Global Network

Manila, Philippines


The Mega-Cities Coordinator in Manila is the national coordinator of the Host Institution, which she represents in its interactions with other NGOs and sectors. She handles program development as well as training and consultancy work on organizational development for member NGOs.

A graduate of the Business Management Honors Program of Ateneo de Manila University (Class 1981) and an MA candidate (on Community Psychology), she has played a key role in setting-up or sustaining several NGOs, such as the Center for Community Services (CCS), Foundation for Development Alternatives (FDA), and Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs (CSP/PA). She is also known in the development circle as an expert on facilitation and group processes.



The Mega-Cities Host Institution is a network of 45 non-governmental organizations across the Philippines. It has been engaged since 1987 in various efforts to promote the welfare of the urban poor. It prides itself as a coalition builder focused on addressing urban poverty issues. It played a key role as initiator and convenor for two major alliances, the Urban Poor Colloquium and the District II Consortium, both organized in 1994. As Secretariat for both groups, the network is a major player in setting their program directions.

The District II Consortium (D2C), comprised of NGOs whose program areas fall within the second District of Quezon City, recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Quezon City Government. This agreement formed a council to serve as a forum for consultation and dialogue between the two parties concerning urban poverty issues.

The Urban Poor Colloquium (UPC) is a formation of four national networks or non-governmental organizations involved in the urban poor sector. These organizations include members focused on providing housing to low income communities, private business groups whose clientele are low income communities, and academics and NGO leaders organized to address the research needs of the urban poor sector.

The Host Institution also served as Secretariat to the People's Forum for Habitat II and supervised the preparation of participants to the 1996 United Nations Summit on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements held in Istanbul. Of the 34 delegates who attended the summit, 17 were comprised of grassroots leaders.

A few months after the summit, various urban poor organizations and federations formed the Anti-Demolition Working Group (ADWG) in protest against massive demolition plans of the government before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting. Once again, the Host Institution took up the role as Secretariat and pursued dialogues with the national and local government to seek solutions to the issue of demolition. More recently, the Host Institution became an active partner in the launching of the Campaign for a Just and Humane City, which sought to respond to the unabated, illegal, and often violent demolitions all over the country.

Since joining the Mega-Cities Project began in 1993, the Host Institution has been involved in such projects as the 1994 innovation transfer, undertaken by the Mega-Cities and the United Nations, between the Zabbaleen community in Cairo, Egypt and an urban poor community in Payatas, Quezon City.

At present, the Host Institution promotes the transfer of innovations among its network members through its Innovation Transfer Program. The cases of the Katotohanan, Pagkakaisa, Serbisyo, Inc. (KPS) and the Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors, Inc. (FORGE) described below are examples of the initial outcomes of the program. The cases of the Vincentian Missionaries Social Development Foundation, Inc. (VMSDFI) and the Hamessing Self-Reliant Initiatives and Knowledge (HASIK), both network members, constitute part of the Host Institution's advocacy efforts to promote the replication of successful innovation between its members and other organizations.




  • Fernando T. Aldaba, Executive Director, Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs (CSP/PA)
  • Atty. Roberto Gana, Executive Director, Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal (SALIGAN)


  • Denis Murphy, Executive Director, Community Organizing of the Philippines Enterprise Foundation (COPE)

Other NGOs

  • Lita Asis, Executive Director, Foundation for Development Alternatives (FDA)
  • Jocelyn E. Cabo, Executive Director, Institute for Small Farms and Industries (ISFI)
  • Lope B. Gasapo, Executive Director, Cebu Labor Education, Advocacy Research Center (CLEAR)
  • Rev. Erna Refugio, Program Director, Center for Children's Welfare and Community Development (CCWCD)
  • Ana Ma. Rellin-Ngoloban, Executive Director, Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors (FORGE)
  • Carlito Sarayno, Project Coordinator, Katotohanan,Pagkakaisa, Serbisyo, Inc. (KPS)
  • Fr. Emmanuel Sarez, Executive Director, Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP)
  • Isabelita B. Solamo-Antonio, Associate Director, Pilipina Legal Resource Center (PLRC)
  • Maritona Victa-Labajo, Executive Director, Social Development Index (INDEX)
  • Cesar Villanueva, Executive Director, BALAYAN Community Extension and Volunteer Formation Office (BALAYAN)



