BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines —The fisherfolk of subvillage 1 Sisi, Magsungay village, would recall their shores as a glistening beach lined with trees —thriving with radiant coral reefs and aquatic life where they could freely fish almost anywhere by the coast.
Yet, the site that greeted the DNX team was an expanse of dirt—rows of splintered stilt houses, piles of tattered trash, and a people submerged in the heaps of neverending misfortunes.
DNX went to the fishing community of Magsungay to ask the people of their concerns and hopes for the proposed housing project after incoming Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez announced his plans of initiating affordable housing for the city’s informal settlers near the Reclamation Area.
Their woes began at the turn of the century when their coastlines were converted into a garbage dump.
Domeng Anico, a local fisherman who was born and raised in the area, said that trash coming from unidentified places in the city were thrown into their waters, drawing marine life away from the shores, and disrupting their livelihoods.
“Ang makuha namon pinakataas lima ka kilo pakadto sa tatlo ka kilo lang. So, kung nagapangabuhi kami, taglima kabilog bata namon–tatlo, indi na kabuhi sa amon,” Anico revealed.
Anico claimed that this concern had been repeatedly raised to the officials of their barangay and the city.
Sure, there have been government- initiated clean-up drives, Bantay Dagat seminars, and barangay policies on the garbage dumping, but these turned out to be mere Band-Aid solutions that did nothing to stop the perennial problem.
The locals however are still wary about the new housing project despite the problems they are facing because this could mean uprooting them from their sole means of livelihood.
For some, it is the only thing they know.
Eighty-six-year old fish vendor, Epefania Tondad said that she would be willing to accept a new home yet, it would be more beneficial for her if she could stay in the area because the Magsungay coast is her only source of livelihood.
The same goes for Diosdada Salimbot, a fish vendor, who hopes for a sustainable livelihood for her kin and neighbors, regardless it be in their shores or away to a new home.