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With the rapid changing of communities coupled with the relevant problem of migration, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center, the League of Cities of the Philippines and the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) sponsored the historical 77th Edition of the Globalization Lecture Series focusing on the theme “Meeting the Challenge of Rural-to-Urban Mobilization and International Migration” at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City.
The historical aspect of the lecture-dialogue forum on The Hague Process (THP) on Refugees and Migration Policy was made possible by the gracing of no less than the THP Chairman and His Royal Highness Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands.
Opening on a light note, Prince Constantijn remarked on the lengthy curriculum vitae read for his introduction saying “it makes me feel much older.” His Royal Highness then went on discussing the basics of THP and its Big Cities Initiative. According to him, “The Hague Process is a global initiative of bringing together stakeholders from many different areas and we seek to rationalize and innovate debate on migration.”
With this, the Prince emphasized the big role cities play in the issue of migration. As such, he referred to the city as a laboratory, a laboratory for policies dealing with migration because it is in the city where the actual issues of migration manifest themselves. Moreover, he said that it is important to involve all levels of government beyond the traditional players in migration. Hence, a proactive and open-minded way is needed to address the ever growing trend of migration. Being a catalyst, it is the aim of THP to support a policy environment that is conducive to the migrants himself and the full exploitation of his talents and aspirations while benefitting the host community.
Realizing the problem really as “not so much that you have poor people in your community but when people remain the same for over generations”, he advocated a multidisciplinary approach to the issue of migration explaining that migration is not treated as a single policy area but treated across the different policy fields where it is embedded. Thus, participation and engagement in the local communities must be promoted.
Meanwhile, looking specifically to various local examples, three prominent and well-recognized city mayors shared their valuable experiences in their respective jurisdictions on how they have been managing migration and its associated issues.
Starting off, Hon. Mayor Maria Lourdes “Marides” Fernando of Marikina City discussed Marikina’s proactive settlement program having recognized the universality of the problem of migration giving rise to informal settlements. She stressed the importance of the initiative to provide secure land tenure and not just houses to people. This scheme involves the identification of qualified beneficiaries from families without permanent residence, demolishing current homes for relocation and reconstruction of the relocation site to provide for basic infrastructure and services. She cited a successful initiative of her husband, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, known as “Gwapotel” in providing temporary low-cost settlements for migrants and transient workers.
Alongside the settle programs, the local government of Marikina has been providing infrastructure and development programs such as livelihood. Moreover, according to Mayor Fernando, skill centers have been operational to address unemployment as well as a low-cost education program.
With Singapore as its benchmark city, Mayor Marides emphasized her vision of a squatter-free Marikina sharing, “There are people who say that the city without slums is a utopian impossibility. Our efforts and hard toil are steadily leading us to the ambitious target of a squatter-free Marikina, where residents are economically productive and we are confident, it can be done soon.”
Representing the most populous and one of the biggest cities in the country, Mayor Feliciano ‘Sonny’ Belmonte of Quezon City, noted the significant presence of immigrants in his city, which account for around 55% of the total population. Taking into consideration, the accessibility of Quezon City to transients and migrants, Belmonte believes that the immigrants need to be assimilated to a progressive city life and help them become productive contributing citizens. Together with the basic strategy of assimilation, Mayor Belmonte also emphasized the containment of migration to its present levels through a “holistic and comprehensive approach” by implement responses for poverty alleviation, hunger, homelessness and lack of upward mobility.
He enumerated some of his campaigns including the registration of children to have birth certificates as the right to exist is deemed important. Moreover, he also outlined his 1 meal-a-day program to the grade 1 students as well as the community mortgage program where land is bought and sold to families.
Moreover, operating under the principle that migrants are assets, Belmonte zeroed in on two community examples namely: Payatas and Barangay Commonwealth. He noted that sizeable infrastructure investments have already been made to these communities to address informal settlements. Also, training programs were carried out to train the people.
He also remarked on the importance of people saying, “The challenge for city governance is to maximize the development of all its human resources given the means and opportunities to improve themselves in their quality of life and transform all of them into the human capital that can power greater good.”
On the other hand, Mayor Sigfrido Tinga, of Taguig City, shared his experiences putting resounding emphasis on participative and collaborative development by involving all stakeholders to address the issues posted by migration. Citing that Taguig has the highest population growth rate in Metro Manila due to migration, he explained that similar to the policy of Mayor Belmonte, Taguig also employs containment of the migrants catering only to who is already there and controlling those coming in.
With this, he identified, three development themes: (1) improvement of basic services, (2) all programs must provide economic opportunities and (3) importance of people participation in the success of a project.
Given these, according to Mayor Tinga, the uniqueness of the Taguig example is that it is a city with two cities. It is a city with a clear social class distinction. The rich and poor are evidently delineated. Hence, among the examples he highlighted showing this was that of their educational system which featured previous squatting of a public high school to the city gymnasium due to lack of space. To address this concern, the public high school now has a new home within the Fort Bonifacio, alongside the elite and high-end schools. This is made to hopefully address any cultural assimilation issues amidst the widely delineated social classes while producing the best quality of people.
Moreover, Tinga revealed that Taguig is no longer giving lot awards as they had the risk of turning into another slum area. Instead, real estate developers are focusing on developing lower cost housing and condos for all income brackets.
Furthermore, he also emphasized the role of technology and the significance of maintaining the good quality of people. All of these are possible, if we all stakeholders take part. As he aptly put it, “Lahat panalo pag sama sama tayo.” (All will win if we are together).
After the core talks, reactions were offered to the discussions followed by an open forum. Among those reactors was Naga City Mayor, Jesse Robredo, who had observed the common threads in all city examples recognizing migrants as importance resources as well as potential causes of problems. With this, he emphasized a more long-term solution integrating development in local communities.
The lecture forum was initiated as shared by Mr. Francis Estrada, President of the Asian Institute of Management in his Welcome Remarks because of the relevance of the issue of migration in the new Asia. Hence, in relation to the Hague process, the city is seen as catalysts and leaders of social change. Thus, dialogue between local authorities and other relevant stakeholders is a must to formulate more effective policies to address this issue.
This was echoed by Hon. Alfonso Casurra, Mayor of Surigao City and Executive Vice President of the League of Cities of the Philippines saying “we hope to chart a path to a new journey that will guide us to the specific role of city governments in the Philippines...towards addressing the rapid level of urbanization brought about primarily by rural to urban and international migration.”
The event was well attended by various public officials, city mayors from all the country, representatives from the academe, civil society, the labor sector, and other chief executives.