Do you know what a squatter is? Some of you might not, although it is likely that most of you do know. The reason why some may not know what a squatter is is because there really are not any (or at least many) squatters in the USA or other more developed countries.
For those who are unsure, a squatter is somebody who takes up residence on land that he does not own. So, for example, say you own a piece of land, and one day you go to check out your land and somebody has built a house on it and is living there. Believe it or not, it is very common in the Philippines.
Recently, I saw a college debate here in the Philippines, and the question that was being debated by the two teams was this:
Should the Philippine Government continue to pay public funds to squatters?
Yes, you read that right, and yes, it is happening. Squatters, who are basically stealing land from others who own it, are being paid by the Philippine Government. The way I look at it, these people are criminals who are being paid for committing their crimes. Sounds kind of crazy, but it’s really true.
Although this is happening all over the country, there is one case that has been in the news recently. An area in Quezon City, part of Metro Manila, has an area where hundreds, perhaps thousands of squatters have taken up residence over the years. These squatters build houses – some of them fairly nice houses made from hollow blocks, other houses are really shanties made out of whatever materials can be scrounged up. Some of these squatters have been living on this land for a number of years. The land is right n the midst of a big city.
Recently, some investors have put forward plans to build commercial buildings – offices, retail space and such – on that piece of land. It’s a desirable location, one that will probably do quite well with such commercial spaces. All of the permits have been gotten, the construction is ready to go. Only problem is that the area is full of squatters who are living on the land, and thus, construction cannot proceed.
The City issued an order to the people to leave the area. The government even found a new place where the squatters could relocate. In fact, the squatters would be given the land in the new area for free. They would have the title to the land, and thus become land owners. In addition, the squatters would be moved at government expense. Each squatter would also be given P10,000 to cover any hardship or other costs involved. Since the government was paying all costs, the P10,000 was really just extra money that the squatters could save, spend on whatever they want, or maybe start getting an education for their kids.
Let me reiterate, this is a real situation that is ongoing.
Guess what. While some of the squatters left and went to the new area, availing of the government benefits offered, a large number of them refused to leave! They wanted more. Many demanded government jobs in addition to the other benefits. So, basically, it comes down to a group of people who are breaking the law by living on land that somebody else owns. They are offered money, land of their own and other benefits if they will just stop breaking the law. Many have refused, though. To me, I feel like it is a very generous offer that has been given to the squatters, and I can’t imagine why they would not accept it.
But, this kind of situation is common in the Philippines. I understand that these are poor people, but the person who owns the land has a right to do what he wants with his property. The squatters, in my opinion, should be thankful for the years of free living they got to do on the land.
The debate was interesting to watch, and it brought issues to my mind that I had not thought about before. I must say, though, it did not change my mind a bit. I was on the side of the land owners, and I still am. I also don’t think that the government should offer too much to people who are basically law-breakers.
Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.