PALO, LEYTE — Members of Baskug Han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga No Build Zone (BAKHAWAN) lambasted the insistence of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to implement the controversial Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Tide Embankment Project as various Yolanda survivors groups led by the Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners (CYSP) staged a protest action today outside the gates of the DPWH Regional Office.
“It is plain hypocrisy to prioritize the construction of this project over the needs of disaster survivors. It is hypocrisy that this huge project is being implemented in haste, all in the name of securing our lives, while our right to housing is sold by no less than our own government,” BAKHAWAN Secretary-General Christopher Durana, a resident of a coastal community in Tacloban said.
“It is a one big joke for DPWH to pronounce that public consultations have been held when we see here thousands protesting against the project. It is hypocrisy to sell this project in the altar of safety when it actually brings more harm than relief,” he continued.
A heated dialogue ensued after the protest where BAKHAWAN leaders and other groups grilled DPWH Region VIII OIC Director Edgar Tabacon. Tabacon mentioned that housing the affected families is not within his office’s jurisdiction and that the project will push through in Sections 4 and 5 (Palo and Tanauan).
BAKHAWAN maintains that DPWH’s handwashing on the housing aspect reveals an utter lack of empathy on affected households who will be displaced by the tide embankment. Laying the blame on other government entities does no help; in fact, as proponent and implementer of the megaproject, DPWH is duty-bound to have comprehensively addressed housing issues before implementation and take the lead in coordinating with agencies concerned.
“DPWH’s adamant decision to pursue the 7.9billion pesos-worth project despite mounting opposition is a display of stubborn reluctance to people’s dissent. As if we can be lured, equating token consultations with social acceptability could not pacify our escalating anger against this project,” Durana said.
Meanwhile, in the national capital, a dialogue was also held today by People Surge, Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and expert scientists from AGHAM with DPWH Main Office in Manila to stop the implementation of the mega-project. The groups argue that environmental hazards such as liquefaction, inland flooding and the destruction of about 97 hectares of mangroves have not been comprehensively studied in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Along with dialogues and protests, a petition is also being circulated asking for President Rodrigo Duterte to put a halt to the mega-project.
“We are demanding President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the Tide Embankment Project the soonest possible time. If he is truly for the poor, he must listen to our dissent and realign the billion-worth budget to the more pressing needs of us Yolanda survivors,” adds Durana.
BAKHAWAN, in partnership with the CYSP, a broad coalition of NGOs and their community partners, mobilized the thousands of Yolanda survivors from Metro Tacloban, and some parts of Eastern Samar. BAKHAWAN, an affiliate organization of People Surge, vowed to continue protesting against the implementation of the project which is set to displace over 14,000 households from their homes and livelihood.#
December 12, 2016
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued in the Tide Embankment Project (TEP), also known as ‘Great Wall of Leyte’, for its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) does not comprehensively discuss its negative environmental impacts and implications.
On the Visayas-wide protest led by PAMALAKAYA and super-typhoon Yolanda victims under the alliance of survivors People Surge on Friday, they stated that aside from various social costs TEP would bring to the people, it will also disrupt the natural cycle of marine environment and species.
The Tide Embankment Project which costs 7.9 billion pesos is a long stretch of seawall from Tacloban to the town of Tanauan, Leyte, touted to protect people from storm surges. Of the 27.3 kilometers length of the embankment, 20.1 km. are in Tacloban, 4.1 km. will cover Palo and 3.1 km. in Tanauan. It shall have a height of about 4.5 meters and its center line said to stand 30 meters from the seashore.
According to People Surge, more than 14,000 households, majority are fisherfolk will be demolished for the completion of the embankment project. In Palo, Leyte, several residents have already started to self-demolish as ordered by the DPWH in exchange for little compensation based on assessed value.
A study by the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and expert scientists from AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) show that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted for the project did not comprehensively address environmental issues such as the effects on mangroves, concerns on inland flooding, liquefaction, and other environmental hazards.
“It is crystal clear that this project does not undergo environmental studies, the government wants to rail road its construction to displace thousands of fisherfolk and coastal settlers living ashore. We urge DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to conduct a deeper study on how TEP would cost the marine environment, and moreover the social and economic rights of the fisherfolk,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
Yolanda survivors from Visayas gathered in Manila to protest the slow rehabilitation in the Yolanda-stricken areas and the continuing environmental plunder as a government’s response to their clamor.
