According to studies, the population in the Philippines is growing at the rate of 1.95% per year. Much of this growth is attributed to the urban societies. The rising rate of population in urban areas is not only caused by the increasing birth over death proportion, but also by rapid rural to urban migration as well. Relocating to urban areas has become an alleged solution to improve the quality of life and provide better income for the household. This stimulated a substantial flow of migrants to cities. However, their migration has only caused them another dilemma – adequate housing. In most cases, these migrants are financially incapable, leaving them with the option of illegally residing in an unoccupied land. They go to cities in search of fortune, but they end up in squatter communities. These communities have become one of the most observable characteristics of urban areas in the Philippines. II. Squatting, Squatter Settlements and Squatters
Squatting is defined as “occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use.” It has its roots from the end of World War II, when people built makeshift houses called barong-barong inside abandoned private plots of land. Squatting is a major issue in the Philippines, especially in industrialized areas. Statistics in the past decades until now shows that the number of illegal settlers is exponentially increasing.
A squatter settlement is identified in the lack of ownership of the land on which their houses are built. Squatter communities are located on vacant lands that can be private or government owned. In this case, there is no permission or contract under which the dwellers are given the consent to build their shelters and live on these properties. These settlements are usually located along rivers and creeks, in garbage dumps, along railroad tracks, under bridges, and beside factories and other industrial establishments. Because illegally constructed, squatter settlements lack quality services, supplies and facilities, e.g. water supply, sanitation, electricity, roads and drainage, etc.
The term “squatter settlement” is often confused with “slum”. Slum is defined as “residential areas that are physically and socially deteriorated and in which satisfactory family life is impossible…” A clear difference that can be drawn between the two is that slum refers to the physical condition of the settlement, while squatter settlement refers to its legal position.
Squatters are persons who settle on and take unauthorized possession of someone else’s land without title or rights. Their income usually falls on the lower group, below or right on the poverty line. Most squatters earn wages on the minimum level, if not near minimum. Urban squatter settlers are, for the most part, migrants from rural areas or from another urban area, but may also be second or third generation inhabitants. The politically correct term for squatters is “informal settlers.”
III. Squatting, Professional Squatters and Squatter Syndicates Squatting in the Philippines was brought about by an interplay of factors, such as rural-urban migration, distortions in the land and housing market, corruption and collusion of government agencies, weak economy, inadequate and unstable employment and income opportunities, ineffective law enforcement, and the operation of squatting syndicates. The squatting phenomenon started in the 1950s. Initially, informal land and housing was provided by informal settlers themselves, building extensions for rent to augment their incomes or selling rights to bigger land areas they originally occupied. As low income urban land and housing became scarcer, it became a highly commercialized and profitable venture. With demand rising faster than supply, more informal developers came in to fill the vacuum. Working in collusion with some national agency or local...