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Opportunity Gained or Lost?

The year 2015 witnessed major policy changes that govern human activities in the context of increasing global temperature. It was the time when major issues on environmental degradation and the need for sustainability were discussed. One of the policies that emerged was the new climate regime that would replace the Kyoto Protocol. And what made it to be the burning issue in the tug of war of interests that happened during the negotiation was the framework itself of the agreement that would determine actions of all states. One of the popular calls then was that of Loss and Damage which obliges industrialized countries to increase their target of carbon emission cut relative to developing nations and shell out fund for adaptation efforts by virtue of their historical accountability for being the major polluters. It was however the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution that was later agreed upon with the provision that target for carbon emission cut lies at the discretion of the government and global cut is pegged to a conservative figure of less than 2 degrees Celsius.

In the case of Philippine, what might be considered as one remarkable development in the whole sustainability trend was the amendment on the 17-year old fisheries law. The pressure point however did not come from the sector itself that has long called for its review for its failure to address poverty in coastal communities but from the intergovernmental organization and economic bloc that is the European Union (EU). Specific to its demands, EU wanted to put up traceability mechanism to fishery products entering its market to make sure they were not caught by any means of destructive fishing method. Should the Philippines fail to comply, trade sanctions will be imposed. With the export industry taken hostage, it did not take both Houses of Congress too long to pass the proposed amendments and for this reason stakeholders felt that they were disenfranchised. Yet amidst the reservations of civil society organizations and even commercial fishing giants, the proposed amendments on R.A. 8550 still pushed through and its new implementing rules and regulations was finally signed.


What’s In and What’s Not

If one takes a closer look at the commitment submitted by the Philippine government to the United Nations, the country targeted a 70% greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction by the year 2030. This target is said to be achieved by cutting carbon emission coming specifically from the energy, transport, water, forestry, and industry sectors. The Commission on Climate Change under the Office of the President has yet to release its specific plans and programs on how the country will go about reaching its set target. It is however mentioned already by the Commission in its press releases that one critical factor in order for the Philippines to do its fair share is the availability of resources and technical assistance. The Commission has not articulated yet how adaptive and resiliency efforts would translate to marginalized groups and communities most vulnerable to risks.

With regard to the provisions of the new fisheries law, among its salient points is the installment of vessel monitoring system for commercial fishing fleet, increased penalty for violations, the establishment of an adjudication board to settle cases, and the setting of a reference point for the purpose of determining allowable fish catch. As much as it is claimed to be revolutionary the fact is there is no single provision in the amendment that promotes modernization of the sector, worst maintaining its backward given the absence of commitment for support industry, subsidy on boats and fishing gears, and safe settlement, among others. It is one thing that we are re-opening the issue of ensuring fair access to the sea and the market and resource management efforts but for an ordinary fisherfolk appreciation on the amendments may prove different.


Rethinking our Strategies

We have learned from years of advocacy that no matter how small policy gain is it still opens opportunities for incremental change. Notwithstanding this fact however is the danger that the fisherfolk sector might have been losing more than what it is presumed to get due to the absence of critical reforms that should have been lobbied in the first place. It is the case when we are so locked up with bureaucratic processes and unnecessary eloquences that we forget the most basic concerns of the sector. Moreover, in the case presented by the amendments on R.A. 8550 and the commitment of the Philippine government to reduce carbon emission, we could have maximized the democratic spaces of engagement to truly advance the interests of the sector. While we may not have felt the fatigue of doing advocacy yet that’s why we settle for protracted but assured gains, we should take in mind that the everyday struggle that is being experienced by the sector continues to intensify and worsen. It is as if we have been waging the wrong battle for the longest time.


Article written by Mr. Erlo Matorres

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Letter to BFAR on CNFIDP (2016-2020)

January 25, 2016

Undersecretary for Fisheries
Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

Dear Atty. Asis,

Greetings of Peace!

