What we do?

UPA educates poor people about their housing rights.

It organizes people being evicted forcibly and illegally to resist in non-violent ways, for example, by going to court, seeking the help of prominent people, including church leaders, going in delegations to the mayor, using the media, or getting help in other ways.

UPA operates throughout the Philippines. It has established a Quick Reaction Team to educate the poor about housing rights and evictinos and to help them cope with eviction problems.

UPA engages in research and advocacy work. It monitors evictions and violations of the housing laws and produces annual reports. It researches such matters as the effects of evictions on women and children and on the economic life of the evicted families, and on matters of food and hunger.

It has a full-time media person to make sure poor people’s matter are covered in the papers and on radio and TV.

UPA has initiated the St. Thomas More Law Center which provides legal service to the poor.

UPA works with His Eminence Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and all priests who help the poor and with all groups who seek to help the poor. UPA works closely with religious leaders, especially those of the Catholic Church, since 90% of urban poor are Catholic.

UPA heads a poor people’s water campaign that helps very poor communities get inexpensive piped water, this saves families P100-200 a month since without piped water they pay two to three times the legal rate to itinerant water vendors or better-off neighbhors.

UPA works very closely with LOCOA and Asian Community Organization network.


UPA began work on the North and SouthRail, along the railroad tracks between Angeles City in the North and Legaspi City in the South. Some 100,000 poor families were
living there. Since then about 20,000 have been evicted, most going to relocation areas. UPA worked with the Malolos Diocese in the North. It is concentrated
now on the SouthRail. It has helped thousands of families work for more acceptable relocation than was originally planned for them.

A people’s organization, UPSAI helped by UPA was able to close a huge garbage dump next to the Cabuyao relocation center that was held responsible in an outbreak
of dengue fever.

UPA began work with families to be evicted by the C-5 Road in Quezon City.

In Isla Puting Bato 3,000 families now have legal water. Some save well over P1,000 a month. Along the R-10 road fronting the interisland piers two more water groups
were started. Each one covers about 1,000 families. We have started water operations in four other areas. The work required endless meetings, negotations, sit-ins,
other peoples’ actions and some clever strategy by the are organizations.

UPA began work on the Pasig River in collaboration with the government and Asian Development Bank(ADB). UPA works in several river communities including Parola,
Baseco and Pineda.

UPA’s radio program “Buhay Maralita” had the greatest number of listeners in its Saturday timeslot.  It was nominated for a Catholic Mass Media Award, the most prestigious award in the field.

UPA took a leading role in advocating for the government land proclamation program.  It has also done research on the proclamations.

UPA works to bring land tenure security to 25,000 urban poor families in the University of the Philippines.

UPA along with Community Organizers of the Philippine Enterprise and CO Multiversity helped form the April 30 Working Group, a coalition of 45 urban poor group in Metro Manila who work on land tenure security, evictions, basic services, proclamations, and other matters for the poor.  UPA with Task Force on Housing Rights along the Railways conducted surveys and took part in congressional hearing regarding North and South Rail.  The Economic and Social Rights Legal Advocacy Center, SALIGAN, St. Thomas More Law Center filed test cases in court against violators of Section 28 of UDHA.

In 1992 UPA made the first ever report on demolitions in Metro Manila. It found aboud 100,000 people were evicted every year during
the administration of President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992). This figure has remained fairly constant since. Over twenty people were killed
and hundreds injured in violent evictions during those years. As a result UPA formed its eviction crisis intervention work.

Publication of “Ano ang Gagawin Kung May Demolisyon?” Over 15,000 copies have been distributed. It is a manual helping poor people
deal with eviction.

UPA sent a team of housing experts to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva to ontest the government’s housing
report. The Committee wrote a strong letter to the Philippine government urgin it to do better in matters of eviction and relocation, and
to concentrate on slum upgrading rather than expensive housing.

UPA invited an old friend, the actor Martin Sheen, to visit Manila and head a campaign called “A More Humane City”. Sheen visited urban poor areas, appeared on the major TV talk shows, met NGOs and government officials. He urged the people to remember, “A people united can never be defeated”.



BASECO is a reclaimed area located in Port Area, Manila near the mouth of Manila Bay along Tondo shore. It has a land area of 52 hectares. It has also high population density with approximately 10,000 – 12,000 informal family settlers. This community suffered a lot from fire incidents almost yearly since 2003 to 2005 affecting many lives n BASECO. The recent one was January 2011.

The influx of population in BASECO is the major factor that contributes to the poor living condition of its residents. Most of the people here are migrants from far provinces believing that they will acquire greener pasture in Manila. Because of lack of enough education, many of these people are not qualify for employment, thus leaving themselves to stay in BASECO without any good opportunities at hands, everything unsecured. Male workforce earns income from driving jeepneys, tricycles, pedicabs, trucks, buses and taxis or serving as boat operators and security guards or hawkers in the near Divisoria market. Women usually become domestic helpers, engage in sidewalk vending or hawking or run small stores and mini- businesses.

