(First of a series)
TACLOBAN CITY—Every day at 3 a.m., Christian Apostol prepares his small boat and fishing gear for a tough voyage—on the seas to find food and money for his eight siblings.
The 21-year-old breadwinner stopped studying to become a full-time fisherman just like his father, Jaime. He hopes that by fishing, he will earn enough money to go back to college and support his family.
But with the government’s looming Tide Embankment Project, Apostol feels like this “Great Wall” of Leyte will also block his dreams of becoming a seafarer.
“Gusto kong bumalik ng pag-aaral kung mabibigyan ng pagkakataon. Nangingisda ako para makapag-ipon at matulungan ang aking pamilya [I’d like to go back to school if given the chance. I fish so I can save up for my tuition and help my family],” he shared.
Christian, who is the eldest child, said he earns P100 to P200 a day. There are even days when he earns nothing.
“Dahil sa Tide Embankment project, mawawalan ako ng hanapbuhay at pati na rin pag-asa upang matupad ang aking mga pangarap,” he added.
‘Why the rush?’
The four-meter tall seawall, which will span over 27 kilometers along the coast of Tacloban City and the towns of Palo and Tanauan, will displace at least 10,000 households and bring environmental hazards, according to Owen Megraso, program director of the Center for Environmental Concerns.
The P7.9-billion project’s budget was already included in the General Appropriations Act by the Duterte administration.
Megraso said the Department of Public Works and Highways is expediting the project despite opposition of Leyte’s coastal residents—who would no longer have a clear path to the beach and the sea with the seawall erected—and environment advocates.
“The project will compromise the natural ecosystem, since mangroves can help prevent a storm surge like what happened during Typhoon ‘Yolanda,’” he stressed, adding the TEP can also “disregard people’s welfare.”
Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides, as defined by the National Hurricane Center.
Department of Science and Technology data showed that around 7,000 people were killed by the storm surge created by “Yolanda” in 2013 in Eastern Visayas.
One of the reasons government said there were too many casualties was the area’s lack of disaster preparedness. Thus, the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III proposed the Tide Embankment Project.
Christopher Durana, provincial chairperson of Baskug Han Katawhan ha mga Komunidad nga No Build Zone or Bakhawan, questioned the expediting of the project.
“Bakit siya minamadali? Hindi kami tumututol dito. Hindi kami anti-progress. Ayaw naming may isang trahedya na mangyari sa amin ulit (Why is it being rushed? We’re not against it. We’re not anti-progress. We just don’t want another tragedy to happen us,” Durana said during a seminar-workshop organized by the Philippine Press Institute last week. (To be continued)