Earlier in the year, we took part in a slum upgrade project in the Philippines (Quezon City, Greater Manila).

Whilst in the area, we took the opportunity to chat with Jap Semana, who coordinates volunteering projects in the Philippines, about the work done in the country.

It was also an opportunity to better understand how and why slums have grown so quickly in the Philippines.

Slum redevelopment: the need for social housing in Manila 

Working in the Philippines, Jap has become especially aware of the rising poverty. He tells us that the situation in the country is extremely serious in that 4 out of 10 families don’t have a decent place to live. In fact, most Filipino families live in slum areas like these in Manila.

What follows is an adaptation of the video interview below with Jap:

“You can find areas like these all throughout the country…”

The families living in Quezon City’s Bistekville slum are sadly considered informal settlers. Our mission in the Philippines is to therefore rehabilitate those displaced, acquire secure land rights for them or move them to a better place to live.

It’s heartbreaking to realise that those 4 out of 10 equal about 4 million families (or roughly 20-25 million people), who do not have decent housing. That’s not even considering those affected by the dozens of typhoons that hit the country and force many to rebuild part of their home every year.

The need for social housing : Children in Manila
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“We can only imagine how big the problem is, because it just continues to grow.”

Jap also underlines that we are one of the only organisations whose main focus is creating social housing, so there’s undeniably a huge need for this type of help in Manila.


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Tackling urban poverty & informal settlements

Families who live in these slums come from all over the country. They choose the places they settle according to a city’s economic status and to where they believe they can find a better livelihood.

However, because their moves can be abrupt and the places they live in are overcrowded they end up with improper housing – meaning no proper facilities in their houses, which can lead to environmental damage.

Upgrading slums in Manila, Philippines

What Jap is trying to do is engage the public as much as possible so they understand the urgency of this problem, on both a local and international level. As a Global Village Officer, he feels it is part of his duty to inform all friends abroad about these problems.

“Many foreigners haven’t seen areas like these or they aren’t familiar with any poverty where they are from.”

Upgrading slums: everyone working together

The workers on site in Manila are actually paid workers, as that’s how Habitat for Humanity works. We hire a contractor who partners up with us through the local government. Alongside this, we have a very consistent number of local volunteers from schools and corporations who want to do their CSR activities with us.

Tackling urban poverty by redeveloping slums in Manila

Jap talks us through the way Habitat for Humanity organises this:

  • Introducing the workers and volunteers to the community
  • Showing them the problem that we are facing within that community
  • Explaining how they can help, even in the smallest way to upgrade slums throughout the country

The slum redevelopment project in the Philippines is part of an ongoing programme to tackle extreme urban poverty. The country struggles with up to 20 typhoons each year, meaning that damage to houses and lives is constant.

Our plan consists replacing the informal settlements with typhoon-resistant homes so that communities don’t have to spend months rebuilding their homes every year (and wasting all their savings on this). To that effect, we need to keep sending out more volunteers to the Philippines and more funding.

This post was produced with the financial support of the European  Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity GB and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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