• NCIP to consult Badjaos on post-Yolanda reconstruction, relocation plan

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    ISABEL, Leyte: The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) will gather members of the Badjao community in this Leyte town on July 29-30 for a consultation on post Yolanda reconstruction and relocation plans.

    It was learned that eight months after typhoon Yolanda struck Leyte, this indigenous group is still struggling to rebuild their lives marked with continuous displacement and rampant poverty.

    “After the storm they were forbidden to rebuild their homes by the land owner and the local government for the very reason that the coastal areas or unsafe zones were initially designated as 40 meters no build zone and later downgraded to no dwelling zones,” said Hazel Torrefiel of the NCIP

    NCIP will discuss proposed relocation plans with members of the Badjao community and to help relay their messages to local authorities.

    “The Badjaos were reluctant to move since the relocation site was too far from the coastline and the towns market where they make their living,” Torrefiel said.

    Torrefiel stressed that special attention should be given to indigenous people in terms of shelter and relocation, taking into account their culture and how to maintain their traditional way of life.

    She explained that their culture is intrinsically linked with the sea and the shoreline and disaster response measures should be sensitive to their culture, tradition and beliefs.

    To recall, Badjao people came to settle along a coastline of private land in Sitio Pasil, Barangay Marbel in Isabel Leyte after they escaped the conflict and harsh living conditions in Mindanao in the 1990’s. Their sources of income in Isabel are fishing and selling used clothing in the town’s market.

    After the typhoon it was learned that 75 Badjao families were temporarily permitted to stay in an adjacent private lot, with no legal rights and no security of tenure.

    The Badjao people are the most disadvantaged among indigenous groups, having high illiteracy and unemployment rate and low income.

    Traditionally, they have been sea dwellers, living on narrow boats and visiting dry land only to trade fish, pearls and sea cucumbers for rice, drinking water and other staples.

    Although many of them were forced to adopt sedentary lifestyles, however, their unique way of life is still strongly linked to the sea as their income largely depends on fishing and free-diving, which means they inhabit the shorelines where they build houses on stilts.

    Personnel from NCIP already conducted an assessment of the group weeks ago and will be back next week for the consultation. PNA

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