Rely on people power, not on capitalists to rehab Yolanda hit areas

Rely on people power, not on capitalists to rehab Yolanda hit areas 

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Keluar Ramayana Bintang 

MANILA, Philippines- A fisherfolk alliance representing survivors of super typhoon Yolanda decried the decision of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to bankroll on powerful conglomerates to fast track the rehabilitation of coastal areas affected by the deadly storm last year. In a press statement, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) dismissed the enlistment of top Philippine corporations and business tycoons in the rehabilitation campaign as the “great robbery of the millennium” 

“Why not rely on the power of the people to rebuild Eastern Visayas and other provinces stricken by Yolanda last year? Why rely on greedy corporations? These monopolies and business tycoons don’t exist for public service and people’s welfare. They all exist to corner juicy contracts and super profits and they are all training their guns on the P 360 billion rehabilitation fund, which will be charged chiefly from the 97 million taxpaying public,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France. 

 The Aquino administration had imposed a a 20,000-hour deadline to expedite the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoon ‘Yolanda. Among those corporations that accepted the offer of the national government to undertake the rehabilitation of Yolanda stricken areas are members of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) — a non-government organization created by the corporate sector to respond to poverty during the Marcos administration – and of the Philippine Disaster Response Foundation (PDRF), which pretty much the same companies organized last year at the height of calamities that struck the country.

Danilo Antonio, undersecretary of the rehabilitation campaign said the big corporations are called development sponsors tapped to identify and carry out priority projects in Yolanda devastated areas such as housing, education, health and livelihood. He said the rehabilitation of Tacloban City will be undertaken by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and the International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI). In Cebu, the government will tap the services of Aboitiz and Metro Gaisano groups, while in Negros Occidental, the rehabilitation projects will be funded by the Ayala group of companies. 

The national government also earmarked the 2nd district of Leyte for the Lopez group, while the Metrobank group will take the town of Palo also in Leyte. Meanwhile, Aklan, will be handled again by the Ayala group and Globe Telecom, while the 5th district of Iloilo will be handled by Ayala Land.  The rehabilitation contracts for the 4th district of Iloilo will be cornered by JG Summit Holdings, the 1st district of Iloilo will go to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. while Guian in Samar province will be given to Nickel Asia and other rehabilitation projects in the rest of the Samar will be given to ABS-CBN Corporation. 

“What is happening in Eastern Visayas and the rest of areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda is grand sell out of national patrimony and wholesale desecration of people’s rights and welfare in the name of corporate interests and bureaucrat capitalism. The government will displace tens of thousands of small fishermen, poor farmers, rural and urban poor to accommodate the corporate agenda of big business. Land and coastal grabbing and ultimate privatization of people resources is the main banner of the government rehabilitation program,” the Pamalakaya official said. 

France said it is also revolting that the national government through the Land Bank Cares Program has allotted P 30 billion for private companies to support their rehabilitation projects in Eastern Visayas, while almost 9 million people displaced by Yolanda last year are still languishing in extreme poverty and lack of opportunities and social services from the national and local government units. 
“The national government has earmarked P 360 billion fund for big business while the people are still suffering from poverty, sickness and loss of opportunities. The rehabilitation program is for business opportunities and not for people’s rehabilitation at all,” the Pamalakaya leader lamented. 

The group maintained that the  no-build zone, no-dwelling zone policy which rehabilitation secretary Panfilo Lacson wants to carry out in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas and other provinces will cover 171 cities and municipalities.  Pamalakaya said the national government have collapsed the 171 cities and municipalities into 24 areas of intervention that would cover Eastern Visayas and 34 more provinces affected by super typhoon Yolanda and Habagat in 2013 and Ondoy in 2009. 

Pamalakaya said a class war is highly needed to frustrate” the no-build zone, no-dwelling zone policy. It said an all-out war must be the victims collective response against what the group a grand declaration of war against the poor and an open invitation for corporate takeover in areas stricken by super typhoon last year. 

” A class war to be participated by small fisherfolk shall be the ultimate and correct response to this looming national recipe for death and destruction,” the group said. 

On February 7, subsistence fisherfolk affected by typhoon Ondoy in 2009 in Laguna Lake will kick off a fluvial protest to oppose the new measure removing fishermen in Yolanda and Ondoy stricken communities. 

On February 14, Valentines Day, the group will troop to the national office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City to submit a people’s petition compelling the DENR  to scrap the no-build zone policy and allow subsistence fishermen in Tacloban  City and other areas in Eastern Visayas to return to their fishing villages to rebuild their homes and go back to fishing. 

Pamalakaya also announced that a petition questioning the legality of the no-build zone policy will be submitted either to the Department of Justice (DoJ) or the Supreme Court on February 20. On February 26 , a nationally coordinated protest against the no-build zone policy will be led by small fisherfolk and protests will be staged in Tacloban City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Northern Iloilo and other Panay provinces, La Union and other areas in Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions. 

On February 26, small fisherfolk affected by the no-build zone policy in Luzon will also stage a protest caravan from the Department of Agriculture to Mendiola. 

Last week, an 12,000 survivors of super typhoon Yolanda from three provinces in Eastern Visayas staged their protest to air discontent over government’s response to the disaster and to the no-build zone policy. Storm survivors from this city, Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Mayorga, jaro, Alang-alang, Carigara, San Isidro, baybay, Ormoc at Albuera in Leyte; Giporlos, Quinapondan, Mac Arthur, Hernani in Eastern Samar; and Basey, Sta. Rita, Calbiga, Pinabacdao, Hinabangan, Catbalogan, Jiabong, Matuguinao,Motiong at San Sebastian in Western Samar.

“The EO declaring coastal communities as off limit zones is meant to displace us and deny our rights to livelihood and social justice. On the other hand, the absolute bias of the EO is clear– that the areas recently damaged by super typhoon Yolanda will be converted into economic zones to accommodate big business in accordance to the national land and water use policy of the state under the umbrella and direction of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement,” said Pamalakaya. 

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 Pamalakaya official noted 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 econozone. 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 argued 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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