Fishers group calls to halt the Manila Bay “beach nourishment” project

Fishers group calls to halt the Manila Bay “beach nourishment” project

Manila, Philippines — The Manila Bay “nourishment” project through filling of “white sand” should be suspended until its suitability and sustainability to the rehabilitation program are established, according to a group of small fisherfolks on Monday.

In a statement, the fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said that the environmental and health issues being raised by experts, environmental and fisherfolk groups are “more than enough basis” for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend the project.

PAMALAKAYA earlier questioned the project’s “necessity” on the Manila Bay rehabilitation program being undertaken by the national government, of which the DENR is the lead agency.

“Synthetic beautification is far from genuine rehabilitation. Not even a huge amount of ‘white sand’ can hide the deteriorating environment and ecosystem of Manila Bay, which small fshers endure through depleted daily fish catch,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

The fisherfolk leader added that the Supreme Court (SC) mandamus was clear that it was ordering to restore the waters into SB level or waters with coliform levels suitable for human recreational activities, and for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), in coordination with the local government units to develop fishery resources. The SC mandamus never mentioned any beautification component programs such as the present project of the DENR.

For its part, scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said that the DENR’s “beach nourishment” project clearly shows that the objective of the government’s Manila Bay rehabilitation is “aesthetic in nature”.

The AGHAM also warned of the geophysical hazard of the dump-filling project, which involves alien and synthetic materials.

“The coast along Manila Bay, in particular along Roxas Boulevard, is constantly subject to strong waves especially during typhoons when storm surges erode the coasts. Only a thin layer of these powdered dolomite rocks is overlayed on the beach, on top of existing black sand. This makes an enriched beach susceptible to coastal erosion, especially considering the number of typhoons in the country,” Jerwin Baure, Spokesperson of AGHAM added in a statement.

Baure, also PAMALAKAYA’s resident fisheries expert said that the filling of “white sand” under the guise of rehabilitation is actually a “preparation for the reopening of tourism”, rather than restoration of its ecosystem.

“Such move is counterproductive to rehabilitation as opening the area for tourism will subject its marine environment to further pollution,” the PAMALAKAYA fisheries expert added.

PAMALAKAYA’s Hicap also slammed that the DENR has admitted its deviation from the SC mandamus by branding their project as “beach nourishment,” when historically, such as in the United States, they were carried out as part of public works program, to combat soil erosion and protect land development. The first beach nourishment project in the US was in 1922 at the Coney Island, New York. It is presently famous as part of the city’s amusement center.

“The DENR and other government agencies directed by the SC to rehabilitate Manila Bay are missing the main point of the rehabilitation. The main idea was to restore the marine life and fishery resources in Manila Bay, not to carry out some ‘hard projects,’. Some traditional local politicians are fixated to it because of its big budgeting,” Hicap slammed.

Ultimately, PAMALAKAYA demands the “absolute termination” of the project; and urges the DENR to shift to transformative and sustainable environmental interventions rather than “aesthetic surgery”.

“We demand the DENR to suspend and eventually terminate this absurd project because it is useless and a waste of people’s fund with no benefit to the fishers and coastal residents residing along Manila Bay,” Hicap ended. ###

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