THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Northern Mindanao is opposing the proposed construction of houses for 53 Badjao families at Sitio Kiraba, Bayabas village, Cagayan de Oro City.
Rex Monsanto, MGB-Northern Mindanao director, said during Wednesday's consultation on the Badjao issues, that a study on the livability of the sea in the said village was conducted, and results show that the area is a “no-build zone.”
“We of course do not want to imperil the lives of our Badjao brothers and sisters. We say no because there is danger,” Monsanto said.
“We do not want that if anything happens, we are the ones to be blamed, because this happened before, so we express as early as now what we found out in our studies that we do not recommend for people to live there,” he added.
A copy of the study says that the beach sands are unstable and could easily be reworked by waves.
Based on the geohazard map, “the area is moderately susceptible to river flooding and coastal flooding due to its proximity to several creeks”.
Article 51 of Presidential Decree 1067 otherwise known as the Water Code of the Philippines also stated that the proposed project site is located in a no-build zone.
The MGB central office upheld MGB-Northern Mindanao's recommendation that the proposed site is not suitable for permanent habitation.
“We cannot allow putting the precious lives of the Badjaos at great risk to these hydro-meterological hazards. This office recommends that the proponent of this project look for alternative sites and seek the assistance of the MGB-10 (Northern Mindanao) in the geohazard identification in the said sites,” the order said, signed by Mario Luis Jacinto, the MGC chief.
The project is initiated and requested by the City Government, through the Psychosocial Association of the Philippines-Cagayan de Oro Badjao Task Force, headed by Dr. Merle Adaza.
Adaza said the city has been trying to address the shelter problem of Badjaos but failed to look for sustainable solutions.
City Social Welfare and Development chief Teddy Sabuga-a said they tried to bring and provide a house unit in relocation sites uptown, however, the Badjaos keep coming back in the urban areas.
Sabuga-a said instead of putting a relocation site in the city, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should pinpoint areas considered livable in the seas of Misamis Oriental.
He said the DENR, or other government agencies, should consider identifying areas where even illegal settlers could live, not just for Badjaos.
“We want to create a sustainable and concrete plan for this problem. I also want to point out that I also have apprehensions in the proposed site because it is prone to disasters, and we do not want to create another problem,” he said.
“These Badjaos cannot live in mountain areas, they rely on their livelihood in the sea. This is why they are called 'men of the sea.' So we really need to place them in an area near the sea,” he said.
“Hopefully we could create an institutionalized framework that other local government units could use as basis for their own programs in addressing this problem,” he added.
DENR Undersecretary lawyer Noel Felongco vowed to try to convince his fellow officials to reconsider their decision.
“I'll take the challenge to echo what you told me here. Because the Badjaos, should be afforded with the same social justice and human rights. We are very interested to solve the problem as soon as possible,” Fernandez said.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 13, 2017.