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Rights groups assail Duterte’s fascist attacks

Human Rights group Karapatan and other progressive groups held a Black Friday Protest, September 14, at Gate 2 of Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City to call for an end to the attacks of the Duterte regime against the Filipino people.

According to Karapatan, the Duterte regime is a danger to the Filipino people.

Duterte’s reign of terror through its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and its imposition of martial law in Mindanao are taking advantage of alleged terrorist activities as pretext to attacks against civilians, the group said.

Two farmers from Compostella Farmer’s Association (CFA) were killed last August 19. Couple Gilbert and Jean Labial on their way home after visiting a wake from a fellow CFA member. They were killed by suspected elements of 66th IB because of their opposition to the entry of mining companies in their area, the protesters said.

Karapatan also cited the recent killing of Haide Malalay Flores last August 21 in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental who was shot dead while on her way home. She was a businesswoman and an activist for peasant advocacies.

Karapatan reported as well the case of spouses Edison and Divina Erece who were arrested by elements of military and police last September 3 in Calayan, Cagayan. The couple were members of the peasant group Amihan-Cagayan.

They were charged with illegal possession of explosives, murder, arson and qualified assault.

Political prisoners now number 509, majority of whom are poor peasants, Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, Antonio Flores, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), stressed that aside from killings of 150 farmers, the Duterte government also slapped trumped up charges against peasant activists.

The filing of criminal offenses and red-tagging of farmer leaders as members of New Peoples Army are the trademark of this administration. Instead of addressing the problem of landlessness and poverty, continuos military operations and human rights violations happened almost everyday, Flores added.

Estrellita Bagasbas of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) said that even urban poor people were victims of Duterte’s attacks.

She cited the violence in Pandi Bulacan where “fake and ousted members” of KADAMAY are allegedly being used by the police as intelligence agents.

Some organizers and leaders of KADAMAY also recieved death threats and harassments, KADAMAY said. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

‘Manila Bay is still alive,’ fisher folks opposing reclamations say

A special report by Reynald Denver del Rosario

MANILA BAY is alive and still able to provide livelihood for thousands of fisher folk and their families, communities and environmental groups say as they continue their campaign against ongoing and future government reclamation projects on one of the country’s most important body of water.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light to more than 80 billion peso worth of reclamation projects implemented by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). Despite opposition from various sectors, the government ordered a fast-tracked completion purportedly to give way to economic development and ease the metro’s traffic woes, among other reasons.

But beyond these promises of change and progress lie concrete problems faced by the environment and grassroots communities. One of the affected areas is Manila Bay, a body of water which different coastal communities rely on for their living.

With the implementation of these massive reclamation projects at full swing, affected residents face threats of losing their livelihood and communities. Since then, communities have strengthened their unity as they fight for their rights as citizens.

A Manila Bay fisher tending his boat after a day out trying to make a living. (Photo by R. Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Manila Bay to be ravaged by eight reclamation projects

The eight ongoing and planned reclamation projects on Manila Bay include the 650-hectare Navotas Business Park reclamation project, first initiated in the 1960s but was revived during the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.

Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada has also recently approved a fourth reclamation project under his term—the 419-hectare Horizon Manila project at an estimated cost of P100-billion. It involves the construction of a commercial hub composed of three new islands. This approval came two months after Estrada approved the P7-billion Manila North Harbor expansion, which will reclaim 50 hectares from the waters of the bay.

Last February, Estrada approved the New Manila Bay International Community project, a 407-hectare mixed-use commercial and tourism center proposed by UAA Kinming Development Corporation.

Estrada also upheld the Solar City project, a major entertainment hub which covers 148 hectares and approved by his predecessor Alfredo Lim.

Another reclamation intervention is the 635-hectare Las Piñas-Parañaque Coastal Bay project intended to be a residential, industrial, educational and commercial zone.

The other reclamation projects in Manila Bay include the 360-hectare project in Pasay City and the 300-hectare project in Parañaque City, a public-private partnership with a giant mall and real estate company as the private-sector partner.

These massive reclamation projects in Manila Bay are part of a larger national reclamation plan pursued by the government purportedly to further boost the country’s economy. These, however, shall come at the expense of fisherfolk and coastal communities being displaced, fisher folk and environmental groups said.

