HomeManilavol. 8 no. 1 (2012)

The Vitas Tenement Housing Project from the Diosdado Macapagal Administration to the Present: A Case Study on the Urban Poor’s Protracted Struggle for Decent Housing in the City of Manila

Marco Stefan B. Lagman

Discipline: Philippine History



Tondo, Manila, has long been a poster child of the Philippine government’s social amelioration programs, particularly with respect to urban poor housing. While such may be the case, it can also be argued that certain housing projects, for different reasons, are reflections of the state’s failure to provide decent shelter to the underprivileged. This case study on the Vitas Tenement Housing Project (VTH) in Tondo seeks to illustrate an example of the long drawn out and potentially failed struggle of some urban poor groups that seek to claim for themselves what has become an increasingly scarce, contentious and elusive resource – urban residential land. Using documentary sources, key informant interviews, field visits to the site as well as theories in the fields of land use and disaster research, this study intends to show the evolution of the VTH and the situation of its residents from its early beginnings during the Diosdado Macapagal administration in the early 1960s to the present.

A careful study of the area’s history would demonstrate that the ownership and tenure that was promised to the VTH residents through Presidential Proclamation No. 654 in 1970 was never implemented. This, combined with factors both natural and human, such as the 1990 Luzon earthquake that reduced the said facility into a “condemned area,” the perceived unwillingness of housing agencies to immediately address the appeals of the VTH occupants, the changing land uses of the parcels that surround the tenement (i.e., commercial land use is inherently more profitable than socialized housing), and the reaction of the government and general public to the recent March 2011 Japan earthquake may all have contributed to the impending relocation of the residents in the study area.