Manila traces its origins to a small seaport established in the twelfth century at the mouth of the Pasig River. Following independence in 1947, Philippine economic policy shifted from export promotion to import substitution. The main beneficiary of this new focus was the capital, Manila. Internal migration seems to have been the most significant contributor to urban growth and has accounted for about half the population gain in recent years.

The 1995 estimates for the city are 9.8 million inhabitants, or 35% of the country's total urban population. The annual growth rate is 3.6%, and the population density is 14,864.8 people per square kilometer. The population is young, with the age group of 0-19 comprising 54.5% of the population. Approximately 47% of the city live in informal settlements.

The industrial base of Metro Manila has broadened in recent decades to include textile production, publishing and printing, food processing, and manufactured goods. The city is also a major international port and is the main center for air traffic and the international tourist trade.

Per capita income is $830.00 and average annual family income is $6429.59. The employment rate is 81%.

Health and Environment
In Manila, mortality rates for infants are three times higher in the slums than in the rest of the city. Rates of tuberculosis are nine times higher, and three times as many children suffer from malnutrition. As of 1993, the crude death rate was 6.1 per 1000 as compared to the national level of 4.8 per 1000.

Air pollution is a major environmental problem. Emissions from the city's approximately 800,000 motor vehicles account for 60% of total air pollution, oil-fired power plants for 30%, and industrial plants for 10%.

Health Services
Health service is currently provided by a pluralistic system composed of newly devolved public hospitals and health centers under the municipal and city governments, retained tertiary public hospitals remaining under the DOH, a large independent private health sector, and a rapidly growing segment of private, voluntary, charitable, and community-based non-government service organizations. While devolution of the health sector is a recent development, there are many recognized deficiencies in the health sector. Only 40% of deaths nationwide are medically attended, indicating that as much as 60% of the population do not have reliable access to medical care even for life-threatening conditions.

The life expectancy is 68.83 years for females and 63.58 for males.

Infrastructure and Social Services
—A large proportion of the population uses public transport and paratransit, mainly buses and jeeps. Land use in Manila has been largely shaped by the activities of the private sector. Land prices have risen in recent years by about 100- 300 per cent, particularly in prime district areas.

Land—About 2 million squatters inhabit 415 sites throughout the Manila urban region.

Water—Water supply in the city has worsened in recent years, with only about 50% of the metropolitan area being directly served by piped surface water from bulk supply sources. The 35% of the population living outside the water distribution area must rely on ground water or vendors. Ground water levels are now at least 200 meters below sea level, resulting in growing contamination of the water supply from saline intrusion. Water shortage reached a critical phase during the latter months of 1997 due to the 40% reduction in rainfall induced by the global El Niño. Equally alarming is the problem of quality; most areas around the city, even if they have water, lack access to safe water.

Waste Disposal—Approximately 6,000 tons of waste are generated daily. Only about 85% is collected and properly disposed of at either of the two sanitary landfills or at open dumpsites; the rest is dumped illegally.

Sewerage—11% of the total population is served by piped sewerage. The rest is conveyed via road gutters, open ditches or canals into the Manila Bay.

Electricity—Electric power is generated by the state-owned National Power Corporation and distributed by private electric utilities. Most of the power is generated by plants that use imported oil products.

Education—The functional literacy rate for members of the population between 10 and 64 years of age is 92.4%. The participation rates (enrollment ratios) in Metro Manila during the 1995-1996 school year were 97.27% for public elementary schools, 96.08% for public secondary schools, 24.47% for private elementary schools, and 37.88% for private secondary schools.



