Puerto Princesa’s vast land area and its rich terrestrial and marine resources have become like magnets that attracted a lot of in-migration from all over the country. They came in droves and squatted in public and private lands whose owners either did not care or know. Majority of them, being fishermen, chose the coastal areas for being closest to their source of income. This went on unabated for many years.
Locate. Identify. Register. This is what the City Government under Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn did to understand the magnitude of the problem of homelessness in the city. After having instituted measures to arrest further squattering, the next necessary step was to find suitable relocation sites, source funding for land acquisition, site development, and housing construction.
Of the 9,500 squatter families so far surveyed in the city, 7,980 or 84% live along the coastal areas of Puerto Princesa Bay, Honda Bay, and Ulugan Bay. And collectively, they have become the greatest polluters of the city’s three most important bays.
That is why when Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn first assumed the mayoralty post in July 1992, the problem of homelessness is one major concern. He pursued a comprehensive approach. Through the City Housing Office that the Mayor Hagedorn formally created on 23 October 1992, a thorough census was conducted to locate, identify and register all squatters, especially those living along the coastlines. As a result of the census listing, the City Government was able to determine who, where, and how many are the city squatters.
Having mapped-out all the squatters in the city, strict measures were immediately adopted and implemented to arrest further squattering. This was primarily done through a simple yet highly effective approach: faithful implementation of the “no building permit – no construction” law. The Council Against Squatting Syndicates and Professional Squatters (CASSAPS) and its implementing arm, the Anti-Squatting Task Force, were established for this purpose. Any and all construction, including those of stilt and “temporary” houses, that had no construction permit from City Hall were stopped and/or demolished.
Then the next necessary step was to fund and construct low-cost but decent housing for relocation. The Sicsican Housing Project at Brgy. Sicsican that is totally funded by the City Government is the beginning of the process. Tired of waiting for the promised housing assistance by the National Housing Authority, the City Government took it upon itself to purchase a 5.4-hectare land in Brgy. Sicsican and single-handedly develop it into a low-cost subdivision. There, 150 single-detached houses were constructed, 170 developed home lots were awarded, and the construction of 110 row houses has just been completed. The project has since become home to 430 families, relocating an equivalent number of erstwhile coastal squatter families.
The project was initiated by Mayor Hagedorn in line with his promise to make Puerto Princesa the country’s model city in kalinisan (cleanliness), katahimikan (peace and order), and kaunlaran (sustainable development). It is also part of the Mayor’s pledge to make no Puerto Princesan homeless or squatter in their own country.