First of all, we would like to commend your good office in facilitating the timely review and updating of the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP), which underwent into consultations among major stakeholders. We believe that the CNFIDP is an effective planning tool that shall guide the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in its policy issuances and program interventions for the next five years.

However, based on our own assessment of the updated CNFIDP, we found several observations that we hope your good office can take into consideration. These are as follows:

a. On Capture Fisheries. Annual fish production targets of 1% increase in municipal capture fisheries and 5% increase in commercial capture fisheries should be informed by the results of scientific assessments. We are cautious that with the declining trend in catch landings and catch per unit effort for both sub-sectors, we would not be able to meet these targets. The National Stock Assessment Program yielded results that 10 out of the 13 fishing grounds in the country are already heavily exploited.

As for the commercial fisheries sub-sector, we take notice that in order to increase its production, new fishing grounds shall be identified and opened, including those areas within the 10.1-15 kilometer municipal waters. We always believe in the preferential use of municipal waters by the municipal fisherfolk and the conservation and fisheries management objectives of delineating the 15-kilometer municipal waters. Moreover, we fear that this may lead to intense conflict between competing resource users as most of them go after same small pelagic fish species.

b. On Aquaculture. Aquaculture productivity, excluding seaweeds, is likewise in declining trend. The country’s aquaculture industry is plagued by challenges ranging from weak research and development to dependency of fry sources from imports. Too much attention is given to species such as tilapia, bangus and few high value species such as pompano and snapper. Whereas, we can always extend support to other culture fish species. Unlike the Philippines, China, Japan and Vietnam have more than 40 farmed fish species.

Given these challenges, we would like to underscore our key recommendations, namely:

1. Formulate and implement Rebuilding and Recovery plans. Given that our fishing grounds are in desperate need of resuscitation, we recommend for BFAR to develop and implement rebuilding and recovery plans for important small pelagic species including sardines, galunggong, anchovies, mackerel, lapu-lapu, matambaka, maya-maya, blue swimming crabs, tuna and tuna-like species, to name a few. We believe that by focusing on small pelagic species, we prevent the collapse of Philippine fisheries and eventual food crisis that this entails. By using the best available data, Harvest Control Rules and Reference Points should have been determined for specific fish species and fishing grounds.

2. Protect key life stages of fish species. We believe that by minimizing catch of juveniles will improve productivity of fishing grounds. Protecting spawning population and their habitats shall likewise yield positive outcomes. We understand that BFAR has claimed the positive impacts of closed season particularly in Zamboanga Peninsula. However, ‘closed season’ is only one of the several fisheries management tools that BFAR should consider. The viability of establishment of Marine Protected Area networks that resulted in improved fish catch and protection from marine biodiversity losses is widely documented.

3. Protect the preferential rights given to municipal fisherfolk. As we all know, the municipal fisherfolk are considered to be the poorest of the poor. Poverty reduction, we agree, should be one of the desired outcomes of the CNFIDP. Thus, we would like to emphasize key issues that we hope the CNFIDP should have articulated in details such as the establishment of fisherfolk settlement areas, the completion of municipal water delineation of municipalities without offshore islands since there is a pending case in Supreme Court for areas with offshore islands, the establishment of women managed area as well as provisions on capacity building for fisheries management and sustainable livelihoods.

4. Improve fishery governance. We understand the limitations of BFAR as a regulatory institution that is mandated to address challenges as complex as our fisheries. Thus, we set equally high premium to improvement on fishery governance through intensive capacity building not only to BFAR’s personnel but also to local government units particularly on fisheries management, fishery law enforcement including strengthening environmental courts to become effective in marine-related cases. We likewise look forward to the establishment of functional adjudication board. We also reiterate our call for DA-BFAR to convene a scientific advisory committee that shall assist the National Fisheries Resources Development Institute (NFRDI) in technical research and assessments, among others.