  1. Despite massive pollution, Manila Bay is still thriving.

The Manila Bay area is one of the Philippines’ major center of economic activity, including fishing and aquaculture activities. However, its ecosystem continues to face problems from multiple developments taking place in the area.

Pollution, over-fishing, and loss of habitats are few of the issues threatening Manila Bay, according to the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). Its effects include the significant degradation of the involved ecosystems and biodiversity, which eventually affects those who are dependent on it.

According to the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), fish are already scarce in the bay according to a public scoping undertaken by no less than the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR).

Fisher folk challenges the claim, however, saying the DENR study is being used to justify the planned demolition of their communities and livelihood by and on the bay.

According to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas), fishermen still harvest a considerable amount of fish from Manila Bay. For them, the government should rehabilitate the waters, not reclaim them.

Navotas City, for example, benefits from what the waters of Manila Bay still have to offer. Dubbed as the “Fishing Capital of the Philippines” Navotas City and its residents largely depend on fishing and related industries for livelihood. Residents of Barangay Tangos in Navotas still benefit from the waters to sustain their livelihood, despite various obstacles. Fishermen harvest different kinds of seafood, including shellfish, squid and shrimp, among others.

An urban poor community sits under the shadow of the towering buildings of Makati City and along the polluted Parañaque River. (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Waste is used as justification to displace the coastal communities.

Forty eight year old fisherman Romeo Broqueza of Barangay Tangos couldn’t hide his frustration with Manila Bay’s waste problem, saying that the issue is used against them. According to him, most of the waste came from other places and not from their community itself.

“Kung tutuusin, pwede iyang pag-usapan, kasi madali lang naman linisin iyan e. Nandiyan ang barangay, tutulong yan,” he said. “Ngayon, ginagamit nilang dahilan ‘yang kalat para paalisin kami dito.”

Residents also scored the dumping of waste in nearby communities. According to Nieves Sarcos of PAMALAKAYA, big barges continue to deliver 100 truckloads of trash to Barangay Tanza per day.

“Mataas na ang basura, parang bundok na,” she said. “Maraming nahuhulog na basura mula sa barge, tapos aanurin papunta sa amin.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay in 10 years.

PAMALAKAYA claims that almost 60 percent of pollution entering Manila Bay comes from Pasig River, in which 80 percent comes from industries and commercial establishments in Metro Manila.

Manila Bay Coordinating Office executive director Antonio Gaerlan stated that wastewater from 86 percent of the 14 million households served by water concessionaires is still directly flushed out into Manila Bay. The mandatory construction of wastewater treatment facilities for all households, establishments and industries was not included in the privatization of water services under the Fidel Ramos administration with Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services.

PAMALAKAYA has condemned past and present administrations that use the SC’s order as justification to demolish fishing communities.

The fisher folk group continues to push for the rehabilitation and clean-up of Manila Bay. With its continued destruction, small-scale fishermen have experienced the trend of fish-catch depletion, from 10 to 15 kilos down to two to five kilos of average catch per day.

A fisher folk is heading out to Manila Bay from the Malabon River. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Government policies threaten the livelihood of fishing communities.

According to PAMALAKAYA and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), the Navotas Business Park reclamation project would displace 20,000 fisher folk and residents across four coastal barangays in Navotas City.

The group added that fresh and affordable fish from Navotas would also become unavailable due to the displaced communities.

Markers and fences are already constructed along the shores of Barangay Tangos in preparation for the project. The fisher folk fear that the barriers would block their fishing boats from going offshore and restrict their already limited fishing activities.

According to Republic Act 10654 or “An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing,” small and medium fishing vessels are only allowed to operate within 10 to 15 kilometers from the coastline in municipal waters.

Fishermen are directly affected with this policy. According to them, fish of high value like tilapia and bangus cannot be found in the shallow areas; they are forced to prioritize crabs, squid, shrimp, and other small fish, which do not sell as much.

According to Broqueza, only big ships benefit from the Manila Bay since small-scale fishermen can’t go too far out to sea.

“Dati communal ‘yang Manila Bay. Malalaking isda talaga tulad ng tuna at bangus ang nahuhuli diyan, kahit ng mga maliliit na mangingisda. Kaso, ngayon, wala na,” he added.

