MANILA – The country’s biggest coalition of labor unions and federations on Monday assailed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its “futile” idea of “hiding” more than 4,000 street families during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on November 17-20 in Manila.
Wilson Fortaleza, spokesman for Partido Manggagawa (PM), one of the 49 labor organizations belonging to Nagkaisa, said the DSWD is making the idea work by giving families “rent” money not only for the duration of the summit but also for the next 12 months.
Fortaleza noted that the DSWD also brought the homeless to “rented resorts” when Pope Francis visited the country last January.
Last Saturday, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said the department’s project for the street families during the APEC meeting is a way of “reaching out” to the poor.
Soliman added that “[t]he reach-out [project] to street families is part of the continuing effort of the DSWD under the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF) and is not part of clearing operations” for the summit.
DSWD said a total of 4,071 families would be the official beneficiaries of MCCT-HSF wherein each family would receive P4,000 in rent money.
The money will be given directly to owners of rooms to be rented by the families.
The department said the beneficiaries will rent for a minimum of six months and maximum of one year.
Alan Tanjusay, spokesman for the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa), said the DSWD project “shows that government bureaucrats remain disconnected with the poorest of the poor. [Because] this clearly shows that the Aquino administration has no genuine program to address the deepening problems on urban street dwellers.”
Soliman, however, said, “We are doing this because we really see the need to get these families off the streets considering the dangers that they are exposed to. We are doing this not only in Manila where the APEC [summit] will be held but also in other LGUs [local government units] like Quezon City. Aside from health reasons and safety reasons, we also want to secure these vulnerable groups from being exploited by unscrupulous individuals.”
Of the more than 4,000 homeless families registered in the MCCT, Soliman said over 3,000 already live in rented houses, with 700 of them paying on their own.
Those who chose to remain on the streets earn their keep by vending cigarettes to commuters, she added.
Soliman said the MCCT program would be enhanced in Manila after an agreement forged recently between the DSWD and Mayor Joseph Estrada, for the joint launch of a livelihood program for street dwellers along the stretch of Taft Avenue and T. M. Kalaw Street.