ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME
29 January 2013
PHILIPPINES : Save 78 poor fisherfolk families from forced eviction and starvation in the Freedom Island of Paranaque City
ISSUES: Right to food; inhuman and degrading treatment; hunger, starvation, corruption; impunity; rule of law
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt about 78 families belonging to fisherfolk community facing threats of imminent eviction during a field visit undertaken by its Programme Coordinator for Right to Food Programme together with a representative of Defend Job Philippines . The local authorities had served the notice of eviction to these families residing in the Floating Houses in the Coastal Area of San Dionisio in August 2012 and are now trying to relocate them. The families had come to this area in 2006 after facing a similar eviction from areas like Marina and Tambo. To persuade them to move to this area, the Philippine Estate Authority (now Philippine Reclamation Authority) had entered into a formal agreement with them and promised them priority status in the housing programme. Needless to say the Authority has not kept its promise. Impending eviction coupled with plans to relocate them to nearby mountains will not only cause grave trouble for the families but also imperil their food security. They will be exposed to starvation as they have no skills other than fishing for daily living and pure survival.
Continuing its threat of evicting the fisherfolk community living in the Coastal Area of San Dionisio in the Freedom Islands, officials of the National Housing Authority conducted visits in the area this month to ‘convince’ the families to relocate to Bario Agua Trece Martirez in Cavite.
The visits coincided with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ rejection of the demand of the fishermen’s organization to recall the environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) issued to development projects that involved the massive land-reclamation projects along the Manila Bay area, thereby making the eviction of the community imminent. The DENR, through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), also rejected the group’s call for a moratorium on the issuance of ECC for similar projects in the future.
The Philippines Estates Authority Tollway Corporation(PEATC) had first served an eviction notice on the community on August 8, 2012, through a letter its president Mr. Andrew Jude D. Deyto wrote to Mr. Pablo Olivarez, Barangay Chairman. The president had ‘advised’ the residents of the Floating Houses in the Coastal Area of San Dionisio to immediately vacate the area in accordance with the order of the Public Estate Authority. Mr. Olivarez communicated the notice to the residents on August 27 while informing them about the plan of PEATC.
Ever since serving the notice, representatives of the Philippine Reclamation Authority have threatened and harassed the people with repeated threats and deadlines. The authority had set December 2012 as the deadline for forcibly evicting the residents if they do not heed its advice and vacating the area by then.
If carried out, this would be the second forced eviction from their settlements for the 78 families living in the Floating Houses in less than 6 years. The families had been forcibly relocated to the area in April 2006 from their homes in Marina and Tambo. Relocation was accompanied by a formal agreement by the Philippine Estate Authority (now Philippine Reclamation Authority) that promised the residents priority status in the housing program. Needless to say, the Authority never fulfilled its promise. They are still trying to evict the families.
The relocation sites offered by the local Government of Paranaque expose not only their utter lack of sensitivity to the people, but also a recklessness in dealing with the issue. The authority had first offered two sites for relocation. Antipolo in Rizal was the first followed by Trece Martirez in Cavite , making the later the preferred one. Trece Martirez , four hours away from the Freedom Islands , lies in a mountainous region, far away from the sea or any other body of water, the basic source of livelihood for fishermen dependent on fishing for survival. Forced eviction followed by relocation, therefore, would seriously undermine their already endangered food security. It would also play havoc with the studies of the children as they are enrolled in schools inside Paranaque City .
None of this suggested that conditions in the boathouses are liveable to any extent! For example, local government authorities have not provided even such a basic amenity as clean drinking water under the garb of the habitat being illegal. This is a position absolutely untenable for the simple fact that the same authorities paid 6000 Pesos per family in 2006 as relocation assistance.
Coming back to the water issue, the residents are compelled not only to buy their water but also to fetch it from a distance of almost a kilometre. They pay 3 Peso per gallon with the daily requirement of a single family ranging from 5 to 10 gallons. In addition, 10 pesos is required for transporting it back to their houses by a paddy cab. Thus, water alone, uses up a significant portion of their daily earnings.
The forced eviction and later reclamation of the area will not merely affect these 78 families but also more than 10000 families that are part of the Paranaque Aquamarine Sellers Cooperative. The cooperative represents and organises people in fishermen’s wharf and helps them sell their catch in organised ways. The reclamation will also affect more than 1000 paddycab drivers and their families as their livelihood depends upon the cooperative. The forced relocation together with reclamation will cause an even bigger livelihood threat to the paddycab drivers as they have not been promised any relocation.
