Aquino hit over no progress on no-build zones

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014


A GROUP of civil society organizations gave a failing grade to President Benigno Aquino III over the no progress on no-build zones policy.

Eight months after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged Eastern and Central Visayas, the President has yet to issue concrete guidelines to address a significant number of people who live within the 40-meter no-build zones, which are arbitrarily declared as danger areas and not fit for dwelling.

“Despite the absence of a national guideline to implement the no-build zones policy, widespread displacement of municipal fisherfolk, particularly in Tacloban City in Leyte, Municipality of Carles in Iloilo, and Bantayan Islands in Cebu, is happening,” said Ruperto Aleroza of the Save the Fisheries Now Network, a national coalition of non-government organizations and peoples’ organization.

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A conservative estimate by the National Anti-Poverty Commission pegged around 252,688 fishing households will be directly affected if the 40-meter no-build zones will be implemented.

“I think local government units (LGUs) are waiting for the policy direction from the national government. It is not enough to mark areas as no-build zones; we need to address the needs for permanent settlement. The problem for LGUs is that either we no longer have lands available that are suitable for safe and decent settlement or we don’t have funds to buy lands for resettlement,” said barangay captain Gregorio Lantajo Jr. of San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte.

Municipal fisherfolk have already cried foul over the policy pronouncement since this is a death sentence to their livelihood.

“If the government will implement the no-build zones policy arbitrarily, we will be displaced from our traditional areas for seaweeds and fish drying and boat docking sites,” said Abraham Layos, a fisher from Madridejos, Cebu.

“Kailangan matiyak na maaari pa rin naming gamitin ang baybayin para sa aming pinagkikitaan. Kami na nga ang pinakamahirap na sektor sa Pilipinas, kami pa ang pinapalayas,” said Losanto Castillo Jr. from Tacloban City.

Based on the National Statistical Coordination Board, fisherfolk are considered to be the poorest of the poor with 41.4 percent poverty incidence.

“Being the poorest of the poor, municipal fisherfolk living in low-lying coastal communities are the most vulnerable sector from the impacts of disasters and climate change. Aside from being responsive to their needs, the government should also be extra careful in its policy pronouncements and implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Yolanda affected communities,” said Gerry Arances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

The group called on the government, especially the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), to deliver on its promise of issuing a national guideline on no-build zones.

The OPARR, in a consultation with civil society organizations in March 2014, promised that prior to their issuance of a guideline in May 2014, consultations with affected sectors will be conducted. Until now, guidelines have yet to be released. (PR)

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