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