5. Improve and implement traceability mechanism. We hope that the CNFIDP should have laid out a clear plan to establish a traceability mechanism that is transparent and socially equitable. We would like to suggest the review, updating and implementation of Administrative Circular-251, that provided guidelines on traceability of fishery products in the Philippines.

These are some of the few recommendations that the civil society organizations would like to put forward. We hope that they would be taken into consideration in the updated CNFIDP.

As we have proven in several occasions such as the lobbying for the passage of Republic Act 10654, which amended the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, the formulation of Department Administrative Order 10, series of 2015, which provided for the implementing rules and regulations of RA 10654 and the consultations on CNFIDP, we express our willingness to work together with BFAR to achieve sustainable fisheries in the country.


Mr. Dennis F. Calvan
Executive Director
NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Inc.


Center for Empower and Resource Development, Coastal Core, Inc., Greenpeace, Haribon Foundation, Institute of Social Order, MAPAGPALA, Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Inc., Oceana-Philippines, Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda sa Pilipinas (PANGISDA), PUMALU-MV, Tacloban Fisherfolk Urban Association, Tambuyog Development Center, WWF-Philippines

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Fisherfolk Settlement Discussed in Region 8

Ownership, consultation and lack of clarity in the beneficiaries’ criteria were the major concerns of the fisherfolk leaders who attended the consultation on the proposed Department Administrative Order by the National Anti-Poverty Commission for the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’Fisherfolk Settlement for Stewardship Program last December 17 2015. There were just 3 of the 5 concerns and recommendations raised by 25 fisherfolk and community leaders from MacArthur, Palo and Tacloban City in Leyte as well as fromMarabut and Basey, Samar who were present during the consultation.

 Fisherfolk Settlement consultation-pic 1

During the consultation, the status of the Fisherfolk Settlement program, the Admin Order Draft supporting the said program as well as its featured highlights, was presented to the community and fisherfolk leaders in order to inform them as well as to consult them for their feedbacks and recommendations on the said administrative order. A forum was then opened and facilitated by Mr. ErloMatorres of NFR for the stakeholders to express their concerns, suggestions and recommendation about the administrative order.

 fisherfolk settlement consultation-pic 3

Majority of the concerns expressed by the fisherfolk were about why they should be paying when they never really get to own their settlement and their land, why the government would be shelling money for the land when the land they need is already provided by the LGU, the need for beneficiaries to take part in and be consulted in the identification of the resettlement sites as well as the administrative order’s lack of specific criteria for who gets to be a beneficiary of the said program. The stakeholders on the other hand, suggested and recommended that options for tenurial security on the part of the beneficiaries should be explored, that there should be at least be a certificate of occupancy for the beneficiaries if they do not get to own their settlement, that the beneficiaries get to take part in the construction of the settlement instead of contractors as counterpart and that the beneficiaries should also be involved in choosing the settlement area so they get to see if it is safe while at the sametime making their fishing areas accessible.

After the consultation the stakeholders present drafted and signed a letter expressing their concerns about and support for the draft Administrative Order as well as their support for the Fisherfolk Settlement Program.

Article written by Ms. Hannah Hipe

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Community Leaders, DENR, BFAR Convene for Hazard Zoning in Tacloban City

Last December 18, 2015, stakeholders from the coastal communities in Tacloban City and the Regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 8 assembled to discuss the implementation of the Joint Memorandum Circular – 01, series of 2014, entitled Adoption of Hazard Zone Classification in Areas Affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and Providing Guidelines for Activities Therein.

Through the activity, the stakeholders agreed to consult people at the barangay level on how they can creatively teach and engage people in the roll out of the JMC; to consider the historical evidence of natural hazards that have occurred in the areas marked in the hazard maps to help people understand what the maps are for and to integrate the hazard map in the process of establishment of resettlement sites for fisherfolk.

