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Barricades block QC North Triangle demolition; 14 hurt in clashes

(Updated 9:43 p.m.) At least 14 people were injured in a seven-hour standoff, and over 130 homes taken down, as hundreds of protesting residents and supporters set up barricades and clashed with police to block the large-scale demolition that began Thursday in the Quezon City (QC) North Triangle. The demolition operations were to make way for the QC Central Business District (QCCBD) project, which would include the entire 30-hectare Sitio San Roque in Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa. Sitio San Roque, home to almost 10,000 families, extends from the stretch of EDSA between Quezon and North Avenue to Agham road. The P22-billion project is a joint venture between Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) to develop 29.1 hectares of North Triangle, aimed at making this part of QC a central business and commercial district. The NHA is the listed owner of this property, including Sitio San Roque.
Five policemen were wounded, while at least seven residents were reported injured, said Senior Superintendent Benjamin Magalong of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Two firemen were also reportedly injured. Around 300 policemen, with two Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, were deployed by the PNP to assist the NHA in the demolition. Meanwhile, over 50 structures were demolished along EDSA, while over 70 families in San Roque voluntarily took down their own homes during the day, said Francisco Alican, NHA Deputy Area Management officer for the National Capital Region. The NHA adhered to the agency’s policy of banning demolitions after 3:00 p.m., leaving the area at around that time. The petition to halt the demolition of San Roque, with Lucia Velarde as the plaintiff and the NHA as the defendant, was heard in the QC Regional Trial Court branch 226 on Thursday afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. Velarde is president of one of the organizations of residents in San Roque, the Maralitang Nagkakaisa ng Metro Side San Roque North Triangle, Inc. Acting presiding judge Luisa Quijano-Padilla issued a temporary restraining order against demolition activities in the area until 8 a.m. on Friday, after which police are to determine whether or not to push through with the dismantling of structures. Residents rejoiced at the suspension of the demolition, but vowed that they would remain vigilant. “Kahilingan namin sa mga Ayala at sa gobyerno na itigil na itong di-makatarungang demolisyon," said Jocy Lopez, president of the North Triangle chapter of Anakpawis. (We implore the Ayalas and the government to stop this unjust demolition.) Police, protesters clash The demolition began on Thursday morning, at around 8:00 a.m. The NHA targeted the boundaries of San Roque, along Agham road and EDSA, as two separate starting points for the demolition, said Alican. However, residents set up a barricade along Agham road, backed by other urban poor groups and other militant organizations. The NHA and the PNP were forced to withdraw from the area. Meanwhile, violence broke out early in the morning along EDSA, as residents and members of the demolition team hurled stones and even glass bottles against each other. The NHA, which had deployed over 600 personnel for the demolition, continued taking down homes until early afternoon, despite continued resistance from the residents. Some houses were reportedly dismantled even as residents were still inside. Violent clashes broke out at least twice more, once before lunch and once more at lunchtime. Firemen used water cannons to subdue the protesters. The QC Fire Station had sent at least three trucks to the area. Traffic was snarled for much of the day, with the northbound lanes of EDSA completely blocked until policemen and personnel of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) forced back the protesters at around 1:00 p.m., opening two lanes for vehicles. The MMDA kept around 80 of its people in the QC North Triangle throughout the day, although the figure rose to over 200 MMDA personnel in the morning, pulled out from other areas, to control the traffic in QC when violence broke out. Some 500 police personnel are meanwhile spending the night in the area, supposedly to maintain order should tension erupt anew. “This is an inter-agency effort," said Alican. “Of course there’s resistance, [the residents] want to stay here, but the government can’t give in. This is a prime lot. It is intended for commercial ventures."
Not all to be relocated “Pangako sa amin ng NHA at ni Mayor Bistek [Herbert Bautista] na walang magaganap na pwersahang pag-demolish, na sisiguraduhin muna nila ang maayos na relocation namin," said Lopez. (The NHA and Mayor Herbert Bautista promised us that there would be no forced demolitions, that they would first ensure our adequate relocation.) “’Di nila tinupad pangako nila. Pilit kaming pinalalayas sa bahay namin at tinutulak sa Montalban. Ayaw naman namin dun, walang kabuhayan dun," added Lopez, who is also a longtime resident of San Roque. (They did not keep their promise. They are forcing us out of our homes and pushing us to go to Montalban. We don’t want to go there, there is no livelihood there.) Another community leader meanwhile called for a resumption of negotiations between government authorities and residents. “Buhay at kinabukasan ng pamilya namin ang nakasalalay dito. Bahagi din kami ng pag-unlad. Kung aalis lang ang mga demolition teams, tatahimik ang mga tao. Wala kaming ipinakikiusap (kundi) buksan ulit ang negosasyon," said Myrna Lacdao, one of the residents’ leaders, in GMA News' “24 Oras" newscast. (The life and future of our family are at stake here. We too should be part of progress. If the demolition teams will only leave, the people will keep their peace. We ask for nothing but for negotiations to resume.) The residents who will be displaced by the QCCBD project are are offered the option to either be relocated to the housing site in Rodriguez (Montalban) town, Rizal province and given a cash assistance of P6,000, or go back to their respective provinces with a cash assistance amounting to P24,000. NHA figures show that there are 9,582 families in North Triangle QC. As of Wednesday, 3,252 had voluntarily relocated, while 6,330 families remain in San Roque. However, only 7,864 families are qualified for relocation, including those who have already left the area. That leaves 1,718 families who are disqualified, usually because they were not registered by the NHA in a 2009 census. “We plan to complete the relocation by the end of October," said Alican. “Families are continuing to sign up for voluntary relocation. We encourage that. Sisikapin po naming na iwasan ang gulo (We will try to avoid further violence)." On September 15, the NHA issued a seven-day notice of demolition for the community, which ended on Wednesday.—JV, GMANews.TV