The Baseco reclamation project is one of the 22 reclamation projects planned by the Philippines government along the Manila Bay. It is being opposed tooth and nail by the 70,000 settlers (mostly fisher folks) of Baseco Compound, Tondo, a reclaimed section of the Manila Port Area, who fear losing their livelihood due to forced evacuation and displacement.
I met one such gusty woman settler of Baseco - who is involved in the people's struggles against climate migration, displacements and other threats to their lives and livelihoods - during a solidarity visit, a day ahead of the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Rights of Climate Migrants co-organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Philippines, KALIKASAN-People's Network for the Environment, International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).
Salve's humble abode yet a double storied house, does stand out in that Baseco area which reeks of poverty. Puddles of dirty rain water run through narrow lanes that are lined with small hutments. Frequent typhoons during the monsoons, make life more miserable for the residents of this coastal area. No development worth its name seems to have set foot here. There is no proper drainage and most of the residents defecate in the open. Filth and squalor is writ over every nook and corner. There is hardly any medical facility available. Most men earn their meagre living by fishing and the women are engaged in garlic peeling that fetches them Philippine Peso 70-100 (less than US$ 2) for peeling 15 kg of garlic, which takes about 6-8 hours. Most children, instead of going to school, are also engaged in this activity to add to the family income.
Yet, Salve migrated to such a place in 2000 with her family from Masbate, an island province in the Philippines, where her family was engaged in fishing and other local livelihoods. Prior to her migration to Baseco, a criminal group had ransacked her house in Masbate and threatened to kill them. Once in Baseco, the only job her husband could get was to collect mussels from Manila Bay. She also earns some money by helping neighbours repair their houses. It is through the income earned from these two sources that she has raised 11 children - the eldest is 29 years old and the youngest is around 2. Five of them are married now. The remaining 6 children and one of her married sons and his family live together.
This is a typhoon prone area, and when a typhoon comes there are no mussels to be found. So a typhoon means no earnings, besides other problems that come in the wake - like flooding of the house. During heavy rains the ground floor of Salve's house gets flooded and they have to move to the 2nd floor. This year the flooding was so great that she needed pumps to drain out the water from inside her house.
Reality check on education and health