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Re-blocking and Resilience in CANUMAY EAST, Manila CASE STUDY: Resilience AS a journey not a project

This case study was prepared by the Homeless People's Federation of the Philippines, SDI and Coady International Institute as part of a collaboration to understand innovations in citizen-led slum upgrading and its contribution to urban resilience. The case studies are produced based on first person accounts of the innovation as they experienced it and offer insights into the process of community organizing, the community assets drawn upon to make change, and the barriers and challenges overcome.

Three organizations supported selection of the examples to be documented. Homeless People's Federation Philippines (HPFPI) is a nationwide network of urban poor savings groups and communities supporting each other to improve the tenure security, housing and basic services of slum dwellers through community-driven initiatives. Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives (PACSII) is a non-profit NGO, providing technical support to HPFPI. The Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment (TAMPEI) is a nationwide movement of young professionals - architects, engineers, and planners providing urban planning and architectural support to the federation.

This case study is told by Ma. Theresa Carampatana (Thes), the recently appointed President of the Homeless People's Federation in the Philippines. Her story details the history of organizing in Canumay East settlement, Valenzuela, Manila and the quest to reblock the settlement and set a precedent for inclusive and resilient community-led upgrading. Her story about the struggle of the "United Libis Homeowners Association" to prevent eviction, buy land, and undertake a settlement-wide upgrading project makes it abundantly clear that true resilience is a journey, not a project or destination.

Valenzuela, Manila

The threat of eviction brought our community to the federation.

In the video below, Thes explains how her community first came to be part of the federation. As with so many slum dwellers in the SDI network, her community sought out the federation to help them combat an eviction threat.

Unlike the founding generation of SDI slum dwellers, an increasingly number of slum dwellers use Google to learn more about the federation and SDI network. .

If they can help the community in Payatas, surely they can they help us!

Below, you can watch the very video Thes and her community found about the federation. It prompted them to consider collectively saving and purchasing the land themselves.

We started saving in a box shaped like a house.

Thes explains that it took a while to convince the community to save together. They were fearful the federation would take their money. But with time they understood it was the best strategy for securing tenure once and for all.

We saved. We got a loan from the federation. And now the bank listened to us.

After saving 1.5 million pesos the community approached "Homeless" (the federation) for a loan of an additional 1.5 million. At last they were able to pay the full 10% down-payment on the land.

Finally our community could access the Community Mortgage Program (CMP)

With the down-payment paid and an MOU with the bank secured, the federation was able to unlock the government's Community Mortgage Program (CMP).

The bank transferred the land title to our community association

The land title was transferred to the community association and Government paid the balance on the land under the CMP. Now the community makes repayments directly to government and has a period of 25 years to do so.

Securing tenure was only the beginning

With their tenure now secure, the community began negotiations with government to improve conditions in the settlement. To use resilience parlance, the community was facing a multitude of acute shocks and stressors.

After 30 minutes of rain, water comes up to our knees and waists!

Perennial flooding plagued Canumay East. Part of the problem may be climate change related, but a big part of the problem is man made. Like many slum communities living in vulnerable lowlands, Thes's community faced extreme flooding because the factories located alongside their settlement have intentionally blocked drainage channels and created walls that prevent the outflow of flood waters from the community.

Before any recognized claim to tenure, the community had no success addressing this issue. This resident of Canumay shows where the water reaches each time it floods - a claim supported by Thes's account of the same.

During the rainy season the wires get heated and explode

The rains also cause problems when they hit the jumbled mess of electricity meters and wires servicing the community's power needs. Oftentimes the conductors short-circuit and cause fires.

Federation support to income generation

Livelihoods and income are a challenge for the community, especially the older members who can no longer work in the factory of travel far for odd jobs. To support their families and pay back the land and housing loans, the federation members must get creative. Building a second story to generate rental income is one such idea.

Right now we are undertaking the re-blocking of our community.

Thes explains that the re-blocking process has commenced with the "slashing" of houses to make rooms for widening the roads. This is a negotiated process, managed by the community and minimizing relocation and disruption.

We need to make space for roads and services, but we all need to stay on this land.

Without the trust accumulated during planning and in savings groups it would be hard to convince people to remove part of their home for road widening or making space for other members.

The house being set back (shown in the previous video of Thes) belongs to the man below. He lives there with his wife and five kids. Surprisingly, he seemed totally content with the situation, explaining that they need the roads so that emergency services can access the settlement and so proper drainage and electricity can be installed.

Below, Thes shows where one very low income member will be relocated and how another family made space for them by knocking down part of their structure.

With tenure secured, we can finally address the issue of drainage.

Assessing the impact of the re-blocking project

We asked the federation leaders and Tampei staff to assess the possible impact of the project against SDI's Theory of Change using the tool shown below. The tool was used as a prompt for discussion and storytelling to examine the project's capacity to achieve wider outcome level change. Where the communities and support professionals gave themselves a low rank, they agreed more attention can be applied in order to make the project even stronger.

Key impact statements emerging form the discussion

  1. The project improves public health and safety through reduced risk of fires and floods
  2. The project enhances livelihoods through offering jobs in construction and protecting livelihoods by keeping families near existing jobs (on-site development)
  3. Livelihoods could be further enhanced by planning alternative roadside trading spaces (since many are demolished in road widening)
  4. The project serves an agenda for integrated and resilient neighborhoods since the re-blocking plan is fully aligned to the City Management Plan
  5. The project exhibits a high level of strategic influence by the poor on the practice of government and even other communities seeking to replicate their success
  6. The project has advance collaboration between the poor and government, with the latter inviting the federation to showcase their work at high level summits and policy dialogues
  7. The federation's data suggests the project's capacity to serve the poorest of the poor will need to be enhanced through innovations such as the rental income idea explained by Thes.
  8. The project promotes equitable and integrated policy implementation by demonstrating how progressive policies can be implemented on site (in situ), rather than only relocation projects
  9. The project should explore additional pro-poor financing instruments in order to blend different sources of capital for the upgrade

Knowing somebody [the federation] is backing you up in your struggle is a big support.

The journey of the United Libis Homeowners Association continues. Since the beginning they have been supported by the federation and will continue to draw upon the support and wealth of knowledge it has acquired since it first started in the garbage dumps of Payatas.

At the same time, the federation takes on more and more projects and programs to improve the lives of slum dwellers and the inclusivity and resilience of cities in the Philippines.

The students soon become teachers as the federation's resilience journey continues and spreads to more and more communities. This is essential for scaling up community-led efforts. Below is a snapshot of some of the women Thes has been supported by and struggled with along the way.

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