“TEP is not rehabilitation but demolition and dislocation in disguise. This will usher the grand sell-out of fishing communities for local and foreign investors. The government wants to completely convert our coastal areas from productive fishing community into grandiose money-making business hubs of the rich. It is notable that this project would wipe out every single houses situated along its target location except private beach resorts owned by renowned local families and businessmen,” Hicap said.
PAMALAKAYA said they will continue staging protest actions by any means until this disastrous and destructive sea-wall project would be totally stopped. ###
Delegates from the Eastern Visayas region participating in the visayas-wide caravan of disaster survivors and rights abuse victims trooped to the National Housing Agency in Quezon City to demand adequate, quality and amortization-free resettlement.
Amid the swift action of the Duterte administration in relocating the communities of super typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban City to their resettlement areas, People Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors in Eastern Visayas argued that what might seem to be a good step, could lead to more danger.
“Resettlement in Tacloban City is still characterized by sub standard houses,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of the 20,000-strong survivors’ alliance. Testimonies of residents in the Tacloban North Resettlement Project lamented the poor state of their housing units. Observations of hollow walls, dilapidated roofing, and damaged septage among others, were bared. “The people are very much concerned of their safety especially after the deadly storm surge that hit the region, but the transfer of communities from the so-called unsafe zones could be a trip to death zones,” added Bautista. Cases of deaths in the resettlement due to heat stroke, diarrhea, dengue and pneumonia have already been recorded due to the flubbed condition of the relocation sites.
The housing projects of the previous Aquino administration has been riddled with corruption that has resulted to the substandard bunkhouses, transitional and permanent resettlement. “We now urge President Duterte to fix these problems but not in haste through plain transfer of communities, the quality of the constructed houses must first be ensured,” said Bautista.
Despite the breadth of the damage left by super typhoon Yolanda, the heftily-funded NHA only targetted 205, 128 housing units out of the millions displaced and left homeless. “From this overly conservative target of the housing agency, is their overly failed performance. NHA failed to deliver as they have posted a disgustingly low, 12.3% overall accomplishment,” added Bautista. The NHA is one of the agencies that acquired huge sums of budget this year totalling to P39.2 billion.
Free or for fee?
While the relocatees will not be charged for the housing units awarded to them, it will not take that long, as they will have to pay P200 every month after 5 years of occupying the units. According to the NHA it will be used to upset the expenditures the agency has incurred. “The NHA has made their service to the people valid for only 5 years; that instead of wholly owning up on the housing projects, they acted like business corporations, with the main objective of ensuring minimal expenditures,” said Bautista.
“The determination of President Duterte in expediting the awarding of housing units to Yolanda survivors is well-appreciated, but we urge him to listen to the survivors on their plight and considerations over these issues that concerns no less than the survivors themselves,” concluded Bautista.
People Surge is taking part in the caravan of rights abuse victims dubbed: Tindog Visayas: Lakbayan laban sa kagutuman at militarisasyon. They are joined by organizations of disaster victims from Central Visayas, Panay, and Negros. The groups are hosted by the administration, faculty, and students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila.#
Chairperson, People Surge
PALO, LEYTE – Residents living along government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZs) under the banner of BAKHAWAN (Baskug han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga NDZ) expressed its strong support to the Lakbayanis who staged protest before the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Main office in Metro Manila against the implementation of the Tacloban-Palo-Tanauan Tide Embankment project or the so-called Great Wall of Leyte.
Earlier today, BAKHAWAN members posted anti-Tide Embankment placards in their communities to vent out their opposition against the megaproject. BAKHAWAN Chapter Spokesperson in Barangay Cogon, Palo said their displacement from their communities is also their displacement from their sources of income and will mean worsening hunger and poverty.
The Tide Embankment project is a 7.9 billion-peso worth infrastructural project to be built on the pretext of protecting the people from storm surges. It is a 27.3 kilometer embankment from Barangay Diit in Tacloban to Barangay Cabuynan in Tanauan, Leyte and is set to displace approximately 10,000 households living in government-declared No Dwelling Zones (NDZs).
