MANILA, Dec. 18, 2014 — A Church official in charge of helping survivors of typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) get back on their feet expresses dismay over the alleged “disaster capitalism” happening in disaster-hit areas of Iloilo.
In a recent discussion, NASSA/Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez revealed that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) framework under the government’s rehabilitation program in typhoon-affected areas is being used by big corporations for their own benefit.
Big corporations to 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,” the priest shared.
Gariguez cited as example the recent land-grabbing case in the Sicogon Island in Carles, Iloilo where 1,300 families, roughly 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 “first Boracay” into a plush tourism destination.
The priest noted 250 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 it.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Gariguez mentioned attempts by SIDECO to derail the CARP implementation by filing criminal cases against members of the Federation of Sicogon Farmers and Fisherfolks Association (FESIFFA) like robbery, grave coercion, attempted homicide, arson, among others.
According to him, besides lands covered by CARP, SIDECO also wanted control of public forest lands, declaring them home to “critically endangered species”, thus barring people from building houses there.
“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.
A joint venture between FESIFFA and SIDECO to reach a compromise agreement allotting 30 hectares for residential site and provide livelihood projects worth P38 million to FESIFFA members is underway.
Gariguez explained several provisions of the agreement were vague and one-sided as FESIFFA members had to withdraw all agrarian reform claims to give way to the development.
He stressed the mode of transfer of the land title through a deed of donation is also vague, given that the residential site being proposed is only 30 hectares as opposed to the 335 hectares under CARP.
“The conditions imposed in this agreement are susceptible to abuse and leaves FESIFFA at the mercy of SIDECO and Ayala,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/NASSA/Caritas Philippines/CBCP News)