Dozens were injured in the Philippine capital on Thursday, as thousands of slum dwellers resisting eviction blocked the city’s main highway and clashed with police.
The protestors were resisting plans by the National Housing Authority (NHA) to relocate them and redevelop the site as a business district.
The stand—off stalled traffic for several kilometres as the squatters scuffled with police officers and the demolition team.
Police said angry residents and some members of the demolition team threw stones at each other near the 22—hectare slated for demolition in the Manila suburban city of Quezon, injuring at least one police officer. The NHA, which owns the land, said it had given 2,000 of the families living in the area seven days to move to another site provided. The deadline expired on Thursday.
“The relocation site is ready and complete,” said Chito Cruz, NHA general manager. “There is electricity and we are also constructing schools, health centres and day—care centres.” The residents rejected relocation because the proposed site was far from their work, according to Kilos Maralita, a coalition of urban poor groups opposing the demolitions.
The group’s spokesman Von Mesina added that a total of 9,000 families were living on the land concerned.
“The NHA plans to develop the area into a business district under a joint venture with a private company,” he said. “We had proposed a mixed—use development to allow residents to stay but authorities ignored our proposals.” Mr. Mesina said at least five slum dwellers were seriously injured in the clash with police, while about a dozen suffered minor injuries.
Police officers were able to clear the highway after about five hours as authorities negotiated with the slum dwellers.
According to the government, there are at least 2.7 million slum dwellers living on squatted land in the Manila metropolitan area. But the World Bank estimates that half of the area’s 12 million residents are slum dwellers.