A militant fisherfolk group yesterday expressed the fear that thousands of coastal settlers all over Region VIII will be wire out if the “no-build policy zone” will not be reconsidered.
This was the apprehension of the members of Pamalakaya as they urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to keep her promise that she will look into the concerns of the fisherfolks which was stated in their letter dated Feb. 21, 2014.
The group said the no-build policy in areas ravaged by supertyphoon “Yolanda,” particularly Tacloban City and other areas in Region VIII, is being adopted not only by the national government but the local government as well.
Pamalakaya’s fear of the effect of the policy to the lowly fishermen was further bolstered because of the plan to extend the policy to 200 meters from the shoreline.
If that will be the case, thousands of families of fishermen living in the shoreline would definitely be displaced and no place to go to.
The group is banking on the assurance of De Lima that she will conduct a legal study on the said controversial policy being carried out in typhoon-stricken areas in Eastern Visayan Region.
The assurance of an action was contained 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).
In that letter, De Lima stated they are taking note of the observations and request sent by the militant group to her office last Feb. 21, 2014 urging her 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.
The no-build zone policy was announced by no less than by President Aquino 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.
The President 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.
But Pamalakaya said the policy is not 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 group noted that because of the policy other local officials affected by the typhoon followed suit and even Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who previously expressed apprehension against the no-build zone policy, implemented the policy in Capiz and stopped small fishing activities of coastal people and barred the same from returning to their villages.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has assured the groups that her office will study 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 said her office has duly taken note of the observations and request sent by the group to Office of the Justice Secretary filed on February 21.
The request urged 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.
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.
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.
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.