Housing the Landless in Davao City: A Land Conflict Resolution Issue

The growing urbanization in Davao City is both an opportunity and a threat to its sustainable development. A growing urban population is a potential source of human productivity in industrial and commercial sectors due to the rural – urban migration of people. However, on the other side of the economic gains of urban growth; is the challenge of providing affordable housing for these migrants. Without proper planning for human settlements, people decide for themselves outside of any government regulator or authority in building their own homes; anywhere-anyhow. These makeshift communities often politically correct termed as informal settlements are located in danger zones and in violation of the 3m buffer zone along urban river systems as legal easements.   In an article by Roger Balanza of balita.ph, “In highly urbanized LGUs like Davao City, the number of informal settlers grows annually due to migration by people seeking better opportunities…while anti-squatting laws are in place to prevent illegal occupation of private and government lands by informal settlers, the spirit of humanity, sometimes, bind LGU hands from enforcing an iron-fisted policy.”

The role of conflict resolution for new housing settlements is essential in the sustainable development planning of highly urbanized cities. But before we dwell on this issue, it is paramount we are grounded on the proper framework of where informal settlement fits in the land conflict cycle paradigm (UN-HABITAT). Essentially, conflict is “a dispute or incompatibility caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests”. Looking through the problem of informal settlements we find that the Davao City LGU has waded through the different stages of conflict.  First the Local Government Unit of Davao City affirmed the grievances of many residents that don’t own permanent residential houses and lots. And this, according to the existing conflict between the public, private and civil society sectors revolve around one of these social development issues. Providing decent housing opportunities for the thousands of rural migrant households is at the core of the dialogue between these sectors involved in this conflict since according to the article written by Arianne Casas of Sun Star “4.1 percent (13,715) occupy lots which are rent-free, but without consent of the owner.” Second, when these informal settlements organize into housing associations, the households of these communities already had formalized their Insecurities regarding the need for proper housing opportunities. Third, conflict happens when forced evictions of these people in private and public lands as documented during the previous Mayor Sara Duterte’s involvement in assaulting a Court Sheriff implementing the scheduled demolition of a shanty town in the Poblacion (Down Town) area of the city. Fortunately, the next part of the cycle is negotiation and peace-making which is part of the institutional mechanism that resolves the conflict trough the planning process. “There are several dozens more homeowners association existing as informal settlers as negotiations are underway for the city government to provide funding for land purchases.” Jody Quiros reported in an article in 2012. Lastly, post-conflict in this regard is the final resettlement or redevelopment of informal settlements.

Creating the institutional solution to the problem of informal settlements is found in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of Davao City. The planning process that formulated the policy framework in addressing the issue of land conflict is reflected in the planning documents approved by the people’s elected representatives in the Sanggunian. “Davao City’s response to this is the Urban Land Reform Program (ULRP) which has been purposely implemented to undertake a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program in order to make available at an affordable cost, decent housing and basic services to the underprivileged and homeless citizens of the City. It has adopted socialized housing as a continuing program since 1986.” The 3 schemes incorporated in the CDP would address these issues namely, Land Acquisition for relocation sites of informal settlers, Loan grants to qualified Community Associations, and Community Mortgage Programs.

Scheme 1 refers to the purchase or parcels of land intended for the socialized housing and lot allocation for the informal settlers and/or underprivileged and homeless persons in the city. To date, the city government has acquired a total of nine (9) relocation sites covering seven hundred twelve thousand nine hundred eighty-one (712,981) square meters. These are located in Davao City’s three political districts, generating a total of five thousand two hundred fifty six (5,256) residential lots of which four thousand eight hundred ninety six (4,896) lots were already awarded and occupied by qualified beneficiaries. (p. 143, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 2 refers to the granting of financial assistance in terms of loan to qualified Community Associations for the purpose of acquiring relocation sites for its members. It has been implemented since 1994. Recently, from 2001 to 2010, the program had assisted eighteen (18) community associations from Districts 1, 2 and 3. District 1 with only one community association had acquired a 10,000 square meters site amounting to Php 1,350,000 and 95 residential lots were generated. District 2 got a loan amount of Php 49,854,727 for the 222,758 total square meters of relocation sites availed by 14 community associations with 2002 residential lots generated. The third district was able to acquire a total land area of 72,426 square meters for the Php 12,213,540 loan amount. It generated a total of 445 residential lots availed by three community associations. (p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Scheme 3 also known as the Community Mortgage Program refers to a mortgage financing program which assists legally organized associations of underprivileged and homeless citizens to purchase and develop a tract of land under the concept of community ownership. (p. 144, Chap. 3.2 CLUDP 2012-2021)

Despite the 3 schemes of the local government of Davao City in addressing the needs of the homeless and underprivileged there remains a housing backlog due to the annual growth of the urban population. 8 challenges were identified by the city regarding human settlements which are the following: acute housing shortage, inadequate housing program to address the poorest of the poor, affordability of the underprivileged homeless population of the City, spiraling cost of raw land and construction materials, unoccupied lots at ULRP sites and relocation sites, low efficiency collection of loans granted, rampant squatting, and lack of proper data banking, multiple registration of beneficiaries of housing program.

In conclusion, looking at the updated zoning ordinance of Davao City 2012-2021 in this review highlights a notable improvement of identified Socialized Housing sites throughout the city. It is in this regard that the planning process following a framework of conflict resolution has allowed the homeless and underprivileged a spatial future for their permanent resettlement.


Balanza, Roger M. 2010. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://balita.ph/2010/03/08/all-lgus-have-one-common-problem-informal-settlers-features/

BLGD-DILG. 2008. Rationalizing the Local Planning System. A Source book.

City of Davao, Republic of the Philippines. 2012. Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan.

Casas, Arianne Caryl N. 2013. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2013/11/14/13000-informal-settlers-not-alarming-313822

Quiros, Judy. 2012. Date Retrieved 23 February 2015. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/148997/davao-city-to-develop-20-hectares-as-relocation-site-for-urban-poor

Republic Act no. 7160. Local Government Code of 1991.

UN HABITAT. 2012. Land and Conflict: Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict. Date Retrieved 13 February 2015. http://www.un.org/en/events/environmentconflicttoday/pdf/GN_Land_Consultation.pdf

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