ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday, January 24, barnstormed provinces and cities in the Zamboanga Peninsula region, meeting with a Ramon Magsaysay awardee and his group of oyster farmers and fishermen, local officials, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders, and her supporters across the region.
Robredo met with members of the Kapunungan sa Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion (KGMC) and 2021 Ramon Magsaysay awardee Robert Ballon in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay province, and handed the organization a certificate for the sustainable livelihood subsidy of nearly P500,000 for its oyster farms, a major source of livelihood in the town.
Over 100 families dependent on oyster farming and living near a river in Barangay Concepcion in Kabasalan town sought Robredo’s help because they were facing the prospects of being displaced due to an ongoing river protection project.
Ballon said the families facing displacement have lived in the area for many years, and he cautioned the government against moving them away from the area as this would mean income losses for them.
Robredo said onsite relocation would be the best option. But if it is not possible because of an important government project or the area is within a danger zone, the government needs to ensure that the disruption to their livelihood and children’s education would be at the minimum.
“The government should exert all efforts to make sure that the disruption in terms of livelihood and children’s education would be cushioned,” she said.
Robredo also stressed the need for the government to do an inventory of its properties so that it could easily identify the most suitable areas for housing and relocation.
She said housing program planners should factor in how projects would impact families. Onsite relocation, she said, should be the first preference to avoid dislocation.
Nonito Napigkit of the planning office of the Zamboanga Sibugay provincial government said the families in Kabasalan have to be relocated.
“What is needed is to make the public land adjacent to the river a relocation site because to move them far from the area would disrupt their livelihood,” Napigkit said.
Robredo also visited prominent religious leaders in the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Among them were Catholic Bishop Julius Tonel of the Diocese of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, Bishop Severo Caermare, Bishop Emeritus Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog, and nuns in the monastery of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, and several Muslim leaders in Zamboanga City. She also sat down with Father Enrico Montano, head of the Center for Social Concerns and Development, and the Change Politics Movement in Zamboanga del Norte.
Among the officials she met were Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Wilter Yap Palma, and Vice Governor Rey Andre Olegario, Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Uy, Representative Isagani Amatong, Dipolog Mayor Darel Dexter Uy, Mayor Katrina Cainglet Balladares of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco and Vice Mayor Rommel Agan.
She turned over post-vaccination kits from the Angat Buhay poverty alleviation program, and COVID-19 antigen kits in Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte.
Robredo also inaugurated volunteers’ centers in preparation for the election campaign in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga City.
She interacted with leaders of the civil society group Silingan Ka Movement in Ipil, public health front-line workers, and her supporters in the Zamboanga Peninsula provinces and cities. She told her supporters not to allow further erosion of values.
At the Carmelite monastery in Zamboanga City, she and Mayor Climaco paid their respects to the late Sister Agnes Xavier who died of COVID-19 last year, before praying with the nuns. – Rappler.com
Antonio Manaytay and Frencie Carreon are Mindanao-based journalists and awardees of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship