“All we need right after the fire tragedy is speedy government support and economic aid. We don’t want to be displaced from our community because it means taking us away from our sources of livelihood.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Afternoon of April 5 in Bacoor, Cavite, south of Manila, was summer dry and hot. A few bystanders and small shopkeepers near St. Dominic’s College and hospital at a junction pointed to the thick curling column of black smoke from a huge fire happening in their town at the time, and nodded knowingly, “it was most likely burned down deliberately.”
The fire was at Maliksi III village in Bacoor, Cavite, a coastal community along Manila Bay, home to fisherfolk and urban poor families, part of the five coastal villages covering 800-hectares targeted for an eco-tourism project by the local government starting from the time of former Mayor Strike Revilla.
After the fire, a total of 476 families or 2,157 individuals lost their homes. The Alyansa ng mga Mandaragat sa Bacoor Cavite (ALYANSA), a local chapter of national fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA, appealed for immediate relief for the fire victims, saying they were left with nothing but the clothes they wore.
But even as they were starting to examine the smoking debris of their former homes and calling for immediate relief from the government, its local officials visited them the following day and tried to convince them to return to their provinces or go to relocation sites.
In a report, the local chapter of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) said the local government of Bacoor is offering them cash assistance if they agree to return to their respective provinces or to a relocation site that is still undefined.
Myran Candinato, President of Alyansa ng mga Mandaragat sa Bacoor Cavite (ALYANSA) and a resident of Maliksi III, expressed dismay at the local government’s immediate response.
Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson, suspected that the fire was deliberate.
“Burning down a community has become the most natural, legal yet effective way to eject urban poor from their community to pave the way for either private or government projects,” Hicap said.
Urban poor based in Metro Manila have reported similar “fishy” incidences of fire that facilitated the eviction of urban poor from their communities. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=wDTVDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA296&lpg=PA296&dq=fire+kadamay&source=bl&ots=Pw2e8odQec&sig=GjIOQ70Dzry7VsNZftDyFEA6lQQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiu6qCX_ZPTAhXDp5QKHXqYCcMQ6AEINDAE#v=onepage&q=fire%20kadamay&f=false
Both Candinato and Hicap continued to request aid in relief and rehabilitation for the affected fisherfolk and urban poor. They also expressed an intention to resist the government’s seeming no-build zone in their former residences.
They urged other Maliksi III residents not to fall for the government’s “decoy” about the community being in a danger zone, and not to believe the said justification for driving them to their home provinces or to yet unnamed relocation sites.
The affected residents of Maliksi III have lived in the area for years now. According to Hicap, they were thrust there because they are fisherfolk and poor settlers who had been displaced by reclamation projects in other coastal communities.
Instead of driving away these poor fisherfolk and settlers to places unknown, the Pamalakaya is urging the Duterte administration and the local government to help them with “concrete livelihood support” instead so they could continue supporting themselves and contributing to the economy.
“All we need right after the fire tragedy is speedy government support and economic aid. We don’t want to be displaced from our community because it means taking us away from our sources of livelihood,” Candinato said.