Palace urged to drop no build zone policy in Yolanda stricken areas
Manila, Philippines- Fisherfolk groups from Eastern Visayas, Panay Island, Northern Cebu, Manila Bay and Laguna Lake areas today urged Malacanang to drop like a hot potato the no build zone policy, which the Aquino administration will soon impose in areas stricken by super typhoon Yolanda last year and other areas affected by typhoon Ondoy in 2009.
In a press statement, groups led by the militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and its regional chapters in Eastern Visayas, Panay and Northern Cebu, Pamalakaya-Laguna Lake, Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), Alyansa ng Magdaragat sa Bacoor, Cavite and Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) said the no-build zone policy is now being used to prevent fisherfolk survivors currently housed in tent cities and bunkhouses from going back to their villages and resume fishing.
“The no-build zone came in like a wrecking ball and hit every fishing village. The fisherfolk are being told not to return for their safety but the government is planning to construct infrastructures for big business. This is highly objectionable and totally outrageous,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France.
The Pamalakaya official said they received reports from their chapters in Tacloban City and different fishing communities in Leyte and Eastern Samar that fisherfolk were warned not to return to their fishing villages and that the government will find some settlement areas for them.
“Malacanang and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are driving the small fishermen away from their main source of livelihood and communities. It is using super typhoon Yolanda to put premium to their cruel intentions and sinister agenda,” added France.
The militant 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.
“Malacanang 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 Malacanang 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 urba poor while the Manila Bay plan will approximately evict not less than 5 million fisherfolk and urban poor along Manila Bay to pave way for large-scale reclamation and all-out privatization.
Pamalakaya noted that 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 process in Eastern Visayas.The group learned that PEZA have already identified a 10-ha property that would be a possible site for the light industry, low-technology econozone. In addition, 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 stessed that massive demolition of fishing communities is further bolstered by a bill which 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 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 asserts that “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 from the Tacloban City airport, which has plenty of room for upgrading 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. ###