MANILA, Philippines - Thousands of squatters resisting eviction from their North Triangle shantytown fought police and shut down EDSA in Quezon City yesterday as demolition crews pulled down their shanties, police and witnesses said.
Several officers were slightly injured and traffic on EDSA was backed up for several kilometers as slum dwellers fought running battles with police, officials said.
One section of the six-lane highway that bisects Metro Manila was strewn with wooden barricades and rocks by early afternoon, five hours after the standoff began, with daytime traffic diverted to smaller, more crowded streets.
“There was some rock-throwing and scuffles. Some of my men were slightly injured,” Senior Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, head of the 300-member riot police deployed in the area said.
A quarter of a million vehicles use the artery on a typical workday, according to government estimates.
Undermanned police were pegged back by a hail of missiles as they attempted to charge the protesters, while water cannon blasts also failed to disperse the crowds, according to photographers at the scene.
Shantytown residents stood with arms linked across the breadth of the road, with their belongings stacked in the middle of the highway behind them.
By midday the largely unprotected demolition crews had been forced to stop their work in the roadside shantytown, called North Triangle, after having torn down not more than 50 dwellings, a photographer on the scene said.
Magalong said residents were resisting a court order to remove some 6,000 shanties in the 340-hectare property of the National Housing Authority (NHA), which the government wants to redevelop into a business district in a joint venture with a private firm.
“I believe there are a lot more than 6,000 (families) in there,” he said.
The NHA-owned North Triangle property is part of the Quezon City Central Business District, which includes the East Triangle, Veterans Memorial Medical Center and the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the demolition. Reports said the TRO will remain in effect until today, and a hearing was reportedly set today to determine the duration of the TRO.
In a statement sent to The STAR yesterday, the NHA said it has relocated more than 3,000 families from the disputed property to Rodriguez, Rizal. The agency said it gave each of the families a house and lot package and P6,000 relocation assistance.
Community leader Antonio Platilla, 59, belied the NHA's claim, saying the relocated families received only P1,000 and some canned goods.
He alleged that the Rodriguez relocation site has no facilities, and the families were reportedly given lots measuring only 32 square meters and houses with a floor area of only 20 square meters.
“The area is foul-smelling and some relocatees have told me they have also been robbed (because there is no) electricity," Platilla said.
Jerry Botial, Philippine Star