Homeless Peoples Federation Philippines: Addressing Issues of the Urban Poor in the Philippines

by James Tayler

Ma. Theresa Carampatana, the National President of Homeless Peoples Federation Philippines (HPFPI), a Slum Dwellers International Board Member and advocate for the rights of the urban poor in the Philippines, recently discussed various issues faced by this marginalised group during the Philippine Urban Forum.

This article aims to summarise her key points and recommendations regarding the challenges faced by the urban poor, as well as the strategies proposed to address these issues. The issues identified were drawn from the result of several multi-stakeholder consultations conducted by the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development in partnership with the Philippine Alliance, Non-Government Organisations and other Civil Society Organisations (CSO). By involving different stakeholders, it ensures that a wide range of perspectives are taken into consideration, leading to more comprehensive and informed decisions.

Key Issues Identified:
1. Insecurity of Land and Housing Tenure: The urban poor sector highlighted the vulnerability of the urban poor in terms of land and housing ownership. Many slum dwellers lack secure tenure, living in informal settlements at risk of eviction due to legal and ownership uncertainties.

2. Insecure, Irregular, Informal, and Inadequate Jobs and Income: The urban poor often face difficulties in accessing stable employment opportunities, leading to irregular incomes that are insufficient to meet their basic needs. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty and limits their ability to escape from it.

3. Limited Participation in Development Planning: The urban poor, despite being heavily affected by urban development projects, have limited or no participation in the decision-making processes that directly impact their lives. This lack of inclusion hampers their ability to shape policies and programs that address their needs.

Proposed Recommendations:
1. People-led Housing and Urban Development: HPFPI advocated for empowering communities to be actively involved in the planning and implementation of housing and urban development initiatives. By involving the urban poor in decision-making processes, their specific needs and priorities can be addressed more effectively.

2. Diversified Housing Modalities and Finance Mechanisms: To tackle the issue of insecure housing tenure, HPFPI emphasized the importance of exploring different housing options and financing strategies. This would ensure that the urban poor have access to affordable and stable housing solutions.

3. Security of Tenure for Urban Poor Communities: Recognising the significance of land tenure security, HPFPI stressed the need for legal frameworks and policies to protect the rights of urban poor communities. Securing tenure would provide stability and protection against eviction, enabling residents to invest in their homes and communities.

Strategies to Address the Issues:
To ensure that the identified issues are effectively addressed, HPFPI and its partners proposed several strategies to be undertaken by both the government and Civil Society Organisations.

1. Collective Policy Review and Research: This involves conducting in-depth research and analysis to consolidate information on new policies and programs related to urban poverty. Disseminating this information would enable better-informed decision-making processes.

2. Capacity Development on People’s Planning: Capacity-building programs targeting both local government units (LGUs) and CSOs would enhance their understanding and implementation of participatory local shelter planning. This would enable the inclusion of the urban poor in decision-making related to housing and urban development.

3. Community Organising and Technical Support: Providing support for community organising, beneficiary selection, social preparation, and technical assistance during the planning, construction, implementation, and monitoring of housing projects would ensure effective and sustainable outcomes.

4. Resource Mobilisation and Network-Building: Engaging with public and private partners and fostering collaboration in regions beyond NCR and Luzon, such as Visayas and Mindanao, would promote resource mobilisation and strengthen networks. This would facilitate more comprehensive and impactful initiatives.

HPFPI’s discussions at the Philippine Urban Forum shed light on the pressing issues faced by the urban poor in the Philippines. Her recommendations and proposed strategies, involving collective policy review, capacity development, community organising, and resource mobilisation, offer a roadmap for addressing these challenges. By implementing these measures, it is hoped that the government and CSOs can effectively improve the lives and well-being of the urban poor, ensuring their active participation in shaping inclusive and sustainable urban development.