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“Unforgotten” informal communities and the COVID-19 pandemic: Sitio San Roque under Metro Manila’s lockdown

Christianne France Collantes (Department of Political Science, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 9 July 2021

Issue publication date: 22 July 2021

3165

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to offer Sitio San Roque, an informal settlement in the Philippines as a case study to explore long-term "forgetful" urban development planning in the Philippines, and the renewed visibility of the urban poor under COVID-19 lockdown. It connects scholarship on informality to issues of housing and political rights in Metro Manila to further investigate how vulnerable communities in the Global South are faring in the pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

This is an exploration of Sitio San Roque, an informal settler community in Metropolitan "Metro" Manila, Philippines. This paper refers to recent journalistic reports pertaining to the community's ongoing evictions and arrests while under Metro Manila's "enhanced community quarantine." Furthermore, it converses with literature from disciplines including health-care policy, urban studies and recent studies on COVID-19 and vulnerable communities to critically discuss the plight of the urban poor in the pandemic-stricken Metro Manila.

Findings

The urban poor and members of informal communities such as Sitio San Roque are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because of precarious livelihoods and housing instability. The creation of informality in Metro Manila can be traced to political tensions, economic agendas and development planning since the time of Marcos' administration and also to global restructuring during the 1990s. However, also important to note is that under Metro Manila's lockdown, informal settlers are further disenfranchised and stigmatized via ongoing demolitions and evictions, as well as by processes of policing and criminalization by the state. The use of military and police personnel as a way to enforce lockdown in the metropolis further impedes on the rights of informal settlers and the urban poor.

Originality/value

Recent scholarship and reports discuss the challenges for informal communities and the urban poor in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to their housing conditions and loss of economic stability. This paper contributes to a critical understanding of these issues by adding the dimensions of political and housing rights. It refers to the case study of members of Sitio San Roque, who have experienced continuous threats of demolitions and arrests by state police for protesting the lack of government aid under lockdown. Both military approaches of governance and housing informality work in tandem to expose the vulnerabilities of the urban poor in Metro Manila's pandemic. Finally, this paper extends on urban studies scholar Gavin Shatkin's concept of “forgetful planning” (2004) by applying his discussions to the current context. Informal settlers have long been “forgotten” by the state's development plans, but are now remembered and deemed more visible in Metro Manila's ECQ.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Author sincerely thank the Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance for hosting her as a Research Fellow and sup-porting new research on COVID-19 in the Philippines. She also thank Caila Anne Flores, Jurnis Lanuza, Patricia Navarro, and Josiah Patricio for their research assistance for this work. Thanking to Brian Mojica and Jonathan Beltran for helping to shape the critical discussions in this piece.

Citation

Collantes, C.F. (2021), "“Unforgotten” informal communities and the COVID-19 pandemic: Sitio San Roque under Metro Manila’s lockdown", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 279-292. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHRH-09-2020-0073

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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