By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
MANILA- Local chapters of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Eastern Samar and Leyte are set to stage a big protest next week against the policy of the national government imposing an off limits zone policy in coastal areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda last year.
According to Salvador France, vice chair of Pamalakaya, their regional chapter Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas will spearhead the mass action on January 16 against the no build zone policy in Yolanda stricken areas, and they will be supported by rural based groups affiliated with Sagupa-Sinirangang Bisayas, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis partylist-Eastern Visayas.
“The no-build zone policy covering 40 meters from the shoreline is a death warrant to tens of thousands of subsistence fishermen, small coconut farmers and other rural poor situated along the coastal areas of Leyte and Samar provinces.”
Praeteritum et futurum (The past and the future). A survivor has his back on the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda, as he looks to be pondering his future–whatever that may hold for him. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Bulatlat.com)
“They want our people out of the coastal zones because they prefer big business groups who want to invest in Public-Private Partnership projects that would virtually transform Leyte and Samar coastal areas into export-bane processing zones in Region 8,” the Pamalakaya official noted.
France said Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Sagupa-SB and Anakpawis partylist would try to mobilize more than 10,000 Yolanda survivors, mostly small fishermen, coconut farmers and rural poor who would be displaced from their livelihood and communities courtesy of the no-build zone policy.
Outrage spread to other areas Pamalakaya said next month, their chapters in Northern Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz in Panay and in Northern Cebu would also stage protests actions against the still unsigned Executive Order declaring Yolanda affected coastal areas as off limits to fishing and other human activities.
In a statement, regional formations led by Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Pamalakaya-Negros, Pamalakaya-Central Visayas and Pamalakaya-Panay vowed to oppose what they called as the grand massacre of their livelihood and collective rights. The groups lamented that the Aquino administration will soon promulgate an executive order that would prevent, regulate or contain small-scale fishermen from pursuing their fishing activities and from enjoying settlement and housing rights along coastal communities.
“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 businesses in accordance with the national land and water use policy of the state under the umbrella and direction of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreements,” the regional fisherfolk groups said in their joint statement.
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 in Eastern Visyas.
The PEZA has already identified a 10-hectare property that would be a possible site for the light industry, low-technology econozone. In addition, the 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 at 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 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 that the port is easily accessible to large commercial ships plying the seas of the Asia-Pacific Region and is just a few kilometers away from the Tacloban City airport, which has plenty of room for upgrading to transform it into 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 said the draft Palace EO currently being worked out is billed as “Adopting fisherfolk shelter for stewards as a national strategy to ensure safe and decent settlement in coastal communities and establishing support mechanisms for its implementation.”
The group said the EO would remove over nine million fishermen and people living in coastal areas or about 10 percent of the country’s population. “Once signed by the President, it will legalize the removal and demolition of fishing villages. “The EO on fish settlement is an open declaration of war against the Filipino fishing community,”
In justifying the EO, President Aquino said Filipinos should learn from the painful lessons of Yolanda, as well as tropical storms “Sendong” and typhoon “Pablo”. President Aquino said the DENR had marked as “danger zones” many coastal areas based on the geo-hazard mapping of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Pamalakaya, and its chapters— Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Pamalakaya-Negros, Pamalakaya- Panay and Guimaras, Pamalakaya-Cebu and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog will lead the filing of a petition questioning the EO’s constitutionality before the SC.
The group said it will also tap the support of non-government organizations like the Visayas based Fisheries and Marine Environmental Research Institute (FMERI) and the Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC) in questioning the EO before the high tribunal.
Pamalakaya said that while President Aquino is bent on removing more than nine million people along coastal areas in the country, it is also aggressive in selling coastal areas to private corporations and foreign companies engaged in large-scale reclamation, black sand mining, ecozone projects and tourism development programs.
Pamalakaya said President Aquino should be held responsible for the loss of 6,000 lives, the injury of 18,557 individuals, for the missing 1,602 people and for more than 2. 145 million families or more than nine million individuals displaced during Typhoon Yolanda.
Prior to typhoon Yolanda, the situation of the people in Eastern Visayas, the most devastated region, was already deplorable. Region VIII, which comprises the provinces of Samar and Leyte, ranks as the 3rd region hit, Western Visayas, which includes Negros, Panay and Guimaras islands, has a poverty incidence of 24.7 percent and unemployment rate of 27.8 percent.