Agaw-Agaw Resettlement: Social & Spatial Inclusion
Muntinlupa City, Philippines
image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Location:
Muntinlupa City, Philippines
Category:
meeting place
Phase:
design development
Updated:
10 August 2021
The story of Agaw-Agaw in Muntinlupa documents the collective efforts of urban poor groups in attaining tenure security amid the pandemic.

In Filipino, "agaw" means "snatch" — as if something has been forcefully taken away from you. In the same way, the residents of Agaw-Agaw in Sitio Bagong Daang Hari view the ongoing eviction and relocation process as a means to assert their right to the city through citizen participation and community-building.
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Introduction
In 2015, the Homeless People's Federation Philippines Inc. (HPFPI) and Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment Inc. (TAMPEI), along with their partners from Muntinlupa Development Foundation (MDF) and City Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO), carried out a joint citywide mapping of informal settlements in Muntinlupa.

In Barangay Poblacion, where the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Compound is located, a total of 41 informal settlements were mapped. However, since mid-2020, the residents in these areas have started facing eviction and demolition threats due to the plans of the government to transform the NBP Compound into a mixed-used development. The NBP, the country's main penitentiary, has been home to some 1,800 urban poor households who decided to settle in the Compound's idle lands due to high costs of formal housing in Metro Manila. Most of them have been in the area since 1990s while others were much earlier.

In 2020, TAMPEI conducted a study among households affected by the proposed development. It was found out that the relocation process allegedly involved inhumane practices such as lack of public consultation and in some cases, intimidation and favoritism. Upon transfer to Agaw-Agaw Relocation Site in Biazon Road, households would find themselves in more precarious conditions with no basic infrastructure and social services present. Worse, the relocation process kicked off at the height of the pandemic when most households lost their primary income sources.
Map of informal settlements in Barangay Poblacion, Muntinlupa. Those in white are the communities residing within the NBP Compound.

image: TAMPEI | © all rights reserved
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Impact
Slum upgrading is a cross-cutting discourse. When viewed from the lens of social development and done in a participatory manner, it promotes citizen empowerment through direct engagement of community members.

In Agaw-Agaw, most residents were deprived of their right to participate in resettlement planning as the process largely remains in the hands of the authorities. This is especially true in light of the dismantling of their community associations that used to unite them back in the NBP Compound. However, upon transfer to Agaw-Agaw, the community leaders, most of whom are women, were stripped off their leadership roles, thereby creating disruptions in their existing social systems.

This proposed intervention would give Agaw-Agaw residents the platform to hold dialogues with various stakeholders to collectively inform resettlement planning frameworks in Muntinlupa City. Not only will it offer collective voices in addressing the residents' immediate spatial needs such as incremental temporary housing and acesss to sanitation, water and electricity, but it will also, on a larger scale, set precedents for relocation projects that involve institutional conflicts between national and local governments. 

Similar to other projects co-designed by TAMPEI, this one intends to upgrade the physical conditions of Agaw-Agaw Relocation Site through community architecture principles that harness and promote close collaboration among grassroots members and other stakeholders. In particular, the proposal is to concretize these ideals by building a SOCIAL SPACE together with the community.
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Core team
Technical assistance and documentation. TAMPEI is a movement of young technical professionals and paraprofessionals advocating community-driven and ecologically sound practices in the field of human settlements development. Since its formation in 2010, TAMPEI has engaged with a wide range of local and international partners in implementing people-led projects such as site planning, housing design, construction management, community mapping, and slum upgrading. TAMPEI is an active member-institution of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights - Community Architects Network (ACHR-CAN).

Community organizing and networking. Being the direct technical arm of the Homeless People's Federation Philippines Inc. (HPFPI), TAMPEI assists the HPFPI in its organizational and spatial development needs. Through this, TAMPEI has learned the basics of community mobilization and social development. The HPFPI has 92 member-communities in 12 cities across the Philippines including Muntinlupa City in Metro Manila. 

