Zamboanga mayor: We respect Badjao needs, culture
MANILA, Philippines – Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco on Monday, April 21, refuted allegations by rights advocates that the city government is being insensitive in relocating the Badjao to the mountains when they need to live by the sea.
The city government, fully respecting the needs and cultural practices of the Badjao, gave internally displaced persons (IDPs) the freedom to decide on where they want to be relocated, the mayor said in a press conference.
“We have spoken with the Sama Dilaut community and our commitment, even that of the national government, is to build back better and bring them back closer if not possible to the areas of origin,” Climaco said.
The Badjao or Sama Dilaut community, known as sea gypsies, are only a few of the thousands of residents who lost their homes when the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked Zamboanga in September 2013. For the Badjao, to be relocated in a mountain was an insult to them and their culture. (READ: Zambo crisis: The fog of war)
Support for the Badjao
The local chief executive said she met with the Association of Badjaos when she attended a two-day training in Singapore for possible assistance to the local community. She also requested help from the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID) in doing a comprehensive study for the Badjao's livelihood security.
“It is very important to be culturally sensitive to them. This study will be for specific groups of people particularly the Badjao community, the Tausugs, and all others affected so we can really go down to where they come from and cater to their needs,” Climaco added.
Zamboanga City rehabilitation chief Rodrigo Sicat said the local government always the needs of their people. The local government earlier purchased a 4-hectare land near the shoreline in Talon-talon as a temporary relocation site for the IDPs. The host barangay, however, declined the move.
Climaco clarified that she’s relocating them to other places away from the RT Lim Boulevard, one of the city’s prime landmark shorelines, because of the outbreak of diseases from the humid weather, vehicular traffic, and sanitation issues.
The local government had been offering better alternatives than the RT Lim Boulevard shoreline since the second week of April.
Local temporary shelter chief Elmeir Apolinario said the IDP movement was not met with any resistance. Around 77 families or 389 individuals transferred to the elementary schools, while others have chosen the other programs of the government, the “Balik Barangay” and “Balik Probinsya.”
Since the IDPs declined to move to Talon-talon, the local government purchased a 17-hectare land near the shoreline called Masepla, a former saltbed in Mampang, for the Badjao to settle in temporarily. There is a pending construction of permanent houses on stilts near their places of origin.
Like Climaco, Sicat reiterated that the local government values the Badjao's cultural practices, and the reports about their poorly-planned relocation to the mountains were not true. – Rappler.com
Danielle Factora is a Rappler intern from the University of Santo Tomas.