Savings and Credit Program for the Urban Poor in Payatas
At the heart of Barangay Payatas in the northeastern district of Quezon City lies the city's main garbage disposal ground, a 15-hectare open pit. Huddled within and outside this dumpsite are about 4,000 households of scavengers whose source of livelihood is dependent on the tons of waste dumped on the site everyday. Scavenging-related accidents and ailments abound but the workforce of waste-pickers, without an alternative source of income, continue to engage in the recovery and recycling of waste. Security of land tenure is a highly pressing issue the communities face, making urgent the city government's spending plan to close the dumpsite and relocate the urban poor families.

Beginning in 1991, it took two years for the Vincentians Missionaries Social Development Foundation, Inc. (VMSDFI) to accomplish a thorough social investigation and community integration with the poor urban community in Payatas. Since then, the Foundation, in partnership with the people, has initiated several programs to address the complex problems besetting the residents. Among these programs is an integrated savings and credit program begun in June 1995 to support the providential and welfare needs of the families. At this time, a Grameen Bank-patterned micro-credit and savings mobilization scheme for women was already in progress, supporting the business and productive needs of the community.

The savings and credit program is organized around self-help groups (SHGs) and is based on the members' capacity to save. Each SHG is composed of 7 to 10 members who live near one another, facilitating the collection of savings and loan repayments. Equal share of savings is encouraged and each member must be able to save a minimum of 25 pesos per week. When group savings reach the amount of P 1,000, individual passbooks are issued by the group-elected leader/collector. An SHG can then start lending to its members once group savings reach the amount of P 5,000.

The program quickly drew interest across all sectors in the community —scavenger families, female-headed families, elderly persons, children and youth, and others—such that within two years, an Urban Poor Savings Association (UPSA) was created that reached a membership of approximately 5,500, ninety-eight per cent (98%) of whom were women. Since June 1995, the association has disbursed 7,534 loans for a total of P 21,310,216 (US $810,274). About 400 female clients have also received training to manage a small enterprise or business.

The success of the Payatas savings and credit program has earned interest from various urban poor communities within and outside Metro Manila for technology transfer. The Foundation and UPSA are eager to share their success and hold community exposures and exchanges as well as hands-on-training for running a savings and credit program. To date, similar programs have been replicated in other parts of northern Quezon City and other key cities in the country including Mandaue (Cebu), Naga (Bicol), and General Santos (Mindanao). At present, a credit line of P 10 million is being worked out with the Foundation for Sustainable Societies, Inc. (FSSI) and other corporate foundations to further expand its reach.

The increasing number of savings group formations and demand for technology transfer has pointed to the need for training and technical assistance among the different savings groups leaders. The Foundation plans to strengthen its institutional capacity, particularly in the areas of organizational structure, management, planning, loan collections, and cost control. Resources for revolving funds must also be met to reach the credit demand of savings group members. To this end, a projected seven-year program of financial self-help groups has been drawn up and plans are already in place to link the project with other agencies and financial institutions.

COMBAT-VAW: A Community-Based Approach to Violence Against Women
Statistics worldwide show that violence against women occurs in all societies and across all races and classes, and Tawid Sapa Dos, a poor urban community of about 550 families in Novaliches, Quezon City, was no exception. In 1992, an NGO called Harnessing Self-Reliant Initiatives and Knowledge (HASIK) introduced the Community-based Approach to Violence Against Women (COMBAT-VAW) among the residents. Today, the women acknowledge that beatings are not as frequent as they used to be and that husbands are now more aware that it is a crime to hurt their wives.

