Pandemic forces Taliptip fishers to demolish homes for 'crumbs for compensation'

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Pandemic forces Taliptip fishers to demolish homes for 'crumbs for compensation'
Photo shows remnants of a demolished house in Sitio Kinse, Brgy. Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan.
Save Taliptip, Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown to contain it have left some residents of a coastal community in Bulacan—the site of the proposed New Manila International Airport—no choice but to demolish their own homes, a group helping fishers opposed to the airport project said.

According to Save Taliptip movement, residents of Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town were allegedly given P250,000 in exchange of demolishing their own homes. Those who opted to receive money were only given until Friday to self-demolish and leave the area where San Miguel Corp.’s airport project is projected to rise.

Out of the around 30 households in Sitio Kinse, only six remain.

“Kaya sila tumanggap ng pera kasi wala sila pwedeng pagpipiliian kasi sinabi ng attorney ng San Miguel na walang pabahay kasi walang mabiling lupa,” Shirley Bacon, one of the residents of Sitio Kinse, told Philstar.com in a phone interview Thursday. 

(They chose to take the money because they have no choice because they were told by a lawyer of San Miguel that no housing will be provided to them because there is no available land.)

“Kaming mga natira dito ang tindig namin pabahay… Kaunti lang ang hiling namin, bahay, lupa at hanapbuhay. Kung ano ‘yung inalis nila sa amin, dapat ‘yun ang ibalik nila,” Bacon added.

(For those of us who stayed behind, our stand is that they should give us relocation. We only have few wishes: house, land and livelihood. They should return what they are taking from us).

Airport project

The New Manila International Airport, which will have at least four runways, is seen by its proponents and the government as a solution to ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main gateway.

The P734-billion airport project will also include an 8.4-kilometer toll road with connection to the North Luzon Expressway.

But the project is feared to result in the displacement of around 700 families in Taliptip and the loss of livelihood of fisherfolk once the 2,500 hectares of fishing and mangrove areas are reclaimed for the construction of the aerotropolis.

Scientists and environmentalists said the reclamation will bring intense flooding in the coastal and low-lying areas of Bulacan and other areas and will destroy an environment important to the sustainability of fish production in the entire Manila Bay.

No environmental compliance certificate has been issued for the airport project but SMC contractor Silvertides Holdings has secured an ECC for a “land development” project.

“They kept on saying that it’s only a land development project that will not affect the coastal areas, marine bodies and mangrove forest. This is a full blanket denial,” Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said in October last year.

As of February, before the pandemic hit, the project was "on hold following issues that needed to be 'clarified' by the Department of Finance," state-run Philippine News Agency reported.

The report also quotes Transport Assistant Secretary Giovanni Lopez as saying the company would forfeit a P11-billion bond "if nothing happens during construction and they violate rules, agreements in the construction of the Bulacan airport."

NewsX: Fed by the waters

‘Inhumane’ move

Environmental groups slammed the reported move to uproot residents of the fishing communities at a time when the country is battling the coronavirus disease pandemic.

“It is nothing short of inhumane, especially in the time of pandemic. The aerotropolis reclamation project will leave them with nothing, aside from the further ecological damage in Manila Bay and the intensified flooding it poses on other coastal communities,” Lia Alonzo, Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines executive director, told Philstar.com.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already sickened 27,799 in the Philippines, with 1,116 deaths. The lockdowns imposed to stem the spread of the virus caused the country’s economy to contract for the first time in 22 years and left 7.3 million people unemployed in April.

Dulce said the company "dangled crumbs for compensation instead of unconditional humanitarian aid" to the community.

"They took advantage of the fisherfolk growing hungry and jobless amid the economic crisis caused by COVID-19," Dulce said.

Although fisherfolk are allowed out during the quarantine—they and other agricultural workers are considered essential workers—quarantine measures still pose a challenge in transporting and selling their catch. The suspension of operations of many businesses like restauranrs has also lowered demand.

RELATED: Gov't urged to ensure protection of fishers, farmers from impacts of COVID-19

Last September, SMC president and COO Ramon Ang said those who will be relocated will be given land and money to build their own homes. They would also be given sources of livelihood.

“Napakaliit na halaga [nung P250,000]. At anong mangyayari eh araw araw silang gumagastos dahil walang hanapbuhay, lockdown ngayon. Di man lang nila sinaalang-alang, alam naman nilang may pandemya,” Bacon lamented.

([The P250,000] is such a small amount. And what will happen since they have to spend each day because there is no livelihood during the lockdown. They could have showed compassion, they know there is a pandemic now)

 CEC and Kalikasan PNE challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to make good of his promise not to allow reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

“We demand President Rodrigo Duterte to take action on his promise not to allow reclamation in Manila Bay by making an example out of San Miguel's Aerotropolis. The Duterte administration must impose a moratorium on the Aerotropolis and all other land reclamation projects in Manila Bay,” Dulce said.

Photo essay: Home is where the coast is

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