December 11, 2014
An official from a commission under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that is currently focused on the rehabilitation of the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) expressed his dismay over the so-called “disaster capitalism” that is happening in a Yolanda-stricken area in Iloilo.
In a round table discussion in Quezon City on Thursday, NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez revealed how the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) framework under the government’s rehabilitation program to ‘Yolanda’ affected areas is being used by big corporations for their own benefit.
“There are reports of counter-reform reactionaries and greedy corporations taking advantage of the helpless and hapless situation of Yolanda farmer and fish folk victims, who are being eased out of their lands and domiciles to give way to new development projects such as resorts or bigger land consolidations of these predators. This is “disaster capitalism” in its ugliest form,” Fr. Gariguez said in dismay.
Fr. Gariguez cited as example the recent land grabbing case in the Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo wherein 1,300 families or 6,000 residents displaced by the super typhoon were prevented by big corporations from returning to their lands after the implementation of a 40-meter no build zone.
The Sicogon Development Corporation (SIDECO) plans to convert the 1,163-hectare island touted as the “Original Boracay” into a plush tourism destination.
Apparently, the priest said 250 of those families were rightful beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) as 43-percent of the total land area or 335 hectares is subject to CARP.
“NASSA/Caritas Philippines extended our emergency response to Sicogon by providing the communities with shelter materials so that they can replace the tarpaulin and have better transitional houses. But the local corporation/developer, SIDECO, harassed our staff and threatens to demolish the houses if we would not come to a confrontation dialogue that they set. The irony of this case is that SIDECO is the local partner of Ayala Corporation, which is also one of the major partners of OPARR (Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery) in its recovery program,” Fr. Gariguez added.
He also mentioned various attempts by SIDECO to derail the CARP implementation by filing various criminal cases against the members of the Federation of Sicogon Farmers and Fisherfolks Association (FESIFFA) such as robbery, grave coercion, attempted homicide and arson, among others.
He added that aside from the lands subject to CARP, SIDECO also wanted to gain control over the public forest lands by projecting it as home of ‘critically endangered species’ thus preventing people from building houses.
“This is a double whammy for our people who did not just lose their houses from the typhoon but also from big corporations who are taking advantage of the situation,” the priest lamented.
Currently, a joint venture between FESIFFA and SIDECO to reach a compromise agreement that will allocate 30 hectares for residential site and provide livelihood projects worth P38 million to FESIFFA members is underway.
Unfortunately, Gariguez said that several provisions of the agreement were vague and one-sided as FESIFFA members had to withdraw all of its agrarian reform claims to give way to the development.
The mode of transfer of the land title which is through a deed of donation is also vague, according to the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize awardee. This is apart from the fact that the residential site being proposed is only 30 hectares in oppose to the 335 hectares covered by CARP.
“The conditions imposed in this agreement are susceptible to abuse and leaves FESIFFA at the mercy of SIDECO and Ayala,” Gariguez concluded.
Jing Rey Henderson
Senior Communications Officer
(0905) 546-9977 / 525-1924