Election time is dangerous everywhere in Mindanao, but it is the aftereffects that the people of Dipolog, a small city on the northern coast of the Zamboanga peninsula, are most afraid of. In order to bring in more tourism, the newly elected City officials have decided to extend a public oceanfront area called “The Boulevard”. The main problem being that thousands of families currently live and make their livelyhoods along that shore. We went to over ten Barangays (neighborhoods) and interviewed the people who were facing displacement, some of whom had lived on that “government land” for over 60 years. There has been no official relocation site chosen, but it will almost certainly be in the countryside, forcing many of the fishermen to completely adapt to a new trade. Many of the people we talked to are simply resigned to the fact that their homes will be destroyed. They are afraid that causing to much of a fuss will create problems for them in the future. “What can we do? The government has control of this land, so we cannot argue.”
However many of the communities have been victims of demolition before, and know their rights. “It is against the constitution of the Philippines that this can happen. We have already been relocated once and the only compensation that the government gave us was 1,000 pisos (roughly $20 US) per family. We fought last time but were too few, but this time we will be organized. This time we will tell all the people that they have the right to defend the land. We were placed here 20 years ago, they cannot force us to move again.”
We even spoke to a Barangay councilman, who as a representative of the small government was at a loss of what to do. Luckily Gabriella Women’s Group and ACT Teachers Party, the organizations that hosted us in Dipolog, are dedicated to helping to organize and educate the people so that they can all come together and understand that they do not suffer alone. There are hundreds of other families facing the exact same thing, and if the come together, they can defend their rights.
The people united will never be defeated.