‘No alternatives to Tide Embankment Project?’
(Continued from yesterday)
TACLOBAN CITY—Christopher Durana, provincial chairperson of Baskug Han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga No Build Zone or Bakhawan, has questioned the rushing of the P7.9-billion Tide Embankment Project or TEP here.
Durana, who said he personally saw the storm surges created by Typhoon “Yolanda” three years ago, said the planned 27-kilometer-long, four-meter-high seawall is not enough to stop any catastrophe. He added it will also destroy food security for the residents and lessen the income of the fisherfolk.
He was also surprised why the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau Region 8 issued an environmental compliance certificate for the project when there were no in-depth discussions and scientific models made by the government.
He pointed out there were also no alternatives to the Tide Embankment Project offered by the Department of Public Works and Highways outside of its present framework.
DPWH promised to shelter affected households, but for local fisherman Christian Apostol, Durana, and many other residents of the coastal barangays, the resettlement sites will make them lose their main livelihood.
The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council estimated a one-percent occupancy rate and the phenomenon of relocated residents returning to government-declared “no dwelling zones.”
Marina Duran, 48, of Barangay 90 here, said she is not against the project, as long as the government fast-tracks the relocation site.
“Waray na kami mahimo, waray na kami liwat choice nandiyan na ‘yan. Pero, nadiri kami liwat nga matikangan iton pagtrabaho iton na tide embankment kon waray kami klaro nga babalhinan [We can’t do anything, we don’t have a choice, it’s there now. But the tide embankment will affect our livelihood if there is no immediate relocation site],” she pointed out.
Barangay Councilor Ronilo Duran of Barangay 90 said DPWH officials consulted them and explained the purpose of the project to the residents. “At first, residents were against it, but now they’re for it because they have been enlightened,” he said. “Some of them are opposed because they’d have to travel farther for their livelihood.”
Duran said the affected families will be compensated by the government depending on the type of house they own that would be demolished to give way to the seawall.
The relocation of the families, he added, will trigger the merger of their barangay with Barangay 89. Most of the 1,100 households in Barangay 90 were relocated to Barangay Tagpuro.
The Tide Embankment Project will cover 43 barangays in Tacloban, Palo and Tanauan, and aims to provide storm-surge protection to 33,185 houses and buildings, according to data from the Center for Environmental Concerns.
Geoscientists Kelvin Rodolfo and Narod Eco said the project “dangerously underestimates” the storm surge of “Yolanda” in terms of heights and return periods. They also urged the government to make a “holistic project” that will benefit both the environment and the people.
“The TEP must be able to carefully factor in social, economic and environmental concerns,” Rodolfo said. “We stand that in mitigating the impacts of natural calamities or reducing risk of disasters… projects for affected communities and the public must be done with due diligence.”
“We challenge the Duterte administration to save taxpayers’ money, stop the defective TEP and heed the ‘Yolanda’ survivors’ clamor for alternative approaches to address their well-being,” Eco added.
As for Christian Apostol, the 21-year-old who still has to earn his living from the sea, he said if only the government implements a holistic project that considers the well-being of the people and the protection of Mother Nature, his hopes will not be hindered by his own hometown’s Great Wall.