Fish continue to dwindle because of large-scale fishing by big companies, fisherfolk say. “Pag maliliit na fishers, ‘yung sapat lang at di sobra-sobra. Yung mga negosyo kasi, sobrang mangisda,” Broqueza said.

Due to the declining fish catch, small-scale fishermen choose not to bring their fish to the Navotas Fish Port for offloading.  Instead, they do business in their barangay despite earning substantially less. According to Dodong Remojo, a fisherman of 30 years, around 70 to 80 percent of the fish in the port come from Palawan anyway.

Fishermen also suffer from various violations imposed on them. There are no markers which indicate the 15-kilometer distance from the shoreline—they only estimate how far they have sailed. The ambiguity makes them vulnerable to violating the limitations stated by the law.

Patrol activities by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), fisher folk say, have become a venue for corruption through the filing of various violations against small scale fisher folk.. “Hindi ka pa nga nakakalagpas, nahuli ka na e,” a resident said. Fishermen are charged from P100,000 to as high as P1.5-million, depending on the violation, including illegal equipment, lack of permit and exceeding 15 kilometers, among others.

Forty-four year-old fisherman Danilo Tulda said the officials are on patrol day and night to get the chance to yield profit from accused violations. “Araw-araw ‘yan sila, nag-aabang talaga sa laot. Kapag tumakbo ka, papuputukan ka,” Tulda said.

Rafael Sales, a fisherman for 33 years, said they were forced to pay a fine of P1.5-million after supposedly violating the law while fishing in Bataan. They were lucky as the officials eventually agreed to lower the fine to P150,000. “Kahit wala kang violation, lalagyan ka. Kaya bang bayaran ng mga mangingisda ‘yon?” Sales said.

Children of fishing families practice their skills on makeshift rafts on the Malabon River. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Damage has been done by the reclamation projects, and will continue to do so.

CEC’s Lia Alonzo cites previous reclamation projects as contributory to more hazards on the bay, such as the one which gave way to a giant mall by the bay and even earlier ones such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex undertaken under the Ferdinand Marcos regime.

Geologists said further reclamation projects pose greater danger as the area stands on top of a fault line. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) already said that Metro Manila is overdue for a strong magnitude 7.2 earthquake from the West Valley Vault that traverses Metro Manila from north to south.

Alonzo cites the flaws of DENR’s issuance of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as one of the factors.

The ECC is an issued document after a positive review that a project meets environmental laws and policies and certifying that the proposed project will not cause significant negative environmental impact. In practice, however, issuance of the said document favors the reclamation projects and its proponents.

According to CEC, the government failed to evaluate larger domino effects of the reclamation projects to different communities. “Nakikita natin na may mga lugar na maaapektuhan ng projects pero di na sakop ng EIS,” Alonzo said.

PRA said that engineering solutions will be applied to prevent potential damage.

CEC, however, stated that such processes are both expensive and are not foolproof. CEC maintains their stance of rehabilitating the Manila Bay under the mandamus issued by the SC. Reclamation, they say, will further destroy the already damaged ecosystems and shall affect many fisher folks.

“It is not enough reason to say na wala naman nang buhay diyan, kaya hayaan na lang nating i-reclaim,” Alonzo said. “Para sa mga mangingisda, di pa huli ang lahat para ma-rehabilitate ang Manila Bay.” #

 

San Roque residents still hope for Duterte’s promised change

Their shrinking community now lies sandwiched between towering apartments and sprawling malls for the moneyed few. But residents of Sitio San Roque in Barangay Pag-Asa in Quezon City remain hopeful their struggle for decent and just housing would finally come true under President Rodrigo Duterte who promised as much.

(Video by Gabe Sante and Gabby Endona of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions) Read more

Taguiwalo admits ‘tolerating’ Kadamay members, poor citizens

FOLLOWING accusations the Department of Social Welfare and Development is “tolerating” Kadamay members who occupied vacant housing units in Bulacan province by giving them assistance, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo called a press conference last Friday.

Taguiwalo tried presenting and discussing other DSWD programs but majority of journalists present were focused on the agency’s distribution of food packs in Pandi, Bulacan last week and on accusations the agency is giving special treatment to the “occupiers.”

