Leyte fishermen say no to no-build zone

Pia Ranada
There are other ways to save their lives and their livelihood at the same time, they say

WIPED OUT. Taken 3 months after Typhoon Yolanda struck, the coastline in the village of Macabug in Ormoc, Leyte still looks like a desolate ruin. All photos by Andrew Robles

ORMOC CITY, Philippines  A jagged concrete shell occupied by charred debris is all that remains of Aileen Delo Yula’s house beside the sea.

The coastline in Barangay Macabug in Ormoc City, Leyte where she lives with her children and fisherman husband is dotted by similar ruins. She now lives in a makeshift home a few steps from her her original one.

Boats wounded by gaping holes lie on the gravelly sand like shipwreck victims after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought storm surges and freak winds to the town exactly 3 months ago.

Despite these signs of destruction, Delo Yula does not want to leave. Not even if the government wants her to for her own survival.

Pinapaalis kami ng barangay captain namin dahil hindi na raw pwede ang mga bahay malapit sa dagat,” she said in a mix of Tagalog and Waray.

(Our barangay captain is asking us to relocate because houses near the sea are not allowed anymore.)

Pero paano na kabuhayan namin? Kailangan namin yung dagat.

(But what about our livelihood? We need the sea.)

Weeks after Yolanda, the government began imposing a no-build zone measure that would prohibit the building of structures within 40 meters from the shoreline. Storm surges that reached 100 m inland proved that living right by the sea is not safe. Many of the casualties in Leyte were due to storm surges devastating coastal communities.

But the no-build-zone rule does not sit well with fishermen who need to be close to the sea in order to pursue their livelihood. (IN PHOTOS: Rebuilding lives inside the ‘no-build’ zone)

Fishermen need their boats near the sea. In fishing communities, most fishermen have their boats by the doorways of their homes. They need only push them across the sand to get to the shore a few meters away.

For fishermen whose fathers were also fishermen before them, it has been this way for generations, even through storms and rough waves.

Following the no-build zone rule, the barangay captain wants to move the fishermen nearer the barangay center – far away from their boats and the sea.

Napakalayo. Ano ang magagawa namin doon? (It’s so far. What will we do there?),” fretted Dela Yulo.

ALMOST READY TO RETURN. Fishermen in Barangay Macabug in Ormoc, Leyte have built their boats but still lack a motor

While she knows the rule is for her own protection, she thinks it is unsuited to the needs of fishermen, who she said can weather storms but not the loss of their livelihood.

There are other ways to protect fishing communities, she said.

Okay lang naman na nandito kami basta sabihan lang kami nang maaga kusang lumilikas naman kami kapag kailangan.

(It’s okay that we stay here as long as they warn us early, we will voluntarily evacuate when needed.)

Back to sea

Like other storms he has survived, Yolanda will not stop 42-year-old Hipolito Agodo from supporting his family through fishing. He has already begun rebuilding his wooden boat so he can go back to sea within days.

Before Yolanda, he made around P200 a day on his catch, just enough to support his family of 5. Now, he only borrows a boat from his neighbors and earns less because he can’t spend as much time in the sea with it as he could with his own boat.

The boat he is building, still a wooden skeleton, is made from wood given to him by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). Most of the boats being built by other fishermen in his village are made of materials from the government, distributed within weeks after Yolanda hit. He is thankful for the aid but says it isn’t enough.

Kailangan pa ng motor. Hindi kami binigyan ng pako at epoxy. (It still needs a motor. We weren’t given nails or epoxy.)”

It will cost him around P30,000 to rebuild his boat, an amount he plans to save up bit by bit through carpentry work around the village.

Already, his daughter is weaving him a new net, ready for the time he returns to sea. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.