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Bishops in Manila heed pope's call, offer slum-dwellers moral support

Prelates speak out against demolition of shanties, mass relocations

Bishops in Manila heed pope's call, offer slum-dwellers moral support

An urban slum in Manila (photo by Vincent Go)

D'Jay Lazaro, Manila

August 13, 2013

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Philippine bishops have heeded Pope Francis' call to spend more time with the poor by visiting slum dwellers in Manila today.

Bishops Deogracias Iniguez, Elmer Bolocon and Artemio Luwaton were among several religious leaders who visited displaced slum dwellers living along canals in Quezon City. 

The slum dwellers are resisting government attempts to tear down their homes and relocate them outside the capital.

The prelates said the current practice of demolishing poor urban communities is "gravely inhuman, unfair, unjust and oppressive in the eyes of God and civil society." 

The bishops called for an urgent moratorium on slum demolitions and prepare "effective disaster-response measures for those living along waterways, instead of resorting to mass relocations. 

"The Church as witness to God’s liberating presence in the world cannot turn away from the disturbing reality of the urban poor whose shacks have been forcibly dismantled, after which they are just left by the side of the road without shelter, money, food or care," said Iniguez.

"In the name of the God of justice, we vehemently oppose and denounce and demand the government stop all demolition activities throughout the country," Bolocon said in a statement.

The prelates said the provision of relocation sites outside Manila for slum dwellers "is not viable because they don’t have work opportunities there."

The slum dwellers say most relocation sites have no adequate water and electricity supplies, and are located far from schools and health centers.

Slum areas in the Philippines often have limited access to basic services and no legal land tenure.  

Many residents live in areas where they are vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters such as along shorelines, around dumpsites, under bridges and on hillsides.

The urban poor in the Philippines now number about 20 million, according to UN Habitat, the UN agency dealing with human settlement. 

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