Wednesday, October 22, 2014


by Antonio C. Antonio
October 10, 2014

What is squatting?  Is it a social problem?  Is it an economic problem?  Is it a business?  Is it an Opportunity?  Is it a political expediency tool?  Is it a form of land grab?  Is it an environmental concern?

By definition, “Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land and/or a building usually residential that the ‘squatter’ does not own, rent or otherwise have no lawful permission to use.”  The term “squatters” have been tweaked to the more politically correct, appropriate and accepted term “informal settlers”.  However, these labels (squatters or informal settlers) seem to be insignificant to the social-political and environmental issues and problems that are the result of squatting.  In their preference to the term “informal settlers”, squatters are just trying to find some sort of relief, acceptance and emotional support, social acceptance and political negotiating power to the bad connotation of the word “squatting”.

Squatting exists not only on public but private properties as well… not only on land but waterways and coastal areas too.  From the environmental viewpoint, squatting is:

  1. The cause of pollution in esteros, streams, rivers and other waterways.  Most informal settlers do not have sanitary and waste-disposal facilities.  Quite normal is their use of the waterways as their means for these purposes (sanitary and waste-disposal).  This, however, exacerbates (meaning: to make a problem, bad situation or negative feeling worse) the initial act of illegally occupying public property.  The structures they build impede the natural flow of water in these waterways and is the primary cause of flooding in urban areas.  Most informal settlers along waterways also have acute health problems making squatting also a health and wellness concern.
  2. The cause of unsightly landscapes which runs contrary to the aims and purposes of landscape ecology.  Landscape ecology is the science of studying and improving relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems.  This is done within a variety of landscape scales, development of spatial patterns, and organizational levels of research and policy.  Landscape ecology consists of four main principles: (1) The development and dynamics of spatial heterogeneity; (2) Interactions and exchanges across heterogeneous landscapes; (3) Influences of spatial heterogeneity on biotic and abiotic processes; and (4) The management of spatial heterogeneity.  
Some people consider squatting is an extreme problem that needs extreme solutions.  There are more than a dozen prescriptions to the squatting problem.  Here are some notable commentaries I’ve already heard more than once from other people:

  • Squatting is a crime (period).  It should not be interpreted in any other way to soften or sanitize its effects and make it acceptable.
  • Local government officials (barangay up to city or municipal) should be charged as conspirators to the squatting crime for failure to enforce the law.  It is a common belief and perception that informal settlers are used by politicians for electoral purposes in barangay and local elections.
  • Utilities providers (particularly water and electricity) should be charged as conspirators for installing electric and water lines to informal settlers.  Substantial proof of real property ownership should be a major requirement in approving utilities applications. This will be on top of barangay and municipal/city permits.
  • Law enforcement personnel and landowners should be allowed to demolish structures built on their properties and shoot informal settlers inside their properties.
I felt cold chills running down my spine after listening to the last commentary.  It made me wonder why people can even think of legalizing murder just to address the problem of squatting.

Just my little thoughts…

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