DoJ conducting a legal study on No-Build Zone policy

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DoJ conducting a legal study on No-Build Zone policy
Manila, Philippines- Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima assured groups opposed to the controversial No-Build Zone policy currently carried out in Eastern Visayas and other areas stricken by super typhoon Yolanda last year that her office will conduct a legal study on the matter.
In her letter dated March 5 and addressed to Salvador France and Peter Gonzales, vice chairpersons of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Secretary de Lima said the DoJ duly take notes of the observations and request sent by the group to Office of the Justice Secretary filed on February 21, urging Secretary de Lima to undertake a comprehensive legal assessment of No-Build Zone policy and eventually scrap the measure to avoid massive displacement of fishing and farming communities in Yolanda ravaged areas.

Secretary de Lima said her office acknowledged the request of Pamalakaya to investigate the possible criminal and civil accountabilities of government agencies and officials who blatantly and bizarrely carried out the No Build Zone policy despite strong opposition coming from concerned sectors and survivors of typhoon Yolanda.
Secretary de Lima also took note of the arguments of Pamalakaya that the no-build zone policy bans small fishermen and coastal people from returning to fishing villages and building settlements near coastlines and forty meters away from the shoreline.
In their February 21 petition to DoJ 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 the deadly storm placed Tacloban City and the rest of Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Panay and Negros Islands and Palawan province in shambles to keep the coastal villages away from harm’s way and avoid another repetition of the Great Deluge in Region VIII. 

 They said the Chief Executive then 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 forty meters (40 meters) away from the shoreline.

 According to Pamalakaya officialss, 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 entail the complete wipe out  of all fishing activities and grand displacement of coastal settlers all over Region VIII and other Yolanda stricken areas in the Visayas.

 In their dialogue 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 on 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 the same policy 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 and it will entail the possible displacement of more than 6 million people in Manila Bay and 3.9 million around the 90,000 hectare Laguna de Bay. 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.

Likewise in their letter to Secretary de Lima, Pamalakaya recommended the filing of appropriate charges  against President Benigno Simeon Aquino III,          Rehabilitation Chief Panfilo Lacson, DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas,  DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, DND Secretary and NDRRMC chief Voltaire Gazmin, DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, DOE Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and local government officials of Tacloban City for sheer incompetence and neglect.  ###

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