Pic 2-December 18Pic 1-December 18

Article written by Ms. Hannah Hipe

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Fact Finding Mission on Yolanda

Now two years passed since typhoon Yolanda hit most part of the Visayas, the status for most of the survivors is still far from okay. The immediate needs identified by the survivors themselves at the start of the rehabilitation work by the government remain unresolved up to this day. One that may be considered as common sentiment for those affected by the disaster is the provision on permanent housing. However, based on the report of the National Housing Authority (NHA) presented before the House Special Committee on Climate Change, as of October 22, 2015, of the 205 128 housing needs for 12 provinces affected by the typhoon Yolanda, only 3424 has been completed. In the case of Tacloban City, for example, the progress is very slow with only 660 completed permanent housing units against the 14 433 total identified by the local government. This rather stagnant pace of response had been met with much criticisms coming from different outfits yet, and frustratingly, it seems to appear now that everyone else’s from both the local and national government had already shifted mode to business as usual. In addition, the overwhelming media mileage typhoon Yolanda enjoyed before is now caught in great fatigue and was reduced to a rather symbolic, sensationalized, annual commemoration.

MSFFMIYAC design 1

The NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) has long been involved with the issues besetting the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected communities especially in coastal areas. It has especially documented peculiarities of the fishers regarding what intervention might be acceptable for them. It is through this advocacy of consultative solution that led the organization to conduct a Fact Finding Mission with the objective to keep track of any development and emerging issues now that a significant amount of time has lapsed. The municipalities covered by this rapid study were Tacloban City, Palo, Basey, Marabut, Tanauan, Guiuan, Salcedo, and Mercedes. Together with the other members of the civil society, NFR developed one discussion guide for both key informant interview (KII) with local government officials and focus group discussion (FGD) with the different sectors. The discussion guide mainly touches the following points: (1) knowledge about the government policy on Safe Zones, Unsafe Zones and No Dwelling Zones or better known as the No Build Zone, (2) knowledge on how the local government implemented the policy, (3) perception on the policy whether they agree with it or not, (4) to know whether there have been any consultation conducted on the policy and on resettlement and livelihood, (5) to know whether there have been cases of displacement and disruption to livelihood due to enforcement, if any, of the policy, and (6) recommendations to further improve the policy.


It is important to stress out from this point that there were no consultations conducted by the government on the policy on Safe, Unsafe Zones, and No Dwelling Areas or still referred to by the communities as the 40 Meters No Build Zone. The basic understanding of the FGD participants in the nine municipalities on the policy is its prohibition on having their houses from being fixed if it happens to be located within the 40 meters reference point. They said that this policy only came about right after the typhoon Yolanda hit. When asked from whom they learned this information, all they can think of are the markers put up by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). They have always heard of that the reason for the 40 Meters No Build Zone is to keep them away from the dangers of flooding, river overflow, and storm surges. In the case of Brgy. 83-A and Brgy. 88 in Tacloban City, local officials presented to them hazard maps and pointed out that areas marked in red are the danger zones. Notwithstanding its worth, residents of the two barangays found hard time locating exactly their dwellings in the maps. It then came to our knowledge that the reason for the disjunction is that the hazard maps of Tacloban City only got a 1:10000 resolution or one that has a city-wide view instead of an area-specific.

Except in some selected barangays in Tacloban City, no one really from the local government explained to the communities anything about danger zones. Rather, large chunk of information dissemination and awareness on risks was shouldered by non-government organizations (NGOs) as the participants in Guiuan revealed. Apart from preventing people from rebuilding their houses, FGD participants closely associate No Build Zone to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DWSD) Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) Program which amounts to Php30000 for totally damaged houses and Php15000 for those with partially damaged. According to them, the same policy was used by DSWD to deprive many survivors of the cash grant. This is because after typhoon Yolanda hit, due to the absence of housing alternative then and even until now, most people returned to their original dwellings to rebuild their houses–only to find out later that some of these areas have already been categorized to be No Build Zone. This selective giving of assistance is very evident in Tacloban City and Marabut but not in other municipalities. In Salcedo, those living within the 40 meters where just made to sign a waiver in order for them to claim the money.


