Fishers group fears P 1-B DENR budget for mangrove rehab will be use for No-Build Zone campaign
Manila, Philippines— The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) might spend the P 1 billion allocation for the repair of mangrove areas hit by Super typhoon Yolanda to other purposes leading to the demolition of fishing and farming communities under the No-Build Zone, No-Dwell Zone policy.
“That is the sum of all our fears. The DENR under secretary Ramon Paje is pushing the limit to effect the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy at the expense of people’s livelihood and community rights. We have this strong gut feel that the P 1 billion fund for mangrove rehabilitation will be used to displace people in Yolanda stricken areas and not to restore and cure typhoon wrecked mangroves,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said in a press statement.
The DENR is set to embark on mangrove rehabilitation in areas affected by typhoon Yolanda last year. It said the mangrove rehabilitation program that would enroll local residents for cash-for-work scheme will be implemented in 11 towns and cities in areas devastated by Yolanda mainly in Leyte and Samar provinces.
“The principal job of the DENR according to the marching order of Malacanang is to make sure that people in coastal areas are wiped out to pave way for Public-Private Partnership ventures. The mangrove rehabilitation project to be funded by P 1 billion in public funds is just sugar-coated approach to red carpet devastation of livelihood and communities,” the Pamalakaya official said.
France said it is not the intention of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to rehabilitate some 28,000 hectares of mangroves in Samar, Leyte, Negros, Panay, northern Cebu and Palawan, which were believed to have suffered varying degrees of damage as a result of super storm Yolanda last year.
Pamalakaya recalled that during their dialogue in late February with DENR on no-build zone policy, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno admitted to them that the no-build zone policy will cover 40 meters to 200 meters away from the shoreline and that the government will pursue eco-tourism to replace demolished communities.
“The P 1 billion budget for so-called mangrove rehabilitation is a big misnomer. It is a budget for something else and not intended to save livelihood and the environment,” the group asserted.
Pamalakaya said one of the victims of the no-build zone, no-dwell zone rampage is the island of Panay, which the group alleged would forcibly displocate not less than 70,000 families or 350,000 people in the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo. The displacement of people mainly farmers and small fishermen include 36,300 families in Iloilo, 16,000 families in Aklan, 12,000 families in Capiz and 5,000 families in Antique according to government estimates.
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya chairperson and Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, before Congress took a break, filed a resolution directing the House Committees on Aquaculture and Fisheries and Public Works and Highways to conduct a joint inquiry to investigate the impact of No Build Zone, No Dwell Zone policy on coastal areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda last year.
House Resolution No. 947 filed on March 11, 2014 cited a report compiled by the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya and its chapters in Panay and Guimaras, Eastern Visayas, Laguna Lake and Manila Bay areas questioning the policy that would restrict over 100,00 small fishermen in Yolanda affected areas and might affect the economic activities of not less than 800,000 people who are largely dependent on fishing for day-to-day livelihood.
“The policy prohibits small fishermen and other residents from returning to their fishing villages and that construction of houses and settlements near the coastlines and 40 meters away from the shoreline are also prohibited,” the resolution said. The Anakpawis congressman also learned that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) would expand the coverage of no-build zone policy from 40 meters away to 200 meters away to pave way for eco-tourism projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
Rep. Hicap maintained that the no-build zone policy will be effectively carried out to give way to corporate takeover of local and foreign private enterprises and businesses involved in rehabilitation programs and such policy will cause severe damage to livelihood and environment.
Pamalakaya had also asked lawmakers from Eastern Visayas and other areas affected by the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy in Northern Negros, Northern Cebu, Panay Island and Guimaras and Palawan to support HR No. 947, saying their support to Hicap’s resolution is necessary to proceed with the congressional inquiry on the impact of no-build zone policy to small fishermen and other residents of affected fishing villages.
“We appeal to district congressmen of Yolanda stricken areas to support HR No, 947 authored by the Anakpawis partylist representative. It would be better if they co-author the resolution with the strong backing of other progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc composed of Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan and Alliance of Concerned Teachers”, the group said.
Pamalakaya asserted that the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy will also be carried out in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay to justify the construction of new international airport and big time PPP projects in the 90,000 hectare lake and provide premium to large-scale and widespread reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
In Laguna Lake, the fisherfolk group said, the no-build zone policy will be used as instrument to dislocate around 3.9 million people, while in Manila Bay, Pamalakaya feared that some 6 million people will be evicted to pave way for big land reclamation projects of the Public Reclamation Authority (PRA).
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