate change. In the last quarter of 2020, Filipinos witnessed the devastation of much of the country because of strong typhoons, particularly Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco). Aside from these, Filipino communities especially low- income groups and informal settler families (ISFs) are also facing everyday disasters, both natural and human- induced.

For the communities part of this research, the following points summarize the most common types of hazards that they face:

•Flood and sea-level rise are among the mostcommon types of hazards present in thecommunities surveyed.

•Earthquake, soil erosion, and landslide threats are also present in most communities.In 2019, BONPENCUEN and other areas inKidapawan City were tremendously impactedby a series of earthquakes, causing manyof the community members to transfer andreside in makeshift shelters until the present.

•Industrial and fire hazards are also present insome communities, most notably in ULHOAin Valenzuela for the reason that the housesin their high-density community locatedunder a series of transmission lines are madeof light to semi-light construction materials.

•Prison breakout, although uncommon, are also seen as threats especially for theresidents of Smart Tower, Aangat K-5, Old Compound, and Burma & Gate 1communities located within the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Compound in Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa City. Their proximity to the prison facility makes them vulnerable to raids, shooting, and other forms of human-induced violence.

Because of these challenges, the communities explored additional strategies to complement the efforts and services provided by the government in preparing for and responding to the hazards present in their areas. DRRM initiatives such as the formation of a group of fire volunteers and a DRRM Committee were set up in some communities. To adapt to flooding, many houses were constructed with two or more storeys as well as storm drainage systems. As with all disasters, it cannot be avoided that it will cause trauma to some people. Some communities have provided psychosocial support and partnered with local universities to conduct webinars and podcasts on mental health. Some identified recommendations are the prioritization and localization of DRRM as well as increased support for DRRM activities.

On tenure insecurity and inequalities in public space planning, it was noted that during the research, evictions and demolitions continued despite the announced moratorium on such activities by the president. The reported cases of evictions and demolitions, along with government protocols and programs such as the stay- at-home policy, physical and social distancing, and the Balik Probinsya Program undoubtedly exposed inequalities in spatial development planning and the urban poor are certainly affected by it. Without holistically addressing root causes such as lack of viable and sustainable employment opportunities in the countryside, unbalanced regional development, and unequal wealth distribution, the Balik Probinsya Program is yet another recycled term for the government’s relocation and resettlement program where the urban poor are thrown into far-flung rural areas bereft of adequate services necessary in rebuilding their lives. The pandemic has also raised awareness on the importance of homes as the first lines of physical defense against the virus. In the case of communities without tenure security, it can be seen that there seemed to be a hierarchy of priorities where tenure security is deemed more important over one’s health despite the ongoing threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also observed that because of limited options for safe, cheap, and efficient transportation, there has been an increase in transportation costs. Moreover, the pandemic also highlighted the importance of public parks and green spaces for overall well-being.

Some of the recommendations included addressing the lack of decent sources of livelihood in the countryside, advocacy for the institutionalization and implementation of the Local Shelter Plan, advocacy for mixed-use type of developments, recognition of alternative modes of tenure and housing types, inclusion of bicycles and pedestrians in city road systems, and addressing the inhumane eviction and demolition processes.

The pandemic has certainly highlighted inequalities in public space planning including the discourse on the right to the city, the commercialization of green spaces, and the integration of informal economies into street designs and transport and mobility options. Nevertheless, the pandemic also presents opportunities to rethink the way cities and communities are being planned. It may be a long way to go, but with the concerted efforts of every sector involved in the field of housing and urban development, TAMPEI and the whole of the Philippine Alliance hope that there will come a time where every Filipino will have the opportunity to enjoy living in cities and communities that are safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable — as what is similarly envisioned in related international agenda such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 11 and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected the health, economic and social dimensions of Filipino lives; it has also impacted the way they make use of technology for a number of reasons including education. The Department of Health launch three options: (1) modular learning where learners will be given instructional materials called learning packs on a regular basis; (2) online classes where all lessons will be delivered via teleconferencing applications; and (3) blended learning which is a combination of the first two options. While there are ongoing debates on the positive implications of homeschooling through guided modular learning, a number of accounts from households interviewed for this research revealed that the shift to the new mode of learning delivery has put additional burdens on their part. Additional expenses for gadgets and the use of the internet. In some instances, the number of gadgets is disproportionate to the number of students enrolled in a certain household. On the other hand, the modular type of learning has also added weight on the shoulders of the parents who are now tasked to take on the role of the teacher in overseeing the students’ schoolworks. The new set-up has also decreased the attention span of children where a lot of distractions can hinder their self- paced learning at home. With physical and social interaction limited due to the suspension of face- to-face classes, students have less of a support system which causes anxiety and depression, especially among teenagers and young adults.

