DOJ to study legality of 'no-build zone' policy

By Edu Punay and Michelle Zoleta, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 07 2014 08:18 AM | Updated as of Apr 07 2014 04:18 PM

MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has assured parties questioning the government’s “no-build zone” in Yolanda-hit areas in Eastern Visayas that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will study the legality of the policy.

In a letter last March 5 to Salvador France and Peter Gonzales, vice chairmen of fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), De Lima said the DOJ will look into the contention of fisherfolk in affected provinces that the policy would deprive them of their economic rights.

“We duly note your observations and requests,” read the letter. “Please be informed that we are conducting a legal study on the matter.”

In a letter last February, Pamalakaya asked the DOJ to determine if the policy was illegal since it was not supported by any executive or administrative order from President Aquino.

The policy would ban fishermen and coastal people from returning to fishing villages and building settlements near the coastlines and 40 meters away from the shorelines, they added.

Pamalakaya urged the DOJ to investigate and possibly charge officials responsible for alleged incompetence and neglect of duty.

“The same policy even emboldened other local government officials to follow the path of the President and local officials of Tacloban City and Eastern Visayas,” Pamalakaya said.

“For instance, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG ) Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who previously expressed apprehension against the no-build zone policy, executed the policy in Capiz and effectively stopped small fishing activities of coastal people and barred the same from returning to their villages.”

Pamalakaya said the no-build zone policy will be extended up to 200 meters from the shoreline, and would effectively wipe out all fishing activities and displace coastal settlers all over Eastern Visayas and other Yolanda-stricken areas.

“Madam Secretary, to give you an idea on how this no-build zone policy would impact the economic life and community rights of the people, we cite to you the case of other areas affected by typhoon Yolanda and the Habagat in 2013 and typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which same policy will be imposed upon communities,” Pamalakaya said.

Pamalakaya said the no-build zone, no-dwell zone policy applies to all 171 cities and municipalities.

“The policy will also cover the areas of Manila Bay from Cavite to Bataan in Central Luzon and all towns surrounding Laguna Lake and it will entail the possible displacement of more than 6 million people in Manila Bay and 3.9 million around the 90,000- hectare Laguna de Bay,” Pamalakaya said.

“This catastrophic prediction will be rendered by the national policy on no-build, no-dwell zone program of the Aquino government.”