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Fishers resettlement plan 'solves' no-build zone issue

MANILA, Philippines – The government says it has found a way to move fisherfolk away from dangerous coastlines yet allow them to pursue their livelihood.

An integrated fishers resettlement plan will relocate Yolanda-affected fisherfolk farther from the coastline but establish fish landings by the beach where fisherfolk can store their boats and fishing equipment, explained National Anti-Poverty Commission head executive assistant Jessica Cantos to Rappler on Tuesday, November 11.

NAPC is working with the Resettlement Cluster for Yolanda rehabilitation to ensure the welfare of fisherfolk is considered in the relocation plans.

Previous announcements of a "no-build zone" policy of the government angered some fisherfolk groups.

The policy forbade permanent structures to be built 40 meters from the shoreline to prevent casualties from storm surges. But fisherfolk, most of whom live in the no-build zone, say the policy will cut them off from the sea, their main source of livelihood. (READ: 14,000 Yolanda survivors still living near deadly sea)

The fish landings, buildings which will be on the shoreline, will solve this problem, said National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Chito Cruz.

"They can keep their bangkas, their fishing equipment and all their fishing gear in the fish landing so after fishing they can go back to their houses which are safe from storm surge," he said.

The fish landings are meant to ensure fisherfolk still have access to the sea even if they live farther from the shoreline.

Aside from being a storage space, fish landings will also be where fishermen can bring their catch. It will be equipped with freezing facilities and an area where fishermen can repair their boats.

2015 target

The government aims to construct 152 fish landings by end of 2015, each costing P3 million (US$66,700),* said Cantos.

It was agreed that the Infrastructure Cluster, headed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, will construct the fish landings. But the funding will come from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), she added.

Fifteen sites have already been identified for the first phase of the integrated fishers resettlement program.

The program will be implemented in 4 of these areas this year until the first half of 2015.

These areas are:

These areas will get an early start because their local government units have already identified land for the housing component of the program.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, for example, was able to buy land in Culion and Coron to be used for the housing, said Cantos.

How far the new fisherfolk houses will be from the shore will depend on the area, said Cruz. 

In areas where the coast has a wide flat area, the houses will be farther. If the elevated areas are nearer the shore, the houses will also be nearer.

The NHA is getting clearances from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Science and Technology to determine where to build houses safe from all types of hazards: flooding, landslides, earthquakes and storm surge.

More sustainable, more secure

Roughly half of the houses destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda are houses of fisherfolk, estimated Cruz.

So far, land for 120,000 new houses have been identified. President Benigno Aquino III has already approved a budget of P22 billion ($489 million) to build 76,000 houses, Cruz added. 

It may take 10 to 15 years for fisherfolk to pay for the new houses. The amount of installment will depend on the land valuation of the resettlement location.

But at least, the fisherfolk will have more secure tenure over the land compared to the land they were occupying before Yolanda, said Cantos. 

Aside from houses, the NHA will be building schools and a multi-purpose hall in the resettlement sites.

NAPC will be engaged in the social preparation aspect of the program: hosting meetings between the bantay dagat (ocean guards), fisherfolk and local government unit and helping them craft a coastal resource management plan with the help of BFAR. (READ: PH oceans in crisis: The sad state of small fisherfolk)

This will ensure the program is not just a one-time, big-time dole-out but a sustainable, long-term one. 

"For example, we cannot build a fish landing near an area which is already overfished," said Cantos. 

With the new plan, the government agencies hope to not only revive affected fisherfolk, but also to improve the quality of their lives post-Yolanda. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = Php 44.94

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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