Batangas urban poor commemorate 20th anniversary of demolition, faced port authorities' violence
It was a rainy day last June 27, 1994 at the barangay of Sta. Clara in Batangas City. Residents of a bayside community were then successfully thwarting the attempts of demolition teams from the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to destroy their settlements for the creation of a port.
However, a thousand-strong military and police force entered the quiet community, together with a large number of prisoners hired to demolish the houses of the residents. Chaos ensued, while police and military forces fired at the defenders, which have nothing to use as to even out the armed advantage of the state forces. Three were reported dead, but the number was soon belied by the residents as many were missing after the demolition stint.
One thousand five hundred and sixty-eight families were affected by the massive demolition and land development in the Batangas shore, which gave way to the now Batangas International Port, which is the entry and exit point of various ships, from passenger to cargo, carrying different types and sizes of shipments coming from different points of the globe.
Now, twenty years after what locals call a nightmare, the residents have been spread all throughout Batangas province in relocation sites, while those who remained at the port area struggle to make a living in different ways; from guiding travellers to passenger ships to selling products at stalls dotting the path to the main port.
"Now is the time to commemorate the twentieth year since the miserable event that changed our lives forever," said Thelma Maranan, spokesperson of Claimants 1568, an alliance of cooperatives and organizations made by the victims of demolitions in the port area.
To begin the day-long event, the residents attended a mass at a chapel near the port. The air soon filled with stories, updates about their lives years after the demolition. It was followed by a program, which featured stories from the local leaders.
In a speech, Maranan said that "the residents have found nothing but the power of collective action, guided by advanced theories and concepts, that have made our fight victorious and an esteemed example of the struggles of the urban poor."
The residents of Sta. Clara resorted to these actions to fight for their rights as true residents of the land, and is considered one of the few urban poor communities to be given moral compensation, allowed business within the port area, and other benefits given to them.
The Joint Monitoring Panel and Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front, represented by Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni, respectively, gave messages of solidarity, among other sectoral representatives, who also gave messasges of support to the victims of the government's land development plan.
Jose Maria Sison, chairperson of the International League of People's Struggles, also gave a message. He said that the fight of the people of Sta. Clara is a notable contribution to the overall democratic revolution of the people of the Philippines for freedom from the ages-long oppressors.
To cap off the day, the residents marched around the nearby communities, signifying that the fight is not over, and also calling the support of the people to continue the struggle for land and rights.
However, after the march, security forces blocked the residents from entering the port grounds, accusing them as "rallyists" and would "cause disturbance" in the port operations. A certain Ariel Morada from Mandarin Security Agency even tried to confiscate the camera of a media personnel, saying that it is banned in "their vicinity".
"This only presents the true nature of change in the country. Contrary to Aquino and the past administrations' claims of improvement under their administrations, nothing has ever 'trickled down' to the people in Sta. Clara, 20 since years the demolition," Maranan enunciated.
"The incident also necessitates the need to always put up the guard against harsh dispersals by state forces, and even private security forces; and that truly, the fight of the people of Sta. Clara is not yet over," the urban poor leader ended.###