Dumaguete ‘smart city’ project is dumb – fishers’ group

Manila, Philippines — “The proposed reclamation project in Dumaguete dubbed as “smart city” is a misnomer as it is a total foolish to convert the productive coastal area and its pristine marine environment into the commercial and business district,” according to the national fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), calling the proposed 174-hectare ‘smart city’ reclamation project in Dumaguete City “dumb” for posing irreversible destruction to the marine environment and livelihood of around 1, 000 fisherfolks in the city.

In a statement, PAMALAKAYA cited the data of marine scientists and environmentalists based in Dumaguete City that the P23-billion reclamation project threatens 60% of the coral reefs covering 36 hectares. Also affected would be 65% of the seagrass ecosystem of the city and at least 20 types of mangroves which serve as fish habitat and are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance. Furthermore, the reclamation would affect four marine protected areas (MPA) covering 104 hectares of the coastal waters.

“How could it be a smart city when the project will replace the pristine marine environment and productive fishing grounds with a foreign-operated business and commercial empire? There is nothing smart with wiping out coral reefs and seagrasses that shelter at least 200 fish species including those considered as ecological importance and are indicators of a healthy marine life. Moreover, this smart city will never bring any development and benefits to the people of Dumaguete but permanent devastation to their livelihood and environment,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

The fishers’ group said that more than 1, 000 fisherfolk are threatened to lose livelihood if the project pushes through. The fishing grounds, PAMALAKAYA added, is abundant in high-value marine fish species including grouper (lapu-lapu), rabbitfish (samaral), and jack (talakitok).

“The reclamation project is both detrimental to socio-economic rights of fisherfolk and local food security not only in the city but also in its neighboring towns and nearby provinces,” Hicap added.

PAMALAKAYA reiterated the “catastrophic impact” of reclamation to marine and aquatic environment, stating Manila Bay as an example where its marine productivity has degraded over the years due to past and ongoing reclamation projects. The fishers’ group also warned of a “foreign takeover” of Dumaguete’s waters as the reclamation project would involve a China-based construction firm Poly Changda Overseas Engineering Co.

“Reclamation has been proven to be disastrous both to the environment and socio-economic lives of coastal communities. Too many reclamation projects have dispossessed our fisherfolks of their fishing grounds and land. This smart city project involving a Chinese firm makes it not only an environmental and socio-economic concern but also a matter of our patrimonial rights that needs to be opposed by all swims of life,” Hicap ended. ###

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