Senator Manny Pacquiao with his Pacman Village in the background. (Photo courtesy by Filipino Times)
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Reacting to the government’s plan to relocate residents in coastal communities severely affected by the recent onslaught of super typhoon Odette (international name Rai), MP3 Alliance presidential aspirant Manny Pacquiao has reminded the authorities to ensure the safety of typhoon victims-relocatees and ample access to livelihood and regular subsistence opportunities.
Expressing agreement to an earlier decision by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to restrict residents in areas hit by Odette from rebuilding their old communities, the incumbent senator noted that it would be important for the government to make sure that the new relocation sites to be provided for calamity-affected families, who are mostly fisherfolk, would not deny them means of livelihood such proximity to fishing grounds where they can harvest marine resources for their food source and income.
In a statement, Pacquiao enthused that government should have already learned from the lessons of previous super typhoons, including Odette, that has caused widespread destruction and loss of lives so that proper guidelines may be set in place in the rebuilding of homes designed to withstand natural calamities including floods, landslides, and super strong winds.
“Naniniwala ako na ang nagsisimula ang maayos na lipunan sa maayos na tahanan. Kaya naman sa halip na basta na lamang tayo magtayo ng relocation, kailangan nating tiyakin na maayos at ligtas ang kanilang malilipatan at hindi sila mawawalan ng kanilang kabuhayan,” the People’s Champ pointed out.
Realizing the importance of shelter to the lives of millions of Filipinos, particularly those from the marginalized sectors, Pacquiao has already built five housing subdivisions called Pacman Villages in General Santos City and Sarangani Province since 2005. Houses here were distributed to needy families for free and were financed by the Pinoy boxing icon’s personal funds.
Meanwhile, to explain his belief that typhoon victims should be relocated to areas provided with livelihood opportunities, Pacquiao stressed to the authorities that most coastal communities rely on the bounties of the sea for their livelihood so to transfer them too far up inland would make it very difficult for them to make a living thus making life even worse for them and their families.
“Maganda itong layunin ng DENR. Kailangan talaga nating ilipat ang mga nasalanta sa mga mas ligtas na lugar. Ang pakiusap ko lang, yung mga nasa coastal communities ay mailipat sa mga lugar na ligtas ngunit maaari pa rin silang makapangisda. Huwag nating ipagkait ang dagat dahil ito ang bumubuhay sa kanila. Hindi lang ligtas na tirahan ang kailangan nila kundi maayos din na hanapbuhay,” Pacquiao explained.
The presidential aspirant, who has also worked as a hand for fisherfolks in Sarangani in his youth, added that the sea is a source of life for many fisherfolks living in coastal communities and it sustains them all year round with enough marine bounty to survive the worst of situations.
“Denying them access to their livelihood would only force them to go back to their old homes,” he said.
As a final word, the boxer-turned-lawmaker emphasized that instead of moving typhoon victims and affected families further inland, the government should just relocate them to areas that are still accessible to the coastlines and help them as well in building houses that are designed to be disaster-resilient.