Fishers protest ‘failed’ Manila Bay rehab, call to stop reclamation

Fishers protest ‘failed’ Manila Bay rehab, call to stop reclamation

Manila, Philippines – One year after the government launched its ‘Battle for Manila Bay’, a rehabilitation drive to restore and rehabilitate the Manila Bay, members of a national fishers’ group trooped the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office in Quezon City to mark the rehabilitation campaign as ‘epic fail’.

The DENR leads the 13-agency Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF) that was created by President Rodrigo Duterte to execute the Supreme Court’s (SC) 2008 mandamus directing several government agencies to ‘clean-up and rehabilitate Manila Bay, and restore its waters to be fit for human recreation and fishery resources development.’

During the protest, the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) refuted the claim of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu that there is improved water quality of Manila Bay, a year after their declared “Battle for Manila Bay,” stating that small fishers, particularly in the southern part in Cavite province, continue to endure the deteriorating quality and quantity of its marine resources.

“Saan banda ng Manila Bay ang nalinis? Kasi sa amin talamak pa rin ang mga peste, na manipestasyon ng polusyon ng tubig. Nagkaroon pa nga ng fish kill na ikinalugi ng mga mangingisda,” Joel Falcis, PAMALAKAYA-Cavite Spokesperson and a resident fisherman in Bacoor, decried at the protest.

Falcis was referring to the proliferation of shellfish called ‘bahong,’ a different variety of mollusk that outnumbers the traditional mussel (tahong) but is much more difficult to sell because of its low quality, thus considered as pest and invasive. The local fisherfolk leader also recalled the fish kill that hit Paranaque and Las Pinas cities in October last year that affected at least 2 tons of fish and shellfish.

“Kung totoong lumilinis ang Manila Bay, bakit nagkakaroon ng fish kill? Bakit mababa pa rin ang kalidad at bilang ng mga nahuhuli naming isda mula sa dating sagana?” Falcis lamented.

Reclamation in the Guise of Rehabilitation

Fernando Hicap, the group’s national chairperson, also slammed the DENR for ‘failing to act’ on the complaints against the reclamation projects being carried out and planned across Manila Bay.

“Reclamation continues to receive rounded criticism and active resistance mostly from the fishers’ movements, along with environmental experts. We even submitted a formal complaint to the DENR to look into the three reclamation projects in the province of Cavite. But the agency has yet to respond on our appeal to stop the dump and fill projects that run contrary to the essence of rehabilitation,” Hicap, former Anakpawis Partylist Representative said.

The group monitored at least 3 reclamation activities ongoing in Cavite – the Chinese complex for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) in Kawit, the Sangley Point International Airport in Cavite City, and the Revilla-sponsored Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project in Bacoor.

He also denounced that the “very Department of Transportation (DOTr) of the Duterte government is pushing for the reclamation of 2,500 hectares in Bulakan town for the San Miguel Corporation’s Aerotropolis project.” Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he added, are already deployed in Brgy. Taliptip, where there are active resistance from the fisherfolk against the project.

“Reclamation undermines the government’s rehabilitation program and even DENR’s Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBS). We knew from the very start that this rehab drive was bound to fail, as large-scale reclamation projects in Manila Bay are being carried out and would be implemented in the near future,” ended Hicap. ###

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