Sea gypsies relocated inland

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    Emmi de Jesus

    A party-list member of the House of Representatives sought on Tuesday a congressional inquiry on relocation to the mountain of “sea gypsies” known as Badjaos, who live on boats or stilt houses in the coastal areas of Zamboanga City.

    Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said hundreds of Badjao families, who lived all their lives on the sea, have been moved to the mountainous areas of Talungatong, Mampang and nearby villages, which were far from the sea.

    “The Badjaos cannot live in the mountains. It is the same as relocating mountain people to the sea. They will not survive,” De Jesus said in a resolution.

    The Badjaos earn a living by fishing, deep sea diving for pearls and seaweed farming. The lived along the coast of the barangays of Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo and Mariki, which have been listed as environmental protection areas.

    The City declared the Badjao communities as “no-build, no-return zones” after the rebel Moro National Liberation Front occupied the area in September 2013 and put up a stand against government troops. More than 200 people were killed and more than 100,000 displaced in almost one month of fighting.

    Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, co-author of the resolution, said the Badjaos were being prevented from returning to their homes and called for a probe into the report.

    The Badjaos were excluded in the government’s decision and were informed later regarding their relocation and resettlement, which was unfair, De Jesus said.

    She said cited the United Nations Guiding Principles on internal displacement, which states that “government are mandated to protect the displaced indigenous peoples, minorities, peasants and other groups with a special dependency on and attachment to their lands.”

    “The Philippine Constitution also stipulates ‘no resettlement of urban or rural dwellers shall be undertaken without adequate consultation with them and the communities where they are to be relocated,’” De Jesus said.

    International laws also recognize the right of the Badjaos, as internally displaced persons, to return to their homes as soon as the reason for their displacement ceased, De Jesus said.

    Resource: MST News