[Business Mirror] ‘Govt inaction’ on land reclamation activities on Manila Bay criticized

‘Govt inaction’ on land reclamation activities on Manila Bay criticized
By Jonathan L. Mayuga -October 28, 2019197

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) slammed what it calls “government inaction to stop the massive land-reclamation activities in Bacoor and Cavite City along the historic Manila Bay.

In response to what the group described as apathy shown by concerned government agencies on the massive destruction of coastal and marine ecosystems, coastal communities in Bacoor launched the Manila Bay Watch Reporting, which aims to closely monitor and expose reclamation activities in the Cavite coastal areas.

“If officials [of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)] have no plans of going outside their comfortable offices, [fishermen] would be the ones to take the task of monitoring these environmentally destructive projects. Ultimately, their inaction will only prove that all the blabber about Manila Bay rehabilitation early this year, is just a ploy of the Duterte government,” Fernando L. Hicap, national coordinator of Pamalakaya, said in a statement.

Members of Pamalakaya in Bacoor City and environmental group Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) conducted on Sunday an on-site investigation on a fishpond adjacent to Manila Bay where land reclamation, also called dump-and-fill activity, has been reported last week.

According to Pamalakaya, the project details and permit, if there is any, for the land-reclamation activities were not disclosed to the public. Because of this, the group is holding the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF) led by the DENR accountable.

The group alleges that the MBTF’s inaction is a dereliction of their duty and mandate to rehabilitate Manila Bay and protect the newly discovered live corals in Cavite Province. Aside from land reclamation in Bacoor, the group recently reported ongoing land reclamation activities near Sangley Point, a naval base in Cavite City.

Created by virtue of Administrative Order 16, the MBTF is tasked to expedite the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

Unfortunately, Pamalakaya said the DENR, which is leading the special task force, is seemingly “forsaking its duty to protect Manila Bay against destructive projects.”

Pamalakaya cited the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau’s (ERDB) report and discovery of live coral covers in the Southern part of Manila Bay. The DENR also claimed that 72 percent of the estimated reef area in Manila Bay is found in Cavite.

“Even by DENR’s own account, Cavite is one of the resource-rich areas situated along Manila Bay and, yet, reclamation activities are already taking place in the province,” Hicap said. “This clearly is…a violation [of the] Supreme Court order to preserve and restore the deteriorating Manila Bay.”

He added that “the discovery of live corals in the southern part of Manila Bay was an indicator that the bay is still alive and well, and rehabilitation is feasible only if there are a political will and sincerity from the enforcing agencies, with the holistic participation of the fishing communities that genuinely advocate the restoration of our traditional fishing grounds.”

According to Hicap, small fishermen were evicted from their homes and traditional fishing grounds to pave way for reclamation projects intended for commercial and business establishments.

He said no less than 26,000 fishing and coastal families in Cavite are facing the looming threat of dislocation courtesy of reclamation.

Hicap vowed to oppose “this grand sellout of Manila Bay and conversion of our communities in a form of reclamation galore at all cost.”

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