“We have been living in this area ever since we were born. We grew up in this barangay because it is close to the sea where we get food on the table. There is no sea in the interior barangay in Palo where they want to dump us,” Lina Escarlan of BAKHAWAN Cogon Chapter said.
“What do they want to build here? Tourist spots, hotels and the like? For the rich, the bodies of water are for leisure but for us fisherfolks and fish vendors in Cogon, the sea is life, the sea is where we seek help for our daily survival,” she added.
BAKHAWAN also assailed DPWH’s pronouncements that the Tide Embankment project will first be implemented in Palo because residents are not resisting.
“No resistance or no consultation? We only came to know this project last October when DPWH employees assessed our houses, vandalized our homes and painted red numbers to indicate that we will be affected by the project,” Escarlan further said.
People Surge, one of the conveners of BAKHAWAN, said the project’s lack of democratic consultation is in contrast to Duterte’s pro-people pro-poor pronouncements. “They started asking people about the project when the fund has already been bankrolled to DPWH. They should have asked the residents prior to its implementation and we cannot but resist such project that is socially unacceptable,” Marissa Cabaljao, People Surge Secretary-General said.
Cabaljao also assailed the government taking opportunity of Yolanda as a means to evict people from their dwelling places. “For the past years, the poor have been blamed for their vulnerability. Whenever we assert for our right to stay in our dwelling places they dub as ‘danger zones’, the Yolanda card is thrown at us as if we had the luxury of choice to decide where to live. It is as if erecting our houses near the shorelines just so we can be closer to our sources of income is a choice, rather than a necessity, that we make for our daily survival.”
BAKHAWAN members said some of their neighbors keep coming back after being “relocated” to resettlement sites and brave recurrent threats of demolition in NDZs. While the Tide Embankment prepares for another gigantic storm in the future, the hurried eviction and displacement from our sources of income is actually another ‘Yolanda’ in the making.
The group is also skeptical as to those whose interest the project serves since big businesses along the coast will be escaped by the project while their houses will be evicted. “If big businesses will be escaped by the project, for whose interest is this so-called ‘great wall of Leyte’? For whose interest and at whose expense?” Cabaljao stressed.
BAKHAWAN stressed that if the government truly wants their safety, the 7.9 billion pesos should be realigned to the construction of climate resilient permanent evacuation centers and to the more pressing needs of the disaster survivors for land, livelihood and decent homes.
“We challenge the Duterte administration and his newly-appointed Rehabilitation Czar Michael Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), to heed the call of the people and stop the implementation of the Tide Embankment Project. With stern warnings from scientists that the project may cause more harm than relief, the Duterte administration must stop and review such a billion-worth project inherited from the previous Aquino government. The core of Yolanda rehabilitation should be the poor and not use Yolanda as a capital to further oppress us and enrich the few whose interest this project very well serves,” Cabaljao ended.#
More than a hundred farmers and disaster survivors from Eastern Visayas provinces today demanded agriculture secretary Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pinol to implement emergency rehabilitation measures to revive the agriculture and fisheries sector in the region that was severely devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda and subsequent natural and man-made calamities.
Groups from Eastern Visayas are on the second day of their Caravan against Hunger and Militarization in the National Capital Region that aims to raise public awareness on the current regional situation.
“The previous Aquino administration neglected us and plundered disaster fund and resources intended for calamity victims. Now, we are challenging the Duterte presidency to respond to our most urgent demands,” said Nestor Lebico, spokesperson of Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), the regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Eastern Visayas.
Eastern Samar, Western Samar and Northern Samar provinces are among the DA’s priority areas. The agency, under Pinol, has earmarked billions of funds for increased food production and poverty alleviation in the said provinces under the Strategic Areas for Agriculture Development program (SaAD) but government aid and rehabilitation efforts are not reaching the intended beneficiaries. In fact, farmers have registered 85 to 90% production losses due to successive typhoons, drought and infestations affecting coconut, abaca and palay.
Address hunger, stop militarization
Lebico said farmers in rural communities in Samar and Leyte provinces continue to experience worsening hunger, three years after Yolanda struck. Based on conservative government estimates, hunger incidence in the region is at 45 percent.
“The Duterte government cannot turn a blind eye on the grim realities in Region 8. Before Yolanda, Eastern Visayas is the poorest region with the highest hunger incidence. The situation took a sharp turn from bad to worse. Now, more than 90 percent of the 4.1 million people in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and Biliran are poor and hungry.
