Laguna Lake folks fear no-build zone policy will soon be applied on them

Laguna Lake folks fear no-build zone policy will soon be applied on them 
By Tanya Fantasia Mendoza and Billy Javier Reyes 
Manila, Philippines– Small fisherfolk and residents along the shorelines of Laguna Lake are convinced that the no-build zone policy currently implemented in Tacloban City, Leyte will soon be applied in the 90,000 hectare Laguna de Bay and the policy, they argued, will cause massive displacement of some 3.9 million fishermen and other poor residents around the lake.
In a forum billed “Usapang Isda: Isang Talakayan Hinggil sa National Fisherfolk Settlement Program at No Build Zone Policy”, Gerry Albert Corpuz, deputy secretary general of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said a pending Executive Order, which President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will soon sign, indicates Laguna Lake and Manila Bay as areas of concern where the no-build zone policy will be carried out.
The Pamalakaya officer said the no-build zone policy will cover areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and other areas affected by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009. “It is crystal clear, the national government will implement the no-build zone policy in Laguna Lake to the detriment of subsistence fishermen and urban poo villagers around Laguna Lake. It is public knowledge that national government has been aggressively promoting the privatization and conversion of Laguna Lake under the Laguna Lake Master Development Plan and the government has until 2025 to complete the demolition of fishing villages and pursue the grand plan to turn Laguna de Bay into a major business hub,” he said.
The forum attended by more than 200 fisherfolk and urban residents was held in Barangay Libis Covered Court in Binangonan, Rizal. The participants came from different lakeshore barangays in Binangonan, Cardona and Angono.
“Malacanang will apply the same policy to these areas to effectively wipe out small fishermen from their main source of livelihood and communities and have them replaced by big ticket projects to be funded by big business groups and foreign monopolies. It is public knowledge that Malacanang is pursuing the Laguna Lake Master Development Plan and the Manila Bay Master Development Plan that would entail large-scale reclamation and all-out privatization and conversion of these areas and the requisite is to remove small fishermen and urban poor communities from these areas,” the group noted.
Pamalakaya said the national fisherfolk settlement plan of the government is to contain fishing and reduce the number of fishermen and fishing activities in Yolanda, Habagat and Ondoy stricken areas. The group said the government will only allocate a specified area for fishing villages. ” For instance, a fishing village before hosts 1,000 small fishermen and their families, under the new executive order, the national and local government units will regulate fishing and reduce fishermen population to 200 so they could be accommodated by fishing communities which the government would set up,” explained Pamalakaya.
“In addition to that, the national government and local government units will compel fishing families to register under the national fisherfolk registration program, and they would also register their boats and types of fishing gears for further regulation of the state,” Pamalakaya added.
According to Pamalakaya the Laguna Lake plan will entail the displacement of 3.9 million small fisherfolk and urban poor while the Manila Bay plan will approximately evict not less than 5 million fisherfolk and urban poor along Manila Bay to pave way for large-scale reclamation and all-out privatization.
Pamalakaya noted that the cruel intention of the Aquino government is to remove fishing communities and contain fishing activities to give way to construction of economic zones in Yolanda stricken communities.  The group argued   that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is planning to build a new special manufacturing area in typhoon-ravaged Leyte under the pretext of rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Eastern Visayas.The group learned that PEZA have already identified a 10-ha property that would be a possible site for the light industry, low-technology econzone. In addition, PEZA will also look into applications for special economic zones in the area so that the reconstruction and provision of jobs would be fast-tracked.Pamalakaya stessed that massive demolition of fishing communities is further bolstered by a bill  which has been filed in the House of Representatives seeking to create a special economic zone in the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, Leyte.

The group was referring to House Bill 3640, or the Tacloban City Special Economic Zone Act of 2013, filed by 10 lawmakers from the independent bloc led by Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez, which stressed that establishment of the zone would spur investments in Tacloban.

The ecozone bill asserts that “there are physical, geographic and natural attributes of the Tacloban City coastline area that can make the creation of a freeport ideal. Tacloban port was a haven for international ships and even carriers as evident during the relief operations of some foreign countries in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013.”

The bill likewise said that the port is easily accessible to large commercial ships plying the seas of the Asia-Pacific Region and is just a few kilometers from the Tacloban City airport, which has plenty of room for upgrading to an international airport. Under the bill, the proposed Tacloban City Ecozone will operate as a decentralized, self-reliant and self-sustaining, industrial, commercial/trading, agro-industrial, tourist, banking, financial and investment center with suitable residential areas. ###

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