Tacloban fishers urged to fight for their rights, defy no-build zone policy

“Ordinary people are being banned but big business groups are being welcomed. See. That is the real score in this off-limits zone policy of the Aquino administration.” – Pamalakaya


MANILA — Defiance is the tall order of the day.

With this rallying call in mind, the national fisherfolk federation Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged its members in Eastern Visayas to lead the fisherfolk survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte and Eastern Samar in returning to their respective communities and defy the no-build zone policy currently being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France also urged the fisherfolk families who are being prevented from returning to their fishing villages to tear down the DPWH signboard Tacloban City an off-limits zone. France said the big sign in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City, which says ” Warning No Build Zone Area,” should be removed immediately and that fishing families be allowed to return to their villages.

“Defiance is the tall order of the day. We have no choice but to defy that incorrigible no-build zone policy and assert our rights to fish and live in fishing communities. The no-build zone policy in Tacloban City and other Yolanda stricken areas is an open declaration of war,” he said.

Photo courtesy of CDRC / Bulatlat.com
Photo courtesy of CDRC / Bulatlat.com

Leo Jasareno, director of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said the no build zone policy will be implemented in Tacloban City and will cover 284.5 hectares of land affected by storm surges, as well as the 70.6 hectares prone to landslides and 64.8 hectares prone to flooding.

But Pamalakaya said 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 in Eastern Visayas.

“Ordinary people are being banned but big business groups are being welcomed. See. That is the real score in this off-limits zone policy of the Aquino administration,” said Pamalakaya.

The group learned that the national government had already identified a 10-ha property that would be a possible site for the light industry, low-technology econozone. In addition, PEZA bigwigs 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 stressed that the demolition of fishing communities is further bolstered by a bill that 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 is 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 claimed that the establishment of the zone would spur investments in Tacloban.

The ecozone bill read: “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 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 being upgraded 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.

Pamalakaya warned that the no-build zone policy will also be imposed in other areas of Eastern Visayas, Panay Island, Northern Cebu, Manila Bay and Laguna Lake areas.

“The no-build zone came in like a wrecking ball that will hit every fishing village. The fisherfolk are being told not to return for their safety but the government is planning to build infrastructures for big business. This is highly objectionable and totally outrageous,” said Pamalakaya.

The progressive group maintained that the no-build zone policy that is being implemented in the coastal areas of Tacloban City and other Yolanda devastated fishing communities in Eastern Visayas will soon be applied to other fishing municipalities affected by Habagat last year and typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

“Malacañang 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 Malacañang 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,” said Pamalakaya.

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 the way for large-scale reclamation and all-out privatization. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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