It was only the local government of Tacloban City which passed an ordinance to enforce the government policy of 40 Meters No Build Zone. According to FGD participants in Brgy. 83-A, though there was no any case of forced relocation that has happened yet, an impending one has already been set before the year ends. If this proves to be true, residents of Brgy. 88 said that this will have big impact on dangit production since they contribute more than 60% to its total yearly production.

Instead of a hard-line enforcement of the policy, what may be considered as subtle imposition of the 40 Meters No Build Zone was the relocation made by the nine local government units (LGUs) –Guiuan has1000 transitional shelters in Brgy. Cogon and 600 permanent housing units in Brgy. Tagpuro, Salcedo has 107 transitional shelters in Brgy. Palanas and 79 in Brgy. Caga-ut, and Marabut has 148 transitional shelters in Brgy. Mabukali. These housing units were mostly sponsored by NGOs and it is because of this fact that FGD participants in Mercedez and Salcedo believe that they were the ones who in some way enforced the No Build Zone policy. They said that one condition before receiving either a transitional or permanent housing unit has been to agree to have it build beyond the 40 meters danger area. The case however is different in Palo for residents have successfully negotiated with NGOs to have their transitional shelters built from where they originally lived despite the presence of a river in the vicinity of barangays. On a different note but related to assistance giving, some participants in Mercedez pointed out that those survivors living on the hilly portion were only given tarpaulins.

Given the dynamics of NGOs, it is clear that majority of the survivors still live in transitional housing sites and not in permanent houses. One reason for this is that LGUs do not easily pass requirements of the National Housing Authority. The Municipal Planning and Development Officer of Salcedo shared that NHA disapproved their first endorsed site for permanent housing in Brgy. Palanas. In a different circumstance, Mercedez has still yet to confirm with NHA if the municipality was indeed included in its housing program.


The transfer of people to transitional and permanent relocation sites was said to be done on a voluntary basis and not because they were forced to. Participants who agreed to be transferred only did so because they do not have the money to rebuild their house. In particular to those in transitional relocation sites in Guiuan, they agreed to be relocated because it’s the only way they could get to permanent housing. However, they now have this feeling of insecurity brought about by whether they were really included in the beneficiary list for permanent housing or not. They too are not sure about the details of the relocation including when will be the houses finally completed and what will be the payment arrangement.

Regarding the beneficiaries of housing projects given by NGOs, the situation was not similar for everyone. Lucky were those whose NGOs answered both the housing and land purchase like what AMURT did with the 80 beneficiaries coming from barangays Hagnaya & Asgad in Salcedo. But for NGOs that could only finance the house itself and the LGU having no money to purchase land, the survivors were made to enter into a rent payment scheme. This was observed in both Mercedez and Salcedo wherein beneficiaries negotiated with the private landowner that they will just pay the rent for the portion of land that they will be using to establish their transitional house. It is said that rent ranges from Php50.00 to Php100.00 per month. In Brgy. Cambante in Mercedez, the female barangay captain generously allowed them to use her land for the establishment of transitional housing units.


As the case has been after the typhoon hit, survivors either transferred to transitional and permanent housing or just stayed in their former location. With these variants in terms of domicile, impact on livelihood and overall social being was asymmetric for everyone. Fishers of Brgy. 83-A in Tacloban City, Marabut, Tanauan, Salcedo, and Mercedez who did not agree to be relocated recorded no change in their livelihood. The same is true for the fishers of Palo who now continue to catch balanak, bangus, sardines, dilis, sugpo, hipon, alimasag, alimango, and gather various seashells including talaba, tuway, and susu in San Pedro Bay. However, they shared that the bay is now being flooded with illegal fishing activities including dynamite, troll, and hulbot hulbot fishing. Another problem faced by the fishers of Palo is that most of them have small boats and for those with bigger boats, though they could sail until 10 kilometers off the municipal water, they don’t have the appropriate fishing gears to catch fish. Further, they shared that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) only gave them plywood and nails to fix their damaged boats.

