House to investigate relocation of sea people to mountainous area

TWO party-list lawmakers have sought an investigation on the relocation of Badjaos or sea gypsies to the mountainous area of Zamboanga City following the armed conflict between the government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the locality last year.

According to House Resolution 1409 of Party-list Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Rep. Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, hundreds of displaced Badjao families are being relocated to barangays  Tulungatong, Mampang and other villages far from the sea.

The resolution said that Badjaos in Zamboanga City live in boathouses or stilt houses in the coastal areas of Mariki and Rio Hondo, and earn a living mostly through fishing, deep-sea pearl diving and seaweed farming.

It added the displaced Badjao families were prohibited from returning to their homes and sources of livelihood after the local government of Zamboanga City declared certain parts of their villages as “no-build, no-return zones.”

The resolution also said barangays Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara, Rio Hondo and Mariki were included on the list of environmental protection areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas).

It added that the Badjaos cannot live in the mountains, “and it is the same as relocating the mountain people to the sea. They cannot survive too.”

The lawmakers said the displaced Badjao families were excluded in the decision-making process and were only informed later by the government authorities regarding their relocation and resettlement.

They said the Badjaos want to go back to Rio Hondo and Mariki.

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

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