The main thrust of COMBAT-VAW is to reduce the incidence of violence against women in poor urban settlements through its four-pronged strategy. First, it creates the conditions in the community that will facilitate attitudinal changes toward violence against women. Second, it empowers women by providing them with the basic skills and knowledge that will enable them to fight for their rights and actively respond to situations of violence. Third, it develops a support group of community trainers, educators, and advocates for the victims and their families. Finally, it conceives of and tests strategies and approaches that will make replication of the innovation in other communities possible.

COMBAT-VAW is unlike other anti-violence initiatives, whose common response in addressing violence against women is to build crisis centers, because of its emphasis on community organizing. Pain, fear, and apathy experienced by those directly or indirectly affected by violence against women are transformed into effective long-term local intervention for empowering the women in particular and the community in general. Crisis centers often fail because crisis intervention is not ingrained in the consciousness of the urban poor, and because they are frequently inaccessible, often located outside the communities with only enough resources to handle grave cases of abuse.

After close to five years of pilot-testing COMBAT-VAW in collaboration with different urban poor communities and NGOs, the innovation has had several significant outcomes. Battered women were provided with the much-needed refuge and support service mechanisms through community-initiated "crisis centers." COMBAT-VAW's skills and knowledge seminars has ingrained an increased level of self-confidence among the women legal advocates, enabling them to effectively pursue their role as community advocates and gradually earning the respect and recognition of the community. Finally, the communities have learned to accept violence against women as a real issue needing community action.

At this stage, the need remains to reach out to more urban poor organizations to take on gender issues, especially violence against women, as an integral part of community organizing. Aside from HASIK, only two other organizations presently implement similar efforts. Consequently, this limits the number of communities and therefore the number of men and women who are willing to take part in the replication of COMBAT-VAW. To address this concern, COMBAT-VAW is focusing its energy training leaders of the urban poor in handling community education, developing simplified modules for training the urban poor, and mainstreaming the innovation among NGOs working with the urban poor.



FORGE: A Drop-In Center for Prostituted Women and Children
Unofficial data reveals that within the city, at least 40,000 women are into the trade with the majority falling between 16 and 31 years old. A significant percentage are also within the age bracket of 13 to 15 years. Metro Cebu, a booming city next to Metro Manila located in the country's Visayas region, is fast becoming a popular den for the country's sex industry. The Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors, Inc. (FORGE), in line with its women empowerment agenda, has worked with prostituted women in Metro Cebu under the conviction that while women are generally oppressed and exploited, prostituted women are even more so. It started a Drop-In Center in June 1997 with the aim of providing varied services such as temporary shelter, counseling, medical assistance, and training for alternative livelihood skills for women and minors engaged in prostitution.

In July 1997 FORGE decided to link up with Kabalikat ng Pamilyang Pilipino (KABALIKAT) or Partner of the Filipino Family, also a network member of the Mega-Cities Host Institution, for an exposure trip and possible exchange of technology. KABALIKAT has been working with sex workers since 1988 and runs a Drop-In Center in the middle of the tourist area. The exposure program provided an opportunity for core staff members from FORGE to listen and compare notes with KABALIKAT staff engaged in fieldwork among sex workers and the management of a drop-in center. A nocturnal exposure allowed the team to interact with prostituted girls below seventeen years of age who, without hesitation, flocked to the "mobile center" based in Cubao, Quezon City, one of the popular places where the sex trade is alive. The girls had gathered together for one of the nightly sessions with an invited educator who at that time was a doctor. This revealed the successful integration KABALIKAT and SINAG Kababaihan, (who mainly operated the mobile center) attained with the group of sex workers. Further, FORGE realized the importance of complementing their Drop-In Center in Cebu with a mobile center to maximize the venues for conducting street education among sex workers even during working hours. Also pivotal was the maintenance of effective and good networking relations with other institutions who worked in the same communities, resulting in gains for the collaborating organizations in terms of resource and skills exchange and complementation.