The case is different for those fishers who are now living in transitional relocation sites. In Guiuan, they now have to shell out additional Php30.00 transportation expense for a roundtrip tour back to their former location. This happens when they are to eat lunch in their houses in the resettlement site then go back to the shore again to continue fishing. One female participant whose source of income is through fish vending also has to spend on transportation expense — the amount depending on how many trips she has to make, which is influenced by the request/demand of her loyal patrons. This trend has also been observed in Brgy. 88 in Tacloban City. In addition to transportation expense for livelihood reason, they now also need to spend extra money for transportation in sending their children to school. One female participant in Brgy. 88 shared that she has to spendPhp100.00 in sending her child to school. Participants from Brgy. 88 also mentioned of the relatively higher price of basic commodities in resettlement sites. There was also this case in Brgy. 88 wherein a fisherfolk father who returned to the barangay to earn living found a new partner while his wife and children are in the relocation site.


The residents of Brgy. 88 in Tacloban City firmly said that they are not in favor with the No Build Zone policy. One major consideration weighed in for this decision is livelihood with them being mostly fishers and Brgy. 88 is situated near Cancabato Bay. Despite the standing municipal ordinance on No Build Zone, majority opted to build shanties in their original dwelling location. If the concern is on safety, they said that they would just evacuate during typhoon since PAGASA has means to predict its date of landfall. And though relocation sites are indeed free from any threat of storm surge and flooding, they reasoned out that they are just gonna die in starvation there. They proposed that instead of relocating them to the northern, remote part of Tacloban City, on-site housing with tenurial security must be given. Relocation is also seen not as an option for the FGD participants in Palo. They said that only twice did it happen when rivers in barangays and this was not during storm surge brought by Yolanda. Moreover, when asked if they are willing to shift livelihood, the answer was not. They also raised concern whether the new environment that will be introduced to them would be as peaceful as where they are currently living.

Community (3) in BaseyThe rest of the participants from the nine municipalities cannot entirely say that they too are in favor with the policy for they have reservations. If relocation should not be avoided, all they wanted is for the government to speed up the construction of permanent housings and provide them with sustainable livelihood. FGD participants would also like to ensure that the relocation sites are equipped with water and electricity connections, health center, church, market, and transportation service since most of these sites are far from municipal center. As long as there is no sure permanent housing, residents of Marabut would continue to stay in the No Build Zone areas because of livelihood concern. Residents of Guiuan pointed out that the row house designs of NHA are too small hence not really comfortable especially for large families and again raised doubt on why they should pay for the housing unit. And with the rather selective choosing of beneficiaries, FGD participants of Tanauan suggested for the government to have a credible, independent survey system. Another common sentiment shared by most is that if the government cannot provide permanent housing, they are fine with evacuation centers.

Article written by Mr. Erlo Matorres

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Roundtable Discussion on Resettlement In the Province of Eastern Samar

After the strongest typhoon Yolanda hit the world andbrought massive destructions in Eastern Samar and nearby regions, the  socio-economic,  and  political  governance  made  a  360  degree  turn  in  the said province.  The  towns hardest  hit  by  the  super  typhoon  are  revisiting  the  Municipal  Disaster  Risk  Reduction  and Management Plan (MDRRMP) and become a priority agenda of each mayor and LGU officials.

