Activists, survivors of typhoon Yolanda dumped water lilies to protest no-build zone
By Franklin Roosevelt Dimaguiba and Gerry Albert Corpuz
Manila, Philippines- Survivors of last year’s super typhoon Yolanda and their supporters from Palawan, Manila Bay and Laguna Lake dumped sacks of water lilies and few pieces of knife fish at the gate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City to protest the no-build zone policy currently imposed by the environmental agency in Tacloban City and across Eastern Visayas.
Some 80 protesters affiliated with the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis partylist and the Tacloban City-based People Surge took turns in assailing President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje for carrying out the no-build zone policy, which they dismissed as a recipe for social injustice and a menu for wholesale displacement of people.
The rally against the no-build zone policy was led by Pamalakaya leaders Salvador France and Peter Gonzales, Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, Alyansa ng Magdaragat sa Bacoor, Cavite coordinator Myrna Candinato, Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog secretary general Isabelo Alicaya and local leaders of People Surge alliance of survivors of typhoon Yolanda presented a demand letter to Secretary Paje, asking the agency to cease and desist from implementing the controversial no-build zone policy.
In their three-page demand letter to Secretary Paje, the organizers of the protest argued that the office of DENR is legally bound and morally obliged to obey the people’s appeal for the environment office to refrain from carrying out the no-build, no-dwell zone policy.
Pamalakaya and the rest of the groups insisted that DENR should dismantle all no-build zone markers it had installed since last year and allow fishermen and other coastal villagers to return to their fishing areas and communities.
“Secretary Paje, we put to task your agency to remove all temporary markers your office had constructed indicating the 40 meters no build zone policy from the coastline of San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte up to San Juanico Bridge in Tacloban City.
Mr. Secretary, we hope to see these markers of no-build zone, no-dwell zone removed within a week upon the receipt of this demand letter, or else, more and more protests will greet Malacanang and the office of DENR in case they failed to do so,” the groups said in their petition to Paje.
Pamalakaya, Anakpawis partylist and the multisectoral group People Surge said the no-build zone policy currently imposed by DENR covers some 35.88 kilometers from Palo to Tacloban City.
“The markers were installed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) upon the request of environment agency. While, this policy is religiously imposed to the detriment of small fishermen and other affected sectors, big business groups are coming in as if the issues and concerns arising from the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas are all about business and profits,” they said.
Meanwhile, the same no-build, no-dwell zone policy will soon be applied in other areas affected by typhoon Ondoy in 2009 and Habagat in 2013, thus, will also cover the areas of Manila Bay from Cavite to Bataan in Central Luzon and all towns surrounding Laguna Lake.
This will entail the possible displacement of 3.9 million people around the 90,000 hectare Laguna de Bay and not less than 5 million people along the entire coastal stretch of Manila Bay from South to North.
“Mr. Secretary, the DENR has no option but to come to its senses and scrap the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy in the name of people’s rights and welfare, and for the protection of national environment and patrimony from interlocking greed of transnational and domestic profiteers,” the groups said. ###