“Recovery is impossible as long as the agriculture and fisheries sector in the region remain neglected,” the peasant leader said, adding that the agriculture sector accounts for almost 45 percent of the region’s employment.
“We have no lands to till, no government support and services for farmers and fisherfolks. Coconut farmlands are infested with coconut scale insect or cocolisap. Abaca is infested with bunchy-top virus. People who are trying to start a new life in the hinterlands cannot live in peace because of intense military operations. It’s like we are stuck between purgatory and hell,” Lebico said.
No genuine rehab for coco farmlands, agri
Coconut farming is the main livelihood in Eastern Visayas. In 2014, Yolanda destroyed 11.3 million of the 12 million coconut trees in the region, damaging 80 percent of 1.1 million metric tons of crops. “Whatever was left of the coconut farmlands in Samar and Leyte was infested with cocolisap,” Lebico said. “Coconut production in the region has fallen from 2,000 nuts per hectare to only 200-500 nuts,” he added.
First discovered in 2010, the cocolisap has infested large areas of coco farmlands in Luzon and Mindanao by 2014 and last year, cocolisap started to infest Eastern Visayas.
According to IBON, the value of coconut production has steadily dropped from Php6.4 billion in 2013, to Php4.7 billion in 2014, and Php4.6 billion in 2015. The value of palay production in the region has also declined by 2.7 percent in the same year. Decline in fisheries is also evident with Eastern Visayas posting a 22.7% decline for example in the value of aquaculture fisheries production in 2015.
KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said the government and the DA must heed the demands of Eastern Visayas farmers for the distribution of free organic farm inputs, seedlings distribution, much-needed technical assistance and equipment to farmers and fisherfolk, a two-year moratorium on payment of irrigation fees, and the genuine rehabilitation and development of the agriculture sector and fisheries sector in the region. ###
‘Military rule in disaster-affected communities unwelcome’, survivors group say
Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent defense of the continuing deployment of troops in various rural areas, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) deplored the pronouncement for justifying the continuing militarization that has worsened the ordeal of their communities over the past three years.
“President Duterte, your military troops are illegally occupying our villages, harassing and vilifying our fellow survivors, and disrupting our still struggling livelihoods. These fascist attacks are no different from the previous Aquino administration’s systematic militarization of our communities and are most certainly unwelcome in our villages,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, chairperson of People Surge.
People Surge, the largest alliance of survivors of Yolanda and other subsequent typhoon disasters in the Eastern Visayas region, reported that the 87th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) has presently encamped in both village facilities and civilian homes across nine barangays in Calbiga municipality in Samar. They also cited the 78th IBPA’s hamleting of survivor communities in the town of Burauen, Leyte, including villages of indigenous Mamanwa.
“The military has imposed a virtual Martial Law over our communities ever since we came together to demand justice over the criminal neglect we continue to suffer since 2013. Duterte is saying that these operations are for ‘peace and order’, but what we are getting is the brutal suppression of survivors’ communities protesting the pervading landlessness, poverty, and other agricultural crises in the countryside,” Bautista said.
Bautista recalled how the first year after the landfall of Yolanda was marred with the killings of peasant leader Rodolfo Basada and youth organizer Jefferson Custodio, both their fellow survivors of Yolanda, at the hands of suspected military operatives who were harassing them prior to their deaths.
The survivors group hit the continuing implementation of the Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program implemented during the Aquino administration, saying its militarization strategy has targeted their organized communities upon the suspicion that these are base areas of the communist rebels under the New People’s Army.
“The perpetrators of Basada and Custodio’s killings are still out there and militarization is still rampant in our communities. If Duterte asserts that it is the Republic of the Philippines who decides where to place its troops, then, by all means, he should kick them out of our besieged communities. There is no justice and definitely no peace if our communities are still subjected to intensified militarization instead of our longstanding demands for genuine rehabilitation,” ended Bautista.
More than a hundred survivors from People Surge arrived yesterday in Metro Manila as the first wave of the Lakbayan laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon (Caravan against Hunger and Militarization).