These issues lead Urban Poor Associates (UPA) to work in this area to at least help the people to look for other alternative ways to ease their problems. UPA organized Kabalikat, a people’s organization in 2001 that fights for the security of tenure in BASECO. This organization is composed of the empowered men and women in the area who were trained to negotiate with the government and other agencies to address their problems and that eventually will put into solutions.

Kabalikat, as supported and monitored by UPA, now runs several programs that serve as the binding factors for its leaders and partner families. Among such programs are the following:


Kabalikat has livelihood program, the HABI bags. The unemployed adults are now being helped by this program, the bag and handicraft making from scrap materials and water lilies from Pasig River, to earn income that they can be used for their everyday needs. With this, environmental awareness and livelihood resiliency are also put into higher level. HABI bags are now being marketed in Kultura boutiques in some SM stores and can be found in monthly bazaars in World Trade Center in Pasay City. Community-based Livelihood Center (CBLC) built in Baseco showcases the creative hand-made products. This showroom is sponsored by Mercy Relief from Singapore.

Mothers weaving HABI bags
Drying up the newly harvested water lily stalks


The tutorial progam helps poor children who are slow learners in class to fully understand their lessons in basic subjects as Math, English and Science, leading to their grade improvements. Also, character building is emphasized in series workshops and exposure trips. Recently, the tutorial program, Edukasyong Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran (EKK) is actively involves in alliance building with the other agencies working for children in BASECO community, Baseco Inter-Agency Network (BIAN). EKK started since March 2003 tutoring selected Grades 5 and 6, the low class performers. The program expands for early graders, for basic reading and analytical skills which is now being supported by Fair Travel Korea (FTK).

Having fun while learning
Children’s Month Celebration


As part of the mitigation intervention, Kabalikat is doing a mangrove rehabilitation project along the sea shore of Gasangan in Baseco. The mangroves will protect the area from strong winds and waves coming from Manila Bay in times of typhoon. Mangroves can also serve as breeding grounds for the marine lives and for the homes for the birds. As of now, there are at least 700 mangroves planted in the site protected by sand bags and fence. Moreover, Kabalikat also promotes urban gardening using natural farming approach. They are now harvesting different vegetables like pechay, malunggay, eggplants, tomatoes, gourds, squash and among others in their garden.

Mangrove Rehabilitation Project
Mangrove Rehabilitation Project

Urban gardening in Baseco

Savings Scheme

As member of the people’s organization, everyone is required to have their savings weekly. Each member has its own passbook to monitor their savings. Savings is necessary in case of emergency and most especially for housing purposes in the future.


When actively participating in the savings scheme of the organization, a member can avail free medicines available in the small pharmacy of Kabalikat. Kabalikat also provides burial assistance fund.

Security of Tenure

Kabalikat advocates housing rights and land security. Through Kabalikat’s initiatives, 207 families availed incremental housing projects after January 2011 fire incident with the help of Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA). Together with UPA, Kabalikat is also working for the Baseco Development Plan to be materialized.

Incremental Housing Projects


Kabalikat continues on expanding its members throughout Baseco. They have now approximately 700 active member families who share the same vision for Baseco.

Community meeting and consultation

Small infrastructures

The organization also initiated the construction of small infrastructures that might be helpful for the neighborhood as canals, electrification and toilet bowl installation.

Water canals


UPA and Kabalikat as members of Baseco Inter-agency Network (BIAN) works collaboratively with other partner organizations on:

  • Bottom-up Budgeting (BuB)
  • Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM)
  • Community-based Livelihood
  • Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC)
  • Community-managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA)
Community-based Livelihood Center (CBLC)
DRRM training-workshops with BIAN

Isla Puting Bato, Tondo Manila

Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila lays along the coast of Manila Bay North Harbor also known as “Breakwater” residing more or less around 2,500 families as informal settlers. The community is covered by Barangay 20, District 1 in Tondo Manila and composed of five clusters (Puroks), Purok 1,2,3,4 and 5. Due to its geographical location, this made the said area to be high risk in natural calamities as tsunamis, earthquakes or typhoons and also very prone to man-made disaster like fire. In fact, during the last typhoons namely Typhoons Ondoy and Pedring, the area was partially damaged. Around 100 families were affected out of 2,500 families in the community. Last May 11, 2011, a fire broke out in Isla Puting Bato leaving thousands of families homeless. Fire lasted for several hours destroying many homes and public infrastructures. The 800 families residing in this community were severely affected. 600 house structures built on land were totally-burned and 100 house structures on stilts were also consumed by fire. There were also hundreds of families affected registered as renters.