The Floating community is located along the shore of Manila Bay near the Freedom Islands in Paranaque and Las Pinas City and faces reclamation under the Manila Cavite Coastal Road Reclamation Project. The project started in 1970 is continued by the the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) with support from the national government. The PRA is in partnership with the Altech Corporation, a company owned by Danding Cojuanco who happens to be the uncle of the President of the Philippines .
The planned reclamation has been opposed by the community through the SAVE FREEDOM ISLANDS MOVEMENT. The movement believes that continued reclamation will also worsen the flood problems in Metro Manila affecting the residents of the two cities; Paranaque and Las Pinas.
The reclamation would prove a disaster even on purely ecological grounds as the Island provides a natural shield against typhoons. It’s lagoon functions as an outlet for major waterways in the two cities. Furthermore, its rich ecosystem plays a vital role in human, bird and marine life. It is the only remaining coastal periphery of mangroves and salt marshes. Multifarious biodiversity in Metro-Manila serves as an avian refuge for 80 different species of birds including the Black-crowned Night Herons, Kentish plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Siberian Ruby Throats, the endangered Chinese Egret, Philippine Duck and the rare Pied Avocet. By virtue of this, it was declared a critical habitat in 2007 by Proclamation No: 1412.
Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate intervention to stop the plans of evictions and forced relocation of the 78 families residing in the Freedom Islands . You may also demand that the authorities provide basic amenities like tapped water and electricity to the community.
The AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing asking for their intervention in the case.
To support this case:
The visits coincided with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ rejection of the demand of fishermen’s organization to recall the environmental compliance certificates (ECCs.) These were issued to development projects that involved the massive land-reclamation projects along Manila Bay , thereby making eviction of the community imminent. The DENR, through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), also rejected the group’s call for a moratorium on the issuance of ECC for similar projects in the future.
If enforced, this would be the second forced eviction from their settlements for the 78 families living in the Floating Houses in less than 6 years. The families had been forcibly relocated to the area in April 2006 from their homes in Marina and Tambo. This relocation was accompanied by a formal agreement by the Philippine Estate Authority (now Philippine Reclamation Authority) that promised residents would be given priority status in the housing program. Needless to say the Authority never fulfilled its promise, still trying to evict the families.
The relocation sites offered by the local Government of Paranaque expose not only their utter lack of sensitivity to the people, but also recklessness in dealing with the issue. Two sites were first offered for relocation, the first being Antipolo in Rizal and the other Trece Martirez in Cavite , making the later the preferred one. Trece Martirez , four hours away from the Freedom Islands , lies in a mountainous region far away from the sea or any other body of water, the basic source of the livelihood for the fishermen dependent on fishing for survival. Forced eviction followed by relocation, therefore, would seriously undermine an already endangered food security for the poor families. It would also play havoc with the studies of the children as they are enrolled in the schools inside Paranaque City .
2. Instruct the PEA/PRA to stop threatening the families
3. Instruct them to provide basic amenities like clean drinking water and electricity to the community
4. Have a constructive dialogue involving the fishermen and urban poor families in the planned development in the area.
5. Instruct the Barangay San Isidro Government and the Paranaque City Government to focus on ensuring the rights and welfare of the residents of the floating community and including them in their housing program.
6. Ensure that no relocations for any community are done in areas not conducive to their sources of livelihood.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel Street , San Miguel
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
3. Corazon Juliano-Soliman
Secretary, Department of Social, Welfare and Development
Constitution Hills, Batasan Pambansa Complex,
Tel/Fax: +63 (2) 931-81-91
4. Sec. Joel Rocamora
National Anti-Poverty Commission
3rd Floor, Agricultural Training Institute Building
Elliptical Road, Diliman
Fax: +63 2 927 9796 / 426 5249
5. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
1211 Geneva 10,
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010
6. Ms. Raquel ROLNIK
UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing
Attn: Ms. Cecilia Moller
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010 (ATTENTION: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ADEQUATE HOUSING)
Right to Food Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)
Asian Human Rights Commission #701A Westley Square , 48 Hoi Yuen Road , Kwun Tong, Kowloon , Hongkong S.A.R. Tel: +(852) 2698-6339
Fax: +(852) 2698-6367 Web: humanrights.asia twitter/youtube/facebook: humanrightsasia