Bearing the theme ‘Tindog Visayas’ (Rise Up Visayas), the Visayas-wide protest caravan aims to raise the persisting crises of hunger, landlessness, and militarization before Malacanang Palace and other national offices of various government agencies. Tindog Visayas will culminate in the big rallies commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10.#
DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge
On the second day of the “TINDOG VISAYAS: Lakbayan laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon” here in Metro Manila, Yolanda survivors from Eastern Visayas stormed the residence of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in Times Street, Quezon City to demand accountability over his administration’s criminal neglect against the victims, alleged corruption of Yolanda funds, incompetence and its poor disaster preparedness and rehabilitation efforts.
“If Noynoy thinks that he’s off the hook, then he’s badly mistaken,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson, People Surge, the largest alliance of calamity survivors all over the country.
“Thousands of our brothers and sisters died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda because of the many loopholes in the disaster preparedness measures implemented by the government. After Yolanda, we were faced with a criminally negligent administration who indulged in so much politicking instead of giving us immediate relief and assistance,” Bautista added.
“We were victimized by the Aquino administration, a few times over. First, is the questionable use and misuse of billions of donations and government funds supposedly provided for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas. With the outpouring of foreign aid and the P20-billion rehabilitation supplemental budget in 2014, and the P23.84 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program allocations for disaster projects, why is that we still even have to haggle with for example the Emergency Shelter Assistance, as if our very survival is negotiable?”
“Aquino and his cohorts saw the people’s misery as nothing but a very lucrative business venture as evidenced by the privatization of the implementation of its already flawed rehabilitaion program. While disaster victims languished in coffin-like resettlement houses, Aquino and his gang bagged millions of the rehab fund,” said Bautista.
“We will never let this pass and even if his term as president has already ended, he still has time left to be served—in a cold, hard cell where criminals and corrupt officials like him should be,” said Bautista. “The same goes out to then secretaries, Dinky Soliman (DSWD), Mar Roxas (DILG), Jericho Petilla (DOE) and rehab czar Panfilo Lacson. We demand that President Duterte mete out the necessary and just punishment for these top-ranking officials who made Yolanda survivors lives’ a living nightmare. A lot of our brothers and sisters died, a lot of rehab fund disappeared from thin air– these people have to answer for that,” ended Bautista.
DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA
Chairperson, People Surge
Yolanda survivors group, People Surge will join tomorrow’s Black Friday Protest in Luneta to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to redirect his efforts to the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas particularly in Leyte and Samar instead of playing a part in the politcal rehabilitation of the power-hungry Marcoses.
“Yolanda survivors are one with the whole nation in denouncing not only the clandestine burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but more importantly, this brazen attempt of the corrupt Marcos family at revising our history and the evils of Martial Law,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson of People Surge.
“Yolanda survivors stand united against the infamous proclamation of the Marcoses that Tacloban is their political bailiwick. We are not. And we refuse to be the stronghold of a dictatorial family who ruthlessly perpetrated gross human rights violations and who mercilessly plundered our nation’s coffers. That beyond such label of Eastern Visayas are the genuine clamor of the people for service,” said Bautista.
“President Duterte must seriously reconsider his position in this issue. The unrepentant Marcoses do not deserve any ounce of rehabilitation, instead it is the people of Eastern Visayas who rightly deserves it. Three years after Yolanda and other less known but equally destructive tphoons, ravaged our region, justice and genuine pro-people rehabilitation programs remain elusive. Statistics implying lower poverty incidence in our region is nothing but a lie because our farmers still remain poor and hungry.”
Following the third year anniversary since Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas, People Surge will be launching a massive caravan of disaster survivors from all over the region to storm the national capital. Farmers for example are battling the twin problems of the absence of genuine rehab programs and the widespread crop infestation such as the cocolisap for coconut and bunchy top for abaca, both of which are prime agricultural outputs of the region. The dismal state of rehabilitation in general have tremendous and disastrous effects on the poor sectors of the region and the group hopes that this caravan will make the Duterte administration see the urgency of responding to the people’s clamor for change.
“We challenge President Duterte to effect his promise of change for us Yolanda survivors. His administration must now take concrete steps to end the three-year injustice brought about by the criminal negligence of the previous administration. In the same manner that we will never forget the fact that Marcos is no hero and undeserving of any honors, we will never forget our call for justice and accountability, genuine, pro-people rehabilitation programs and .”
DR. EFLEDA BAUTISTA, Chairperson, People Surge