Scrapping of no-build zone policy in Yolanda-affected areas pushed

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Friday, February 21, 2014


A FISHERFOLK alliance on Friday asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to come up with a legal opinion against the continued enforcement of no-build zone policy in coastal communities ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) late last year.

In a four-page letter, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also urged de Lima to pursue charges against her boss, President Benigno Aquino III, and fellow Cabinet officials who are on top of the rehabilitation efforts such as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

A sitting president, however, is immune from suit.

Still, Pamalakaya said Aquino and some of his alter-egos must be held liable for implementing a policy that is not supported by any legal instrument or written memorandum like an Executive Order (EO) or Administrative Order (AO).

The no-build zone policy was announced by Aquino a week after the deadly storm flattened communities in Eastern Visayas and other provinces last November 8.

It bars small fishermen and other residents from returning to their fishing villages.

Construction of houses and settlements near the coastlines and 40 meters away from the shoreline is also prohibited.

Last week, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno told leaders of Pamalakaya in a dialogue that the 40-meter no-build zone would be extended up to 200 meters from the shoreline to give way to eco-tourism projects of the national government under the Public –Private Partnership (PPP) and other business ventures.

The policy will also cover the areas of Manila Bay from Cavite to Bataan in Central Luzon and all towns surrounding Laguna Lake since these were the areas affected by Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009 and heavy monsoon rains last year.

Pamalakaya feared this will only result in a complete wipe out of all fishing activities and displacement of nearly 10 million people living along the Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay alone.

"Madam Secretary, we believe the DOJ is legally and constitutionally bound to perform an investigation on the legal infirmities of the no build zone policy, including its grave injustice and catastrophic implications to subsistence fishermen and other survivors of Typhoon Yolanda," said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France Gonzales.

The group said the DOJ should issue a directive to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the local government units to dismantle the eight no-build zone markers from the coastline of San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte up to San Juanico Bridge in worst-hit Tacloban City.

Yolanda, the world’s strongest storm to hit land in years, left 8,000 people dead or missing and billions of pesos in damage to property.

Aquino is set to check rehabilitation efforts in typhoon-hit areas such as Bantayan Island in Cebu, Palo in Leyte and Guiuan in Eastern Samar on February 25 as part of the 28th anniversary celebration of the Edsa People Power Revolution. (Sunnex)

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