HFH Philippines Continues To Build Medium-Rise Homes For Urban Dwellers In Manila

It Celebrates 24 Units Completed In Taguig City; Reaching Of 1,000-House Milestone In Baseco

MANILA, 16th May 2007: Over a month after Habitat for Humanity Philippines celebrated two urban housing milestones in the presence of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it continues to go full steam ahead in building multi-story homes to meet the needs of city dwellers.

(Top) HFH Philippines and its partners marking the completion of 24 units of a medium-rise project in Taguig City. (Bottom) Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inspecting a unit.

Getting ideas: A Habitat home partner family checking out a model unit decorated by a local interior design firm.

Over the next one-and-half years, HFH Philippines hopes to build 30 medium-rise blocks in Taguig City, one of the cities in densely-populated Metro Manila. The project, if approved by the Taguig municipal authorities, would house close to 400 families.

HFH Philippines has already built several similar medium-rise projects in Taguig City.

In March this year, HFH Philippines and its partners marked the completion of the first phase of a 72-family project in Taguig City. Two medium-rise buildings comprising 24 units were dedicated in a special ceremony. Philippine vice-president Noli de Castro, government officials and representatives from Habitat’s partner, Rotary Club of Manila, were among the guests on the occasion. President Arroyo, who was in the vicinity, made an unexpected appearance and inspected the project.

Work is now underway on phase two: another four medium-rise buildings able to house a further 48 families. The construction is boosted by the efforts of volunteers such as a team from the Bayanihan Alumni Association who built in April 2007. The volunteers, who were members of the Philippines’ national folk dance company, hauled concrete, sieved sand, fabricated bars and molded concrete interlocking blocks to the melodic strains of folk music.

The families who received the homes in March were among several thousand informal settlers on a supposedly vacant lot inside the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) Complex in Taguig City.

Since 1985, people from the Taguig area and nearby municipalities have streamed into the FTI Complex, building illegal homes. Many of the settlers rely for money on driving, trading, retailing and other occasional work. Their low and often irregular income makes owning a permanent home a distant dream.

The demand is high: Taguig mayor Sigfrido Tinga estimates that Taguig needs 30,000 housing units over the next few years. But supply is limited. Land in urban areas is so expensive that one-story houses are no longer economical or viable housing solutions. Habitat’s three-story cluster buildings thus help to meet a critical need.

HFH Philippines is no stranger to the Taguig area, having completed its first medium-rise housing project for 108 families in October 2004 in another site about 10 km. away. The first project, consisting of nine three-story buildings, was funded by a European Union grant. Each building has 12 units, measuring 45 sq. m. in size. Cost savings from the first project enabled HFH Philippines to construct another building which houses the Habitat Resource Center and the office of the Taguig affiliate.

The cost-effective concrete interlocking brick technology employed in the first medium-rise housing project was also used in the recent project completed in end-March. The difference is in the use of a mechanized mould which increased the production capacity. Before, a person working the manual mould can only make 200 to 250 bricks a day. Now, the same person can produce 1,000 bricks daily.

In addition to providing urban housing solutions, HFH Philippines also celebrated reaching the 1,000-house milestone for the BASECO community in the port area in Manila city. President Arroyo was the guest of honor for the ceremony in Tondo district on 31st March 2007. Upon her arrival at the former shipyard site, she was briefed about the project by HFH Philippines’ president Alberto Jugo and board member Margie Moran-Floirendo. Other dignitaries present at the occasion included Philippine vice-president Noli De Castro and Manila mayor Lito Atienza.

An online report of the visit from the presidential office said President Arroyo handed over a symbolic key to Roger Balecoco, president of the Bagong Buhay Village Homeowners Association, saying “Congratulations, you now have your own homes.” The Bagong Buhay association is formed by Habitat home partners.

Beyond having a safe, decent and affordable home, Habitat home partners are also part of an economically sustainable community. The Bagong Buhay village in BASECO, now has its own commercial center which provides livelihood opportunities, a community center for strengthening ties and a worship center for the residents’ spiritual needs. This is a far cry from the urban poor community of several thousand migrant families living on swampy land reclaimed from Manila Bay.

Before the early 1980s, BASECO was a shipyard community where ships would dock, and mangroves, abundant fish and shrimps were in sight. By the late ’80s, however, migrants from the provinces started building shanties in BASECO and the area was soon filled with mud, dirt and garbage. A BASECO resident, Teodorica ‘Teoding’ Carlos, said: “The whole place was really muddy. It would be dangerous to slip because you will then be as black as a squid when rescued.”

Overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions were not the only bane. Three successive fires razed parts of the BASECO site between March 2002 and January 2004. More than 20,000 families lost their homes in the 2004 fire – some for the third time.

Since April 2004, HFH Philippines and another non-governmental organization have been working together with the local government of Manila to build a total of 2,000 homes for the fire victims.

Josefina ‘Josie’ Espartero and her family were among those who received a new home from HFH Philippines after their house was gutted in the 2004 fire. She recalled the difficulties in the early years. “Everything was expensive from water to electricity but we bore the sufferings because there was no other place we could go to. We tried to make do with what little we earned. Yet through it all, we never lost hope.” With a new home, Josefina’s family now runs a tricycle business in the community. Their perseverance has indeed paid off for them.

A typical Habitat for Humanity house has a floor area of 24-30 square meters with lofts that serve as sleeping areas. Due to the soft soil at BASECO, HFH Philippines uses the steel-frame technology that is imported from New Zealand to build the houses. The use of light-weight steel frames, and fire-resistant and termite-resistant cement fiber walls also make for a volunteer-friendly construction build. In early 2005, about 70 American and Filipino employees of the US embassy in Manila took part in a in BASECO. Executives and staff of ING Group, a global financial services group and Habitat partner, also helped to build in BASECO in late 2006. One ING Singapore team even braved a possible encounter with Typhoon Reming (Durian) to help BASECO residents rebuild their homes.

HFH Japan also showed active support for the BASECO project, in administering a one-million yen grant from Japan Post and sending Global Village teams to volunteer on builds. BASECO was also the site of a Philippine Youth Build in April 2005 when 100 youth volunteers worked on 30 houses.