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‘Social preparations’ underway for Northrail relocatees
By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star 01/07/2006

MAGALANG, Pampanga — Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman Noli de Castro said "social preparations" are underway for some 16,000 families to be displaced from the old railroad tracks in the cities of San Fernando and Angeles and four Pampanga towns to give way to the construction of the $400-million Northrail project.

"We have identified a 50-hectare site in the City of San Fernando to be converted into Northrail communities for them," De Castro said in an interview here after he awarded 342 certificates of title and 484 certificates of housing allocation to families displaced by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption at the Sta. Lucia resettlement the other day.

He said the affected families will undergo "social preparations" and will be briefed on the relocation plans anytime this month.

"We have enough time for ‘social preparations’ for them since we do not expect the Chinese contractors to finish Phase 1 of the railway project in three years," he said.

Phase 1 covers the stretch of the old railway of the Philippine National Railways from Kalookan City to the southern part of Malolos, Bulacan.

On the other hand, Phase 2 stretches from northern Malolos up to the Clark special economic zone in Pampanga.

De Castro said the families affected in the towns of Apalit, Minalin, Sto. Tomas, and Mabalacat and the cities of San Fernando and Angeles have to move out as soon as the new resettlement sites for them are finished.

While the HUDCC wants the affected families to be relocated also within their respective hometowns so as not to dislocate them from their jobs, De Castro expressed hope that some of them would agree to move to the 50-hectare area owned by the National Housing Authority in the City of San Fernando to save on land cost.

Apart from the P2 billion already being used for the relocation of families affected under Phase 1, De Castro said another P1 billion is expected to be included in the NHA’s 2006 budget for the families to be relocated under Phase 2.

"We have spent about P1 billion for Phase 1, but we still have obligations to some contractors," he said.

About P6 billion is needed to fully resettle all the affected families.

De Castro said the Chinese engineers, who are constructing the Northrail, have just started work on Phase 1.

"The families along the railways from Kalookan to south Malolos have been transferred to eight Northrail communities, but the contractors have to clear the remnants of their houses along the (railroad tracks) and build fences," he added.

"The local inter-agency committees headed by mayors of the affected towns are set to undertake ‘social preparations’ for the families in Pampanga," he said.

De Castro said these committees have master lists of "legitimate" families affected by the Northrail project.

"Those who either merely rent out or rent shanties along the (railroad tracks) are disqualified. The beneficiaries are those who do not have alternative housing and have been living (there) for decades," he said.

De Castro said some commercial establishments squatting along the railways also have to go.

The displaced families will be given P40,000 each for housing materials and another P10,000 for labor cost to build their houses in the resettlement sites.