“We don’t buy the usual fire accident narrative anymore because it has been established that setting a community on fire is the easiest, most acceptable, and effective way to demolish an entire community to pave way for projects for development aggression,” fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) Southern Tagalog spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said in a public statement last Monday.
This came after a huge chunk of a residential area in Brgy. Sineguelasan, Bacoor, Cavite was ablazed last Sunday night. In a Facebook post, the Bacoor City Government said that the fire broke from a house in Brgy. Alima around 10:16 PM, Sunday, was raised to the fourth fire alarm at 10:46 PM, and was declared extinguished later at 1:28 AM.
This is the fifth fire incident to occur in the area covered by the 420-hectare reclamation projects by the Bacoor local government. PAMALAKAYA would later make a follow-up Facebook post saying that, given that fire cases frequented the area, it was highly possible that the recent blaze was also intentional.
“Given the circumstantial precedents, it’s a complete no-brainer to think that the recent fire was not by accident, but rather intentional,” the group said.
Many of the residents had been evacuated due to typhoon Rolly and were not home when the fire broke out, said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite spokesperson Manny Asuncion in a Facebook post from last Monday.
“Kung kailan wala na ang marami ay saka nangyari at kumalat ang apoy. Ayon sa ilan, kandila daw ang pinagsimulan ng sunog na mabilis na kumalat dahil sa malakas na hangin na hatid ng bagyong #RollyPH,” Asuncion wondered in the post.
The municipality further explained that about 398 families and 1,641 individuals were said to have been evacuated and have sought shelter in Bacoor Elementary School, Alima Elementary School, Jesus is Lord Church, and Alima Senior High School. These were the reported numbers as of yesterday.
Meanwhile, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Revilla said that 700 families consisting of 3,500 individuals were affected by the fire. 595 families consisting of 2,795 individuals are from Brgy. Alima while 105 families consisting of 525 individuals were from Brgy. Sineguelasan.
“Ang pilit na tinatago ng kinauukulan: sunog at karahasan, marami sa Bacoor! Ang karaniwang napapalagay sa rekord, ‘under investigation’ pa rin daw,” Asuncion claimed.
Where there is smoke
The area ravaged by the fire is covered by two reclamation projects being pushed by the Bacoor local government under Mayor Revilla: the 320-hectare Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project,” and the 100-hectare Diamond Reclamation and Development Project.
The fire at Brgy. Sineguelasan, which is noted for having implemented a community watch system due to arsonist attempts to burn coastal communities, had previous fires last April 2017 in Brgy. Maliksi III, then later January 2018 in Brgy. Tabing Dagat, then in June 2018 in Brgy. Maliski I and Brgy. Maliksi III and finally last February 2019, in Brgy. Talaba.
Meanwhile, youth group National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) – Youth UPLB slammed the Bacoor reclamation projects, stating that they will result in the loss of homes, endanger the livelihood of fishermen, and threaten the environment.
“Ang laban ng ating mga mangingisda ay laban para kanilang kalayaang mamuhay ng payapa at patuloy na gawin ang kanilang hanapbuhay. Sa panahon ngayon na napakaraming krisis ay nakakagalit na wala sa prayoridad ng gobyerno na pagyabungin ang hanapbuhay ng mga maliliit nating mga mangingisda na siya ring nagpapakain sa atin,” said NNARA-Youth UPLB on Monday.
On February 17, Fisherfolk and members of Anakpawis and PAMALAKAYA filed a letter of complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Mayor Revilla for allegedly dumping “solid materials mixed with garbage” dumped in Barangays Maliksi I and Maliksi III.
The group said that the dumping of materials is part of the two reclamation projects.
Amid the pandemic, the DENR issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) which was signed by Engr. William Cunado, DENR – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) OIC-Director, on March 5 for the 320-hectare Bacoor Reclamation and Development.
However, on June 23, Sen. Cynthia Villar asked the DENR to recall the issuance of ECC stating that the project threatens to result in the destruction of a protected area and massive flooding in communities surrounding Manila Bay among other problems.
These and other projects by the Bacoor government and national government such as the Cavite-Bataan bridge, Riverside Easement Project, and LRT-1 extension will result in the displacement of hundreds of families. The latter two according to Asuncion.
“Lahat ng ‘development projects’ na yan — na siyang dahilan ng pagpapalayas — ay magkakaugnay dahil pare-parehong nilalaman at ineengganyo ng iisang Comprehensive Land and Sea Use/ Development Plan ng City Government of Bacoor sa pamumuno ni Lani Mercado-Revilla,” he concluded. [P]
Photo from Barangay Sineguelasan Facebook page