DoJ conducting legal study on No-Build Zone policy, critics say
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has assured groups opposed to the controversial No-Build Zone policy being enforced in Eastern Visayas and other areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda that her office will conduct a legal study on the policy, which they said was illegal and displaces millions of fisher folk and their families.
De Lima said in March 5 letter to Salvador France and Peter Gonzales, vice chairpersons of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), that the DoJ notes the observations and request sent by the group to the Office of the Justice Secretary. In their February 21 letter, the groups urged de Lima to undertake a comprehensive legal assessment of No-Build Zone policy and eventually scrap it to avoid massive displacement of fishing and farming communities in Yolanda-ravaged areas.
The DOJ acknowledged the request of Pamalakaya to investigate the possible criminal and civil accountabilities of government agencies and officials carried out the No Build Zone policy despite strong opposition from concerned sectors and survivors of typhoon Yolanda.
De Lima noted Pamalakaya’s arguments that the no-build zone policy bans small fishermen and coastal people from returning to fishing villages and building settlements near coastlines and 40 meters away from the shoreline.
In their February 21 petition against the no-build zone policy, Pamalakaya leaders stressed the No-Build Zone Policy was announced by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III a week after typhoon Yolanda left Tacloban City and the rest of Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Panay and Negros Islands and Palawan province in shambles. The policy was meant to keep the coastal villages away from harm’s way and avoid another repetition of the Great Deluge in Region VIII.
They said the President instructed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to implement the no-build zone policy, effectively banning the small fishermen and other residents from returning to their fishing villages. The policy likewise bans coastal people from building houses and settlements near the coastlines and 40 meters away from the shoreline.
According to Pamalakaya officials, the national policy is not even supported by any legal instrument or written memorandum like an Executive Order (EO) or Administrative Order (AO) from the Office of the President was followed and bolstered by the passage of Tacloban City ordinance employing the same against the collective will and sentiment of affected fishermen and the rest of the survivors of storm Yolanda.
“The same policy even emboldened other local government officials to follow the path of the President and local officials of Tacloban City and Eastern Visayas. For instance, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG ) secretary Manuel Roxas II, who previously expressed apprehension against the No-Build Zone Policy, executed the policy in Capiz and effectively stopped small fishing activities of coastal people and barred the same from returning to their villages,” said Pamalakaya.
Pamalakaya told Secretary de Lima that the No-Build Zone Policy will even be extended up to 200 meters from the shoreline, and this would completely wipe out all fishing activities and displace coastal settlers all over Region VIII and other Yolanda- stricken areas in the Visayas.
In their dialogue in late February with DENR, the group found out that No-Build Zone Policy will be carried out to give way to eco-tourism projects of the national government under the Public –Private Partnership (PPP) and other big ticket undertakings to be financed by big business groups.
“Madam Secretary, to give you an idea of how this no-build zone policy would impact the economic life and community rights of the people, we cite to you the case of other areas affected by typhoon Yolanda and the Habagat in 2013 and typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which will be imposed upon communities.”
The policy will also cover the areas of Manila Bay from Cavite to Bataan in Central Luzon and all towns surrounding Laguna Lake, possibly displacing more than 6 million people in Manila Bay and 3.9 million around the 90,000 hectare Laguna de Bay, the groups said. “This catastrophic prediction will be rendered by the national policy on no-build, no-dwell zone program of the Aquino government,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy applies to all 171 cities and municipalities, which the national government and the DENR collapsed into 24 areas of intervention.