Socio Economic Condition

Residents in Isla Puting Bato are dependents in their livelihood resources around and nearby vicinity since they are located near on North Harbor port areas. They are also near in Divisioria which is known as the center of markets in Manila that many come to the market because of its cheap products from food to dry products. Mostly men or the head of the family working in porter, port checker, pedicab drivers, jeepney drivers, own a small variety store (Sari-sari store), vendor both in port and Divisoria and others worked in other nearby cities.

Political Situation

Isla Puting Bato is under Barangay 20, which the barangay take a lead for an election to elect a Purok leader in each Purok. There were five clusters (Puroks) meaning they have to elect five cluster leaders (Purok leaders). Each purok leader will manage the peace and order in the community and other problems or issues in the community that is not necessary to bring into the barangay level.

Urban Poor Associates (UPA), a non-government organization, works in this community creating Samahang Maralita ng Isla Puting Bato Inc., a people’s organization (PO). Among UPA and Samahang Maralita’s community efforts were the installation of 6.9 million-worth water connection used for consumption and provided sanitation and its constant advocacy in tenural security of its residents. UPA works collaboratively with LGU and other partner agencies in the eviction and housing matters.

Sitio Damayan, Pier 18, Tondo Manila

UPA works in Sitio Damayan, Pier 18, Tondo Manila. When the government declared the closure of Smokey Mountain , a new garbage dump rises in Pier 18. A community of garbage collector also rose. In 2001, they reached up to 1000 families. They became an organizing area of UPA. These families did not have any source of water and electricity. In 2005, they formed an organization called Samahang Matiisin Incorporated to work for the issues of the community. They were able to get a legal connection of water. They were also able to access government projects like having day care center etc.

In 2008, the government begun to ask the people to leave the place since it is for port services and not for settlement. UPA, together with the people’s organization begun to negotiate for housing. The people have the right to have decent housing.

After a long period of negotiation, President Benigno Aquino declared the site as danger zone as it is always target of typhoon and flooding. The people have to be relocated. The people’s organization went around Metro Manila and nearby towns to look for the best relocation site. The government offered a relocation site in Baras, Rizal. The people were hesitant because the relocation was too far, so they begun to look for nearby sites. Finally, the people chose to relocate in Bocaue, Bulacan. Three hundred twenty (320) families have already transferred.

As of now, UPA and the people’s organization are negotiating for a site in the relocation to be used as livelihood center. People’s primary source of income is charcoal-making which is more profitable than garbage collection. For their livelihood in the new housing site, the people want to have alternative technology in making charcoals through smokeless “pugon” or so called smokeless kilns. They will use coconut shells in producing charcoals. It will be smokeless, thus healthy for the charcoal-makers and for the nearby residents. The unseen smoke will be converted into water through a process which can be used as disinfectants for piggeries and poultries.

Road 10, Tondo

Part of the organizing area of UPA is Road 10, Tondo Manila ( in front of the North Harbor). The people have been staying there since the time of former President Corazon Aquino. The parcel of land which they occupy will be used by the DPWH for road widening. UPA together with the people were able to negotiate for housing relocation at San Pedro, Laguna. 500 families opted to be relocated there and 750 in Bocaue, Bulacan.<br/><br/>
As of now, livelihood is the main concern of the people in order to survive since they were now in a new community where there is very limited source of income. People are trying to put up livelihood projects. Recently, they have started a community savings scheme so that they would have a source of capital for their “sari-sari” stores.

1K2 Southville 8C, San Jose, Montalban Profile

1K2 Southville 8C is one among the relocation sites in Montalban Rizal. The Relocation site was constructed in the year 2011 that shall covers the housing need of those families affected by the project of the government which is the clearing of waterways and riverways. The relocation site is covered by Barangay San Jose, Montalban, Rizal. It is a low lying area along Laong Laan River that connects to Montalban River also known as Marikina River which is also covered by the Marikina Watershed. 1K2 Southville 8C is composed of more than 1,500 or more families coming from different communities in Metro Manila such as Navotas, Taguig, Quezon City and Manila. They were transferred by their in the year 2011 by batch until they filled up the units composing the whole phase of 1K2 Southville 8C.

Economic Condition

Since majority of the families came from the cities of Metro Manila in which, they earned their living in the cities. Some return to the cities where they came from and rented a room or live with relatives to save money from transportation for work. Then, during weekends they go back home to their family and give it to the wife or whoever left at home who will manage the earned money throughout the week. Other family earned money by establishing small variety store, work as pedicab driver, construction worker, vendor, etc. to sustain the needs of their family.