Taguiwalo said all of DSWD’s programs are for the poor.  She said the agency is always ready to give help to those who ask, especially the poor.
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Kadamay presses demand for housing rights

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) trooped to the National Housing Authority yesterday, March 24, to condemn the agency’s failure to address the housing crisis that victimizes at least five million families household nationwide.

The group called for scrapping of the Urban Development and Housing Act it said never succeeded in addressing the ever-worsening shortage of housing for the poor.

Kadamay called on the poor to join them in demanding free mass housing for the poor from the Rodrigo Duterte government. (Video by Divine Miranda)

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Urban poor calls for scrapping of Housing Act of 1992

The Rodrigo Duterte government must step up in terms of providing mass housing, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)  said.

“For too long the public has been led to believe that social services, like housing, were only meant to be publicly funded but not publicly allocated. There is a housing crisis in the country, not only because the government’s 5.5 million backlog still stands but because the current setup of socialized housing is inherently anti-poor,” Kadamay secretary-general Carlito Badion said.

Among the issues Kadamay protested at a rally in front of Mendiola last March 13 was the National Housing Authority’s (NHA) insistence on the “socialized” housing scheme spelled out in Republic Act 7279, the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992.

Kadamay, however, rejects the scheme as its forces the poor to pay up on what should be a basic social service.

“The government and NHA insist that the urban poor, one of the most disenfranchised in our country, should pay for a basic right,” Badion said.

It is as if the houses being built and sold come with water, electricity and basic utilities, Badion added.

“Occupy Bulacan”

To force the Duterte government to finally act, Kadamay started occupying government housing units in Bulacan Province since March 8.

Kadamay said the houses comprise a small percentage of 53,000 units that have remained vacant for as long as five years.

The NHA has called their actions “illegal” while Duterte called Kadamay’s move as “anarchic.”

Kadamay condemned the statements, saying their actions would not have been necessary had the government acted on Duterte’s promise to distribute vacant housing units during last year’s Housing Summit.

“This is not the first time we have voiced our demands. We marched and presented our call for housing rights before the president. Our petitions have fallen on deaf ears,” he added.

Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said they are not taking houses away from alleged rightful owners.

“That cannot be the case when there is nobody living in the houses,” she said.

Kadamay said their sector continue to suffer as when the Benigno Aquino government demolished their communities and forcibly evicted thousands of families from their houses.

“Duterte’s government is showing that Presidents past and present take the same stance against the interests of the poor,” Badion said.

They called for the scrapping of the UDHA, which they saw as an obstacle to their basic right to housing.

“By retaining the UDHA and the NHA’s corrupt practices, problems for the urban poor will keep repeating themselves. The UDHA must be scrapped to make way for free and mass housing for the poor,” Kadamay said. # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)

 

“Duterte promised us free housing”–Kadamay

THE Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said their occupation of vacant units at various projects in Pandi, Bulacan stemmed from President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free housing.

They said they have waited long enough for the promise to be fulfilled, repeatedly petitioning various government agencies, to no avail.

Finally, last March 8, they have decided to take matters into their own hands and moved into vacant housing units that have been waiting for occupants for at least two years already.
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Kadamay: Unjust policies force poor to occupy housing sites

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) marched to Mendiola yesterday to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to a dialogue in order for them to show proof that hundreds of housing units are unoccupied in Bulacan Province.

Instead of distributing government housing units to poor beneficiaries, the National Housing Authority only choose families who can pay exorbitant rates, Kadamay said.

Hundreds of Kadamay members occupied several housing projects in Bulacan last week, a move aimed at bringing the issue to Duterte’ attention, the group said. (Video by Divine Miranda/Featured photo by Romie Malonzo) Read more

Bayan, Makabayan hit tax reform and death penalty bills

In a rally in at the House of Representatives various sectors led by the BAYAN and the Makabayan Coalition called for the rejection of the bills that would restore the death penalty and another that imposes higher taxes on the people. Both bills are government-sponsored.

Evan Hernandez of the rights group Hustisya said that under a justice system that is flawed if not downright rotten, death penalty is not a deterrent to crimes nor will it render justice to the victims.

Like the death penalty, the tax reform only hits the the poor rather than the rich said Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna. Zarate and other members of the Makabayan bloc vowed to oppose the bill and will instead push the Finance Dept. and the Bureau of Customs to efficiently work on their collection. (Video by Divine C. Miranda) Read more