Groundwork initiatives. TAMPEI and HPFPI will work directly with the officers of the recently established people's organization in Agaw-Agaw, the Sitio Bagong Daang Hari NBP Reservation. Socially, they will be mentored by the members of HPFPI in Muntinlupa, and technically / spatially by TAMPEI.
TAMPEI facilitates a focus group discussion with the community leaders of Muntinlupa

image: TAMPEI | © all rights reserved
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Image gallery
Lack of sanitation. Agaw-Agaw residents use improvised septic tanks by digging holes near their poorly constructed houses. The relocation site has no proper sewage systems.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Agaw-Agaw residents use large drums to store water for domestic purposes. They walk for about 15-20 minutes to fetch water from a nearby subdivision.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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For the parents, going out of the community to get water somewhere else means leaving their children unattended. According to interviews, children, in some cases, join their parents in accomplishing the household chore.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Children are left without access to safe playing spaces. The bare grounds of the relocation site serve as their temporary public space.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Informal reconstruction. Agaw-Agaw residents had to make use of salvaged scrap materials in reconstructing their houses on their own — making them vulnerable to structural failures due to lack of standard architectural and engineering designs.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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In spite of its location within the city, the Agaw-Agaw Relocation Site is generally disconnected from public transportation networks, making it hard for the residents to go in and out of the community.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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The heavy rains delay the ongoing construction of the road and drainage system.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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With the absence of a road and drainage system, streets get flooded especially now during typhoon season. All roads in the relocation site are not paved.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Even inside their homes, Agaw-Agaw residents bear the brunt of having muddy floors because of the lack of drainage system and paved road networks.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Outside their homes, residents have to take a truck ride provided by the local council to pass through the flooded road — their only way in and out of Agaw-Agaw. This makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 as health measures are not properly observed.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Recent meeting with the community officers.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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A community-made tarpaulin showing the leaders of their recently formed organization.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Community members adjusting to their "new normal" lives in the relocation site. Hopefully their new normal becomes a "better normal."

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Where are we now
Because of health and mobility restrictions, TAMPEI employs remote coordination strategies with Agaw-Agaw residents through the help of HPFPI volunteers in Muntinlupa.

In a recent conversation, they shared to us that they plan to build a social space that would serve as their meeting place, especially now that they have already formed their new set of community officers who just recently took their oath of office under the barangay (village) council.

The team has yet to get a copy of Agaw-Agaw's site development plan to pinpoint a suitable location for their social space. From there, TAMPEI will co-design the facility through a series of participatory workshops with the community.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
50% expertise already found
Finance: € 3,000
As the proposal is still in its initial stages, the team has not yet exactly defined the financial resources needed to keep the initiative going. The following amount are just estimates of pre-identified line items based on fund opportunities indicated by this Global Challenge. Nevertheless, getting any form of support from local and international partners would surely expedite the socio-spatial processes relative to the ongoing transfer of residents from NBP Compound to Agaw-Agaw Relocation.

Construction materials and related expenses for the social space shall be drafted and refined after the series of community design workshops.
  • Technical and Legal Research
850
  • Participatory Design Workshops
850
  • Mobilization and Advocacy
850
  • Logistics
450
Skills: Law & Politics, Planning & Management, Design
For the proposed social space, TAMPEI welcomes community architects who could help facilitate the series of design workshops with the residents. On a larger scale, TAMPEI is also in need of legal experts on tenure security (land and housing rights) as the case of Agaw-Agaw entails spatial and institutional conflicts between national and local governments. Likewise, urban planners who specialize on participatory  resettlement planning are a good addition to the team.

The team sees legal education and assistance as critical elements in increasing the individual and collective capacities of Agaw-Agaw residents to negotiate their space in the city. Correspondingly, the active participation of professionals, civil society, and the academia could help spark local discussions about the global discourse on one's right to the city.

As they say, awareness leads to action... and action leads to change!
The ongoing relocation process is a legal battle for tenure security. Residents are in constant dialogues with authorities.

image: Community Technical Working Group (TWG) in Barangay Poblacion | © all rights reserved
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Stuff: Materials, Equipment & tools
Based on online focus group discussions and site oculars, the residents of Agaw-Agaw Relocation Site are in dire need of financial and material support for their:
  1. individual house reconstruction; and
  2. communal site upgrading which includes toilet and drainage installation, pathwalk concreting, provision of access to water and electricity, and creation of a social space.
While some of the site upgrading needs have already been requested to the local government, the proposed social space is seen as something where the civil society can contribute to. It attempts to holistically address the community's needs for:
  1. political participation (the space shall essentially serve as a meeting place);
  2. economic recovery (it will be surrounded by communal gardens); and
  3. disaster planning (it also serve as an evacuation area).
Vacant spaces in the site as potential location of the social space.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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Hands
While it is envisioned that community members themselves shall take on the role of constructing and supervising the progress of the facility, the team is open to accepting volunteer builders for the proposed social space.
Ongoing individual house reconstruction per family.

image: HPFPI Muntinlupa | © all rights reserved
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