Saturday, 5 May 2012

Philippines slammed for hiding poor & slums during ADB event!

Gov't hit for 'hiding' poor at ADB meet

MANILA, Philippines - Rights groups and unions slammed the Philippines Friday, May 4, after it erected advertising hoardings that hid slum housing from delegates attending a conference on solving poverty in Asia.

A Philippine policeman (R) argues with foreign delegates to the Asian Development Bank board of governors annual meeting (AFP, Ted Aljibe)

The giant boards were put up beside a road taking 4,300 delegates from Manila airport to the Asian Development Bank meeting that began on Wednesday, May 2, blocking the view of an open sewer and shanties.

The boards advertised Philippine tourist attractions as well as the high-level meeting, which proclaimed as its theme "inclusive" growth for Asia, home to some 902 million of the world's poor according to the bank.

The government said it was merely trying to put its "best foot forward" but New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the boards, saying it sent the message that dire poverty can just be ignored.

"Instead of trying to hide the poor, the Philippine government should be pressing the bank to tackle poverty head on," said Jessica Evans, the group's senior international financial institution advocate.

Union leader Josua Mata, of the Alliance of Progressive Labour-Centro, told AFP the attempt to wall off the poverty was "embarrassing" and the government should turn its focus to creating jobs and building resettlement sites.

President Benigno Aquino's office insisted the effort was not an attempt to hide poverty, which the government says affects a fourth of the population of 95 million.

"It's but natural to fix it (the city) up a bit and I don't think we're violating any human right by trying to put our best foot forward," presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang told reporters.

"We're not trying to whitewash poverty, it's very real," another spokesman, Abigail Valte, said.

Carandang said the government was spending 39 billion pesos ($907 million) this year in cash handouts to help three million poor families to escape poverty. The ADB lent the government $400 million in 2010 for the program.

ADB external relations director Ann Quon defended the hosts.

"We do not think it is the host country's intention to paper over poverty in the Philippines," Quon said.

"In fact, the government has placed poverty reduction at the center of its development agenda." - Agence France-Presse

Philippines erects wall to obscure view of slums

MANILA, Philippines

‘FENCING POVERTY’. A resident pedals his tricycle, locally known as "pedicab", past a wall covered with a tarpaulin poster of the ongoing 45th Annual Board of Governors meeting of the Asian Development Bank at suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines, Thursday May 3, 2012. Behind the wall is the slum along a garbage-strewn creek. (AP and RUEL PEREZ/Radyo Inquirer 990AM)

Delegates attending an international conference in the Philippines capital may not see what they came to discuss: abject poverty.

A makeshift, temporary wall has been erected across a bridge on a road from the airport to downtown Manila that hides a sprawling slum along a garbage-strewn creek.

Presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang defended the wall's installation, saying Thursday "any country will do a little fixing up before a guest comes."

He expressed hope that this week's annual meeting of Asian Development Bank Board of Governors, which includes finance ministers and senior officials from 67 member states, will show the Philippines is open for business.

The lending institition, which is headquartered in its own walled compound in Manila, aims to cut poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We need to show our visitors that Metro Manila is orderly. We owe it to ourselves," said metropolital Manila chief Francis Tolentino.

"I see nothing wrong with beautifying our surroundings. We are not trying to keep the poor out of the picture," he said.

There was no immediate comment from ADB.

The Philippine Communist Party recalled that former first lady Imelda Marcos -- notorious for her ostentatious lifestyle -- was ridiculed for trying to hide squatter colonies. She erected similar whitewashed walls along the route of foreign visitors to the Miss Universe pageant held in Manila in 1974, and other international events.

"The government should face reality. If they don't, how will they know the problem, how will they solve the problem," said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the largest left-wing group Bayan. "By covering the truth, they lose the energy or intention to resolve the problem."

About a third of Manila's 12 million residents live in slums, and a third of 94 million Filipinos live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. Overall, more than half the population in Asia remains poor.

- The Associated Press 

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