Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Land Disputes Disrupt Typhoon Recovery in Philippines

The New York Times has a sad story about the importance of property law.  By way of background, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in November of 2013, destroying the homes of nearly 4 million people.  Recovery efforts have been slow.  Part of the problem is that much of the affected land was inhabited by squatters.  Now, the formal title owners want to re-purpose the former shanty towns for their own profit. From the Times:

Land disputes at this settlement and similar shantytowns up and down the coast are among the many reasons the recovery effort here is faltering. [...] Virtually no new permanent houses are being built yet, as the local and national government wrangle about which areas are too vulnerable to storm surges to be rebuilt.

But the standoff over the roughly six-acre strip of land owned by the Romualdez family is particularly fraught, emblematic of troubles that have plagued the Philippines for decades: an unequal distribution of property that keeps many mired in poverty, together with a degree of lawlessness and political expediency that allows the poor to settle on land that is not legally theirs. An estimated one-third of Tacloban’s residents are squatting on other people’s land.


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