To date, FORGE's Drop-In Center has admitted a total of 23 girls whose ages range from nine to eighteen years of age. About sixty women have also availed themselves of the Center's medical services which specializes on reproductive health. The center presently houses eight live-in women and cares for five of their infants. It has began holding a daily "temperature check" among the girls, a technique learned from the exposure that provides a framework to release pent-up emotions or discuss their feelings. While there is no clear cut formula or approach to better reach these women and ensure a completely changed lifestyle, FORGE is hopeful that all of the Center's residents will be transferred to the HOPE rehabilitation center (run by another organization) where they will have the opportunity to attend school, complete vocational training, and gain employment later on. Already, three women have been admitted to HOPE early this year.

Significantly, the exposure has helped the FORGE staff in learning to unconditionally accept the sex workers as they are, keeping themselves from adopting a moralistic attitude towards the women. As it continues to consolidate and expand its program to pull more women into the center, FORGE is aware that it will have to evolve its own mix of approaches and methodologies to appropriately respond to the different situations affecting the lives of sex workers in Metro Cebu.

KPS Life Savings Credit and Loan Program
In April 1997, a six-member team from the Katotohanan, Pagkakaisa, Serbisyo, Inc. (Truth, Unity, Service) or KPS traveled to Manila to learn the ropes of a successful loan and savings mobilization innovation being implemented in the urban poor community of Payatas. KPS, organized in 1986, is a federation of urban poor community associations (CA) based in General Santos, a port City located in the southern-most part of the Philippine archipelago. Thru its self-help land acquisition scheme developed and implemented over the years, KPS has reaped gains in assisting its member CA affiliates, now numbering more than one hundred thirty (130), secure lands for their homes.

In November of 1996, when PHILSSA first floated the idea of replicating the Payatas loans and savings mobilization in General Santos, KPS quickly realized the potential of the innovation in addressing the socioeconomic and welfare needs of the community. This prompted a series of discussions with the Payatas-based Vincentians Missionaries Social Development Foundation, Inc., the institution responsible for initiating the innovation. In the meantime, KPS identified a core group of leaders in the organization, who were quite eager to begin work when PHILSSA visited General Santos in February the following year for initial planning and preparations.

By early April, the core group of six leaders found themselves in Payatas, taking part in a field exposure that allowed practical hands-on experience in processing and transacting loans inside the Urban Poor Savings Association headquarters. The team witnessed the important role of Payatas savings group leaders tasked to do rounds of house-to-house visits which not only ensured repayment of loans but also fostered group responsibility and commitment. Tagging along with these leaders gave an opportunity for the team to randomly interview several Payatas residents who as members of UPSA, described the benefits of the savings and loan program. Late afternoon sessions held after the day's activity proved a good venue to compare and exchange notes between the Payatas leaders and the KPS team.

Armed with the knowledge and experience from the Payatas exposure, KPS leaders returned to their community to start their own savings and loan program. KPS decided to first concentrate their efforts within one impoverished urban village—KPS Village—that had an estimated 516 families, to better monitor and supervise the pilot groups formed. Other communities would be tapped once KPS had systematized the operations of the loan and savings program within the pilot village.

Two months after the Payatas exposure, the few savings groups formed began their weekly share of savings. Information on the program rapidly spread through orientation seminars held every weekend.

Within six months of organizing activities, KPS Life Savings Credit and Loan Program has formed 10 savings groups, a testament of the organization's initial success to replicate the innovation in General Santos city. It is in many ways similar to the Payatas case especially in the area of prerequisites for a loan, the designation of a leader (collector), and the interest rates for different types of loans. However, instead of limiting the number of members within a group to 10 individuals, KPS has imposed a limit of fifteen for each group. Upon meeting the requirements, a member is allowed to apply for a maximum loan of four thousand pesos ( P 4000.00). Repayment schedules provide the member with a choice between one to six months.