The  fishing  and  farming  communities  improve  their  livelihood  either by  introducing  a  resilient  farm outputs  or  diversifying  their  livelihood  activities.  The community is also building their contingency plan, developing a community early warning system, or documenting local knowledge and practices in adapting climate change impacts.  While all these interventions are moving towards achieving a resilient province of Eastern Samar, howeverfar from the entire picture is the resettlement/housing for the internally displaced  persons.  The National Housing Authority (NHA) targeted 4059 permanenthouses in 12 towns in Eastern Samar namely Lawaan, Balangiga, Giporlos, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes, Guiuan, Hernani, Gen. McArthur, Llorente, Balangkayan and Maydolongbut after 2 years, none of the housing units is turn over to the municipality or beneficiary.  As of the moment,  only  two  (2)  towns  started  the  construction;  Guiuan  is  targeting  281 permanent  houses  and  Balangkayan  at  349  units  but  another  3768  units  waiting  for  the  funding support. On the recent Tacloban resettlement forum held in Leyte Park hotel last July 22, Marilyn Lauzon narrated that NHA commitment in Eastern Samar is still at zero percentage. The resettlement is far from the target and the people are waiting inside their temporary-transitional shelters for a modest, safer, humane permanent houses. Thus, the state obligation to the IDPs to come-up space for them to participate, the LGUs and NGAs collaboration on the shelter program, the INGOS and CSO support are urgent need to fast tract the resettlement commitment in the province.

With this, Oxfam-Guiuan initially planned to convene a Provincial Resettlement Forumwhich later turned to Eastern Samar Round-table Discussion (RTD) on Resettlement which was held in Hotel Doña Vicenta, Borongan City last October 23, 2015.It was attended by more than 50 participants from the local government officials and IDPs from the 12 identified municipalities. The event was in cooperation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of Region 8 together with NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Inc. (NFR). Bringing-in all the stakeholders on the resettlement issues, the gathering provided a clearer picture of resettlement issues and the challenges in the province. Prior to the roundtable discussion, the event started with the municipal level consultations on the identified municipalities to thresh out community and LGU level issues. The results were presented during the forum as part of the context setting. The municipal level challenges, ways forward, and recommendations were consolidated and relayed to the relevant government agencies present during the event. The gathering include the following objectives:

a.  bring-in in one space all the IDPs challenges and ways-forward on the resettlement issues generated during the municipal level consultations;

b.   influence the NGAs to achieve a safer, humane, safe solutions in the resettlement;

c.  provide a mechanism on the ground in monitoring the resettlement progress;

d.  bridge the working relation amongst the community, LGU, NGAs, CSO, and INGOs.

However, the primary objective to present the consolidated challenges, ways-forward and recommendations of the 12 municipalities was partly not able to realize due to the limited time of the team to conduct municipal consultations in some of the 12 identified municipalities. Nevertheless, Christian Salamida of NFR presented the generated results of the three municipal consultations conducted in Guiuan, Mercedes and Salcedo, Eastern Samar. Common issues and challenges appeared such as the delay of identification of permanent relocation sites, tedious and costly process of land acquisition despite mandatory implementation of AO 44, poor implementation of the AO 44 to fast-track relocation processes, lack of technical guidance on setting up Local Inter-Agency Committee as a space for active engagement of IDPs, the need to access safe water and sanitation, to build a sustainable livelihood and to provide education for their children. Meanwhile, a workshop was done to let other municipalities identify their issues and challenges and the corresponding solution or recommendation on resettlement. Presentation of the outputs came next. However, thisplaced everyone to a question: What’s next after this? Herewith, Oxfam disclosed for a possibility to have a round two resettlement integrated forum.

Meantime, the right question is: What can we do now? Through collective actions from different sectors such as local government units, national government agencies, local non-government organizations, INGOs, and UN agencies, the challenges in the resettlement programs for the Yolanda-affected areas can be addressed through:

  Land use plans must integrate hazards & vulnerability mapping.

  People must not transfer to permanent relocation sites without clear safe and unsafe zones

identified and cleared by Mines and GeoSciences Bureau.

  Evacuation centers must be a priority.

  Complement the financial support for local authorities from the Philippine government, with

transparent procedures for relocation and adherence to standard qualities.

  Passage and localization of national land use policy.

Truly, it is crucial that displaced families should participate in planning process in the different levels in all the relocation issues. Without participation from the people, it can lead to unfulfilled rights which can eventually trigger the failure of the entire relocation project.

Article written by Mr. Christian Jason Salamida

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