MANILA, Philippines - It’s just plain coincidence that there are conspicuously fewer street children and the homeless along Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this month, Malacañang said yesterday.
Contrary to suspicions raised by some quarters, there’s no window dressing for Metro Manila in preparation for the APEC gathering, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
She said it’s a year-round policy of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to keep homeless people off the streets – not just on major occasions – and provide them with cash assistance.
“It’s something that has been going on for years,” Valte said in Filipino.
The Palace official was referring to the so-called modified conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
During the January visit of Pope Francis, the DSWD led by Secretary Corazon Soliman gathered street children and some homeless people and took them to Chateau Royale Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas where they were given free food and lodging for five days. They all checked out on Jan. 19, the same day Pope Francis left Manila for Rome.
Valte stressed that the same activity is expected when Manila hosts APEC on Nov. 18-19.
“Again, it’s not ‘hidden from view.’ We’ve already explained that the modified CCT has long been in place. They extend help not only during big events,” she said.
Valte said the DSWD program aims to give less fortunate children and their families the opportunity to experience a “transition from the streets into dignified living quarters.”
Yesterday, Pasay police deployed more men in the vicinity of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) to keep street children and other street dwellers from the area.
But Police Sr. Supt. Joel Doria said the policemen would just conduct regular patrol and would not round up the street dwellers.
“We just want to ensure that nobody is loitering around the streets as they this may cause accident,” he said. “There is no roundup – just preventing street children from loitering, particularly along Roxas boulevard.”
Doria also said that they had to apprehend vagrants due to complaints of harassment from promenaders.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo had criticized the government for its plan to hide the homeless during the APEC leaders’ meeting in Manila by giving them money – about P4,000 each – to be used for renting temporary homes from Nov. 15 to 20.
For the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the administration’s plan to clear Metro Manila streets of homeless people is “shameful.”
“Window dressing poverty remains as this administration’s biggest moral scandal. And now it is resorting to the same tactics it did when Pope Francis visited Manila in January,” UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan said.
“Why do you have to hide them? To cover up the inefficiencies of this government?” Ilagan said.
He lauded Pabillo for confirming the government’s plan to give cash to homeless families to keep them off the streets and out of sight of APEC delegates and guests.
“The administration is ashamed of the poor but what’s more embarrassing is that after five years the numbers of poverty and hunger have worsened,” Ilagan said.
He said the “band-aid” solutions implemented by the administration have failed to address poverty in the country.
Source: Nov 7 Philstar