To date, the revolving fund has reached an estimated P 53,000.00 (US$ 1514). While most of the loans applied for have been used for personal needs, a few have been invested in small businesses as well. KPS recognizes that commitment and larger community involvement in the savings and loan program is crucial in order to reach the needs of a larger number of urban poor communities. It is optimistic that within the next year, community associations outside KPS village will be able to benefit from the program.



As the City of Metropolitan Manila approaches the turn of the century, its fate is undeniably linked with trends in the global scene. In attempts to catch up with developed nations, the government pursues economic growth above everything else, watering down the Philippine Agenda (PA21) commitment to sustainable development launched in 1996. Against this backdrop, finding solutions to the city's problems in the coming years even becomes more difficult. The metropolis is afflicted with a host of problems, only some of which are mentioned below.

Rapid Urbanization - The lure of industrialization will assure the continued rural-urban exodus, particularly in Metro Manila, for families wanting to improve their standard of living. The current rate of urban growth in the city is an estimated 5.4%. Much of this, however, is directly related to the government's rural neglect and low priority given the agricultural sector. Given such conditions, rural folk will gravitate towards cities where they perceive economic opportunities are better.

Massive evictions without resettlement plans - An estimated half a million people from urban poor communities is expected to be evicted by next year in connection with eight major infrastructure projects of the government in Metro Manila. The failure of the government's resettlement program and continued neglect of housing as a basic right has particularly alarmed NGOs concerned about the plight of these communities and other urban poor settlements in the future.

Inefficient solid waste management -With the mushrooming of industries and factories combined with an increasing population, the lack of an efficient solid waste management will make garbage collection and disposal a continuing problem for the metropolis to resolve. Statistics show that Metro Manila generates approximately 5,000 tons of waste daily. Of the entire waste generated, only 85% is effectively collected. Disposal is also a problem. Open pit dumpsites have been the preferred method of disposal though eight out of the fourteen existing dumpsites have already been shut down with another one soon to be closed.

Increased violence and crime rate - When cities are hit by global recessions or disasters, the poor are the most vulnerable in the face of inflation or health epidemics. Furthermore, the growing size of urban poor communities in Metro Manila worsens the competition for already limited employment. It is therefore not surprising that the government has had extreme difficulty in curbing the rise of criminality and improving the peace and order situation in the metropolis over the years. The recent surge in kidnapping cases in particular has instigated public outcry and mass actions demanding that the government take effective measures to address the problem.

Water crisis - Swelling migration to the city has further heightened competition for already limited basic services such as clean and potable water. The current water shortage in the metropolis due to the El Nino phenomenon in the country has already led the government to declare the city a calamity area and instigate measures to conserve water.

In the face of all these problems and other related issues, one can only expect worsening conditions brought about by the current financial crisis hitting the Asian region. In the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum held in Singapore, the leaders are convinced that the crisis is global and not isolated in the region. Economists predict that finding solutions to this crisis will be difficult. While the Philippines seems to have weathered the crisis far better than its Asian neighbors, inflation is rising and the poor bear the brunt of its consequences.

For as long as government compromises its commitment to sustainable development in exchange for economic growth, unabated urbanization, swelling mounds of dumped waste, rising crime rates, and breakdown of water supply will inevitably result in the deterioration of the metropolis. Even today, Filipinos are looking into other cities in the region that would provide a healthier and less stressful environment for their families to live in.

Yet on the brighter side, there are attempts from the different sectors—government, private, business, NGOs alike—to make Metro Manila a more sustainable place to live in. Whether these attempts are sincere and workable will largely depend on the openness, particularly of the government, in tracking down alternative routes to development and collaborating with other sectors to find the best answers to the city's problems. This will mean balancing the pursuit of economic growth with consideration of its consequences on the welfare of the people and the environment.

In the coming years, the NGO community will continue to expand efforts to demand government action and present alternative venues to address the many issues plaguing the city. This is in line with the conviction that only when the participation of all stakeholders is ensured will more workable solutions be forged to make Metro Manila a sustainable city in the future.


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