The Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization, popularly known as ZOTO, was formed during the Martial Law years in the Philippines in 1970. It was the time when the urban poor residents at the Tondo Foreshore Land faced demolished in favour of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank funded project. Affected residents bonded together to oppose the government’s plan to convert the area into an international port which would have displaced about 30,000 families.
Warding off eviction after eviction and rebuilding lives and homes in the relocation sites, the members of ZOTO continue to struggle for a community of economically and politically empowered citizens who are accorded their due dignity, who foster gender equality and democracy, and live in a healthy and bountiful environment.
For more than 42 years, ZOTO has continued to grow as it continues to implement integrated community development programs such as community organizing, training, and education, computer literacy program, children and young people’s rights, gender equality and women empowerment, primary health care and reproductive health, livelihood and microfinance and early childhood education. To date, ZOTO is a people’s organization composed of 646 local urban poor organizations with 32,777 members in 28 relocation sites and areas for demolition in Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal and Laguna.
Its trust of building and rebuilding lives and turning shanties into empowered communities has rallied its leaders and members into landmark accomplishments for the Filipino urban poor. ZOTO has maintained and nurtured four generations of urban mass base for pro-poor struggle. ZOTO also has negotiated land rights and use in 28 relocation areas.