Manila Bay clean up bid linked to P 100B project

THE left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to hasten the clean up of the bay is tied to the existing P 100- B project proposal previously submitted by administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former DENR secretary Lito Atienza from the World Bank and other financial agencies abroad for funding.

“Secretary Ramon Paje can deny this to high heaven. But we are totally convinced that this fresh escapade of the DENR for Manila Bay clean up has something to do with the P 100 billion climate change and clean up fund forwarded by the Arroyo administration to the financial oligarchs of World Bank in 2008,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Secretary Paje has issued DENR Administrative Order No. 2011-01 titled “Strengthening the Manila Bay Coordinating Office” which puts the office under the supervision of the DENR secretary.

Prior to the order, the MBCO was part of the DENR’s River Basin Control Office which oversees the integrated planning, management, rehabilitation and development of all the country’s river basins.

According to Secretary Paje the objective of this organizational reform is to ensure that appropriate focus will be given to the delivery of obligations of the DENR to clean up Manila Bay, as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2008.

Under the AO 2011-01, the MBCO will coordinate the participation of various agencies in the bay’s rehabilitation, restoration and conservation. It would also lead in the planning, monitoring and review of all related activities and their progress, as well as in the preparation of reports required by the DENR and the Supreme Court.

“Aggressive fund-sourcing and promise of juicy commissions at the expense of people’s livelihood, marine environment and national sovereignty is the ultimate motive of the DENR’s current talk on rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, that’s the real score here,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap said all of a sudden Secretary Paje transformed himself into a crusader for the environment and Manila Bay rehabilitation. He said Malacanang and the DENR were well informed about the potential funding for Manila Bay rehabilitation under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of the Aquino administration.

“Secretary Paje calls it rehabilitation, but in Pamalakaya we simply dismiss this concern of DENR on Manila Bay as moneymaking at its best.”

Former Secretary Atienza had urged various donor agencies to help the national government in restoring the quality of Manila Bay by providing support to the DENR’s plan to put up water treatment facilities that would clear water wastes before these come out into the river and out into the bay.

Secretary Atienza said setting up the water treatment facility alone would cost the national government at least P25 billion ($551.6 billion) in taxpayers’ money. He said water concessionaires Maynilad of the Lopez group and Manila Water of the Ayala group have yet to comply with their agreement with the national government regarding the setting up of water waste treatment facilities.

The DENR had said the deterioration of the water in Manila Bay will continue as long as wastewater from houses, the domestic waste of residences continue to flow from the Pasig River to Manila Bay that connects Cavite, the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Bulacan and Bataan.

The DENR said the second major contributor of Manila Bay waters’ deterioration is the proliferation of fishpens along the coast of the bay from Cavite to Bataan. He ordered the demolition of all illegal fishpens in Manila Bay starting Aug. 26.

The environment department said the participation of local government units in Manila Bay rehabilitation is also necessary to help the national government battle huge environmental problems confronting the bay which he said could be the country’s engine for economic development, because the government could set up all kinds of businesses along the 190 kilometer coast.

Pamalakaya had rebuked DENR theories that the dumping of untreated water wastes and the proliferation of fish pens are to be blamed for the deterioration of the waters of Manila Bay, adding that the DENR is misleading the public.

The militant group said the full-blast commercialization of Manila Bay that started during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos up to the present administration of President Arroyo is the main reason the 190-kilometer bay is on the brink of general collapse.

“Please allow us to state the real score about Manila Bay. Eighty percent of the untreated water wastes that are thrown or dumped into the bay come from industries and commercial establishments situated along the bay. The reclamation activities of the government that began during the Marcos era up and which continue at present are also destroying Manila Bay and have prevented the ecosystem and marine life from regenerating,” Pamalakaya stated.

“We are not happy with the way the national government is treating Manila Bay. We are being blamed for its deterioration. Why us? We are not destroyers of natural resources and marine environment. We cannot destroy our main source of livelihood. It is impossible for us to do that, because destroying Manila Bay is like destroying our basis for existence. In fact, the fisherfolk are long running victims here of corporate exploitation and capital accumulation,” the group said.

The militant group said about 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters have been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.

The militant group said Secretary Paje and the DENR had upheld proposals of the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to develop the 90-hectare reclaimed casino and resort complex in Manila Bay that will begin in the third quarter of the year. Pagcor said companies with approved proposals must invest at least one billion U.S. dollars for their projects, with initial $400-million investments in the first two years.

On top of the $-15 billion casino project to be constructed along Manila Bay, Pamalakaya said Secretary Atienza had granted