Dumaguete tricycle drivers raise funds for protests vs reclamation
DUMAGUETE CITY, Negros Oriental, Philippines — Close to 2,800 tricycle drivers in this city have joined environmentalists, members of the academe, professionals and other residents who are opposed to the city government’s 174-hectare reclamation project for a mixed-used hub touted as a “Smart City.”
The drivers, organized as Pedicab Drivers Association (PDA), did not only want to join rallies but have launched a fundraising campaign to sustain protest actions and other activities against the reclamation project.
Cannot be swayed
As of Sunday, the group’s “Piso Kontra 174 Reclamation Project” has raised P6,000 from donors and their passengers. The money would go to the environmental advocacy fund of Silliman Alumni Association Inc., which has been at the forefront of the antireclamation campaign.PDA, which represents the mode of public transportation in the city, also formally sent a petition to the city council, imploring local officials to stop the reclamation project, citing massive damages it would cause to the environment and the community.
PDA told city officials the project would “only widen the gap between the poor and the rich” in the city with new businesses coming to the detriment of homegrown entrepreneurs.
“We won’t be swayed by assurances of additional income, free education, hospitalization and other benefits if this project will destroy the environment and the life we have now,” the drivers said.
Smart City is envisioned to be a mixed-use commercial and residential area, featuring malls, condominiums, hospitals, business hubs and a docking port for a planned yacht club, among others.
Nancy Estolloso, president of People’s Development Council (PDC) that has supervision over PDA, lauded the drivers in Dumaguete for standing up for their rights.
PDC, which was established through a city ordinance as its private sector partner in the formulation of policies, is one of the groups in the city that have opposed the project.
“They (drivers) are really united. People know that this reclamation project is not beneficial to them. If you look at it, the project will displace people and affect their livelihood which is their source of life,” she told the Inquirer over the phone.
Councilor Rosel Erames, one in the minority in the city council who opposed the reclamation, said she was grateful to the efforts of the drivers to oppose the project.
“For the past few weeks, we have seen the solidarity of people from all walks of life. We have joined hand in hand to put a stop to the environmentally disastrous, economically disadvantageous and legally unsound proposed reclamation project,” she said in a separate interview.
Erames appealed to her fellow public officials to stop threatening and harassing members of the different sectors who opposed the reclamation project, amid allegations that some drivers were threatened with nonrenewal of permits to operate if they would continue to join protest activities.
“Freedom of expression and the right to voice out concerns and beliefs are constitutionally guaranteed rights that must be upheld and protected,” she said.
“Please, this is more than just a political issue. This matter transcends political divides. It necessitates active and meaningful participation from the people best achieved through their fundamental right to free speech and expression. The decision we make today can make or break us and the generations to come. Let us make the right one today,” the councilor added.
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