Govt policy hurts Yolanda victims

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A group of civil society organizations has scored President Benigno Aquino 3rd for failing to issue concrete guidelines for enforcement of the government’s no-build zone policy in storm-devastated areas in the country’s Visayas region.

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Despite the lack of such guidelines and eight months after Super Typhoon Yolanda ravaged Eastern Visayas and Central Visayas, “widespread displacement of municipal fishermen, particularly in Tacloban City in Leyte, municipality of Carles in Iloilo and Bantayan Islands in Cebu, is happening,” Ruperto Aleroza of the Save the Fisheries Now Network said on Wednesday.

The network is a national coalition of non-government organizations and peoples’ organizations.

The National Anti-Poverty Commission said around 252,688 fishing households would be directly affected if the 40-meter no-build zone policy was implemented.

But the problem is that local government units either no longer have lands available that are suitable for safe and decent settlements or Yolanda survivors lack money to buy lands for resettlement, village captain Gregorio Lantajo Jr. of San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte, said.

Municipal fishermen have cried foul over the policy pronouncement since, they said, this literally means a death sentence to their livelihood.

“If the government will implement the no-build-zone policy arbitrarily, we will be displaced from our traditional areas for seaweed farming and fish drying and boat docking,” Abraham Layos, a fisherman from Madridejos in Cebu, said.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, fishermen are considered to be the poorest of the poor with 41.4 percent poverty incidence in their ranks.

“Being the poorest of the poor, municipal fishermen living in low-lying coastal communities are the most vulnerable sector from impacts of disasters and climate change,” Gerry Arances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said.

The group of civil society organizations called on the government especially the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery to deliver on its promise of issuing national guidelines on the no-build zone policy.

The office headed by former senator Panfilo Lacson, in a consultation with the group in March 2014, promised that the guidelines would be ready by May 2014.

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