Urban Poor Associates is working with this community in 1K2 Southville 8C Montalban. We started working with one of our partner community which used to live in Isla Puting Bato Tondo and transferred to the said relocation site on June 2012 in which they have lost their homes due to fire. The government, Philippine Ports Authority in particular did not allow the families to rebuild their house because it is fire prone and danger area that is why they were transferred to the relocation site. There were around 600 families relocated but scatter in different relocation sites such as Southville 8A, 8B in san Isidro Montalban, Souhthville 8C in San Jose and Baras Rizal. Among are 300 families in 1K2 Southville 8C which are now partnered by UPA.

In August 2012, people in this community had experienced severe flooding due to heavy downpour brought by monsoon wind. The relocation site is located nearby river that is why when the water rise in above level, it reached almost in the rooftops of their houses. Some families were trapped and rescued by the volunteers. Many of the families we have talked to, telling their traumatic experience during the flood. According to them, they were transferred from Isla Puting Bato Tondo because they were in danger area but it was more danger in the place where they were relocated that almost kills them. After the incident, they were transferred to the upper part of the relocation site which later on became permanent. However, people are not still comfortable especially during rainy season because they know that flooding might happen again in their place. Whatever happen, at least they were prepared it is because UPA had conducted an orientation about Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan. So by the time of rainy season they are prepared already.

Urban Poor Associates has programs to help the families living in 1K2 Southville 8C, among these programs are scholarship for the poorest family, Sunday Tutorial Program, series of DRRM training and orientation, Urban Gardening and the tree growing project. From these activities, we had formed the group of mothers who participated actively in the programs which we called it Nagkakaisang Kababaihan ng 1K2 Southville 8C Association (NAGKA-1SA). For now, they serve as the adhoc committee/group while we have not yet formalized their organization and engaged in different community work.

Distribution of school supplies and school uniform
Disaster Risk Reduction Orientation
A Tree Growing project
The 12 Scholars with the young Volunteer Teacher
Urban Gardening Orientation

Program Objectives

To help the poor families provided their children’s educational needs through scholarship program.
To help the children more competitive in academic class although parents are not sometimes focus their children’s education through the tutorial program.

Help and contribute to rehabilitate the environment and raise awareness in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation throughout the community by doing tree planting/growing and urban gardening

There were twelve (12 students) who are enrolled in the scholarship program. In able to maintain and help the students improve their grades and to be more competitive in academic class we conducted tutorial program. Among students are coming from different grade level (grade 3, 4, 5 and 6). The tutorial program has two (2) sessions, the first session is composed of grade 3 and 4; and the second session is grade 5 and 6)

During our DRRM orientation, as the women’s group realized and obtained knowledge about the laws on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan which later on equipped them in terms of preparedness, planning and do some activities to contribute in the mitigation and adaptation mechanisms in their community. From here, the group thinks of gardening as alternative in securing food, bamboo/tree planting to mitigate the flooding in their community as well as that later on will serve as their source of livelihood.

Another activity is the urban gardening, which would empower the community to alleviate the problem of food security especially during disasters/calamities. The target of the project will be majority of the residents will practice the household/backyard organic vegetable gardening. In doing the activity, series of urban gardening will take place in order to saturate the community and equipped them the skills in doing household organic gardening.

Feeding Program in Tacloban

Urban Poor Associates conducts feeding program in Mahusay Beach in Barangay 88, Barangays 89 and 90 is San Jose District, Tacloban City in partnership with Holy Spirit Sisters. The community organizers (COs) divided the three areas into five (5) clusters for easier project implementation and monitoring. The feeding program aims to provide healthy and nutritious meals for the children who survived Typhoon Yolanda at least once a week in each clusters. Through this initiative, mothers of the said community were organized to help prepare the food to be served for each feeding session. Storytelling, singing and kiddie art works are being done before food distribution begins. The feeding program is targeting to reach 1,000 children with ages between zero (0) to twelve (12) and to empower 300 mothers.

Kids showing-off their empty plates, excited to have their turns
Storytelling session before the feeding program

No more Sleeping

This day (March 20,2014) 121 families received plywood sheets. In the next few days, another 600 families will benefit in the same way.

Fishermen volunteers of Barangay 88, 89, 90, Tacloban City (in the yellow shirts) help families pick up plywood floorings donated by Christian Aid. The plywood allows people in tents to sleep in dry conditions. Before, they slept on wet sand near the sea where many suffered from asthma, especially the children, forms of arthritis and other ailments. Now, they can get a good night sleep.

The fishermen volunteers unload the hardware store truck that delivers the plywood.
Families line up to present their access cards and get their plywood. Barangay 89 and 90 were badly hit by Typhoon Yolanda over 400 people died. Most of the men work as fishers.
Woman presents her access card for verification.
They are the checkers and releasers of plywood.
Fishermen carry a family’s allotment of plywood to the road side where it is turned over to the family to be transferred home.
Finally, families load the plywood on pedicabs to take it to their homes.
The fishermen and UPA team celebrate the successful distribution of the plywood.
At the end of the day, there were no grievances in the grievance box, but only letter of gratitude.