Ormoc City

Ormoc City fishing town fears displacement as ‘mega city’ rises

Jazmin Bonifacio

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Ormoc City fishing town fears displacement as ‘mega city’ rises

DEVELOPMENT. Ongoing construction of Premium Lands Corporation in Barangay Naungan, Ormoc City.

Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

Fisherfolk and environmentalists oppose an P80-million township by Premium Lands Corporation, fearing it will devastate their homes, livelihood, and local biodiversity

ORMOC CITY, Philippines – Some 500 residents in Barangay Naungan, Ormoc City, fear they will be forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods due to an P80 million ecopark and township project by Premium Lands Corporation.

Residents of Barangay Naungan and nearby communities, along with local environmentalists, are actively opposing the project. “They told us we will be relocated. Some of us were, but many went back. It became impossible for us to fish when the project made the sea off-limits,” said Nora Batucan, a 31-year-old fish vendor.

Gemile Manatad, a 51-year-old mother of eight, expressed her concerns, “We don’t earn much but we have a happy life here with our families. We want development, but not at the expense of our families and survival.”

COMMUNITY. Residents watch as construction progresses on the P80-million project of Premium Lands Corporation. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.

Jean Justimbaste, program coordinator of Pagtinabangay Foundation, emphasized the project’s potential impact on food security.

“The project threatens not only the livelihood of 500 fishing families but also the city’s food security. It will severely impact the marine biodiversity of Barangay Naungan and other nearby communities,” Justimbaste said.

Premium Land’s promise

“Ormoc Megacity, an eco-tourism township, exemplifies development without jeopardizing the ecosystem and the existing species while providing job possibilities. It is consistent with the city’s goals and Sustainable Development Goals,” Premium Lands Corporation said in its website.

Premium Lands has promised economic development and jobs for residents. However, environmentalists warn that these reclamation projects threaten marine biodiversity, migratory bird populations, and coastal communities.

Reports about the planned Mega City Project by Premium Lands have been circulating in the community since last year.

Yoyoy Cala, a local environmentalist and founding member of Save Ormoc Bay Aggrupation (SOBA), questioned the legality of the project. “The public has the right to know if the mangrove forest is already disposable and alienable and if the Comprehensive Land Use Program (CLUP) of Ormoc is approved,” Cala said.

Cala alleged that he was barred from speaking during the public scoping meeting on May 9, 2024.

“The mangrove forest in Naungan is a protected area under a Community-Based Forestry Management Agreement with the fisherfolk community. The city government and Premium Lands Corporation have no business in that area,” Cala said.

DEVELOPMENT. Ongoing construction of Premium Lands Corporation in Barangay Naungan, Ormoc City. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.

Cala further claimed that Premium Lands has falsely stated that the project has secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), which was debunked by the DENR Regional Office 8.

Rappler sought comments from Ormoc City Mayor Lucy Gomez and the owner of Premium Lands Corporation, but both were unavailable. Ormoc City Vice Mayor Leo Carmelo Locsin, Jr. also declined to comment, citing ongoing legal proceedings related to the Mega City Project.

Mangrove forest

Barangay Naungan is located along the edge of a 935-hectare mangrove forest, home to the ‘Miapi’ mangrove, which serves as a natural wave barrier and shelter for fish.

The forest, managed by the Naungan Mangrove Planters Association, is crucial for the village’s fishing activities, providing crabs, shrimps, and various fish that support the local economy.

“We worked hard to nurture these mangroves. They are our natural barrier against strong waves and floods, especially during typhoons,” said Victoriana Entero, president of the Naungan Mangrove Planters Association. – Rappler.com

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