Because of the numerous challenges, the communities devised their own ways on how to cope with the fast-paced technology required for the new normal way of education delivery while ensuring not only the safety of the learners but the whole community as well. Tutorial services in homes were set up and piso net machines (internet cafes providing services for one peso per five minutes) rose in popularity. Some recommendations identified were to support existing community initiatives, linkage with support groups specializing in literacy and education, and engagement with public and private partners in mainstreaming mental health concerns at home, in school, and in the community.

The Filipino concepts and practices of kapitbahayan, organisadong pagdadamayan, pagkukusa and bayanihan are all forms of adaptive capacities that bank on the use of social capital. In the case studies, it was observed that social capital served as the main strategy of communities to individually and collectively survive and adapt to the challenges and changes— the new normal—brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities with secure tenure displayed higher levels of organization and success in their pandemic responses. Organizational maturity is reflected in the way the communities respond to the pandemic. Likened to “bonding capital,” organizational maturity, in this case, may pertain to the internal dynamics that directly affect the organization. For this aspect, the common phrase “quality over quantity” becomes more pronounced. External stakeholder relationships put people-led initiatives to a greater scale. Similar to “bridging capital” where external forces come into play, it was noticed that organizations engaging with a wider set of networks have had their initiatives and advocacies advanced to a higher level. Networks, in this case, may pertain to linkages to sectoral bodies such as local government units from barangay to city level; national key shelter agencies; local and national civil society organizations; regional or international aid; and professional bodies and universities, among others.

From these experiences dealing with internal community dynamics and external power relations stem the conflicting notions on the so-called “Filipino resilience.” Resilience, in its essence, is the ability of an individual or group of individuals to bounce back or recover from life’s difficulties. Filipinos, for many, are said to be resilient (matatag). And these notions have been captured in the focus group discussions of this research. However, there are also those who believe that Filipino resilience has become overly romanticized to the point that it has been abused by the authorities to drop their mandates and accountabilities to the citizens.

Certainly, addressing the issues that plague the urban poor sector that are felt from the global down to the local level necessitates some form of individual and collective adaptive capacities. In today’s context, adjusting to the new normal means individuals, communities, and institutions building their resilience amidst these challenges. The case studies in iSyudad 2021 have shown us that community development is a two-way street where the support of partners is just as important as the initiatives of the grassroots organizations. Where public and private support is lacking, social capital, especially among the urban poor, has proven crucial to responding and rising above the inequalities brought about by demolitions, disasters, and diseases. The role of people’s organizations cannot be overemphasized in terms of addressing tenure insecurity, typhoons and earthquakes, and the COVID-19 pandemic as illustrated in the case studies. Nevertheless, in an attempt to popularize the concept and practice of social accountability, citizens should first realize their inherent power as “rights holders” who ultimately have control over the “duty bearers.” Moreover, one has to acknowledge that these issues are systemic and cannot be resolved alone by showcasing the potentials of community- driven development. The country’s legal frameworks, its present socio- political realities, and even its cultural roots altogether influence, and are being influenced by, the interplays among the general public, the government, and the civil society.

The road to the new and better normal does not end by merely acquiring land and housing for tenure security; rather, it is just the start of yet another complex and challenging process of community- driven development that encompasses thematic areas including health and sanitation, livelihood, food security, education and technology, social programs, and the environment, among others. The Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Inc. (HPFPI) and Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment Inc. (TAMPEI) along with their partners, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) and the Community Architects Network (CAN) firmly believe that while development is a shared responsibility, it should be put in the hands of the people as primary drivers of progress. The tales told in iSyudad 2021 remind us that attaining tenure security is just a stepping stone to achieving the

greater goal of having safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities, towns, and communities.

Updates From the Regions

2021 April 29 - TAMPEI and HPFPI-Davao facilitated the turn-over of community spot maps and household data to seven (7) puroks in Barangay Matina Pangi, Davao City. The event was attended by respective purok leaders, the Punong Barangay, and a representative from the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Office.

2021 May 27 - TAMPEI and HPFPI-Davao facilitated the turn-over of community spot maps and household data to eight (7) puroks in Barangay Bago Aplaya, Davao City.

Community spot maps are especially useful in locating households vulnerable to disasters. Moreover, it can help local government units, NGOs and other institutions in terms of aid / relief distribution. At community level, it strengthens the awareness of purok residents regarding their immediate conditions, both physical and social.

After this occasion, the HPFPI-Davao will conduct a series of community consultation with the purok residents to document and address their specific issues and concerns. The same initiatives will be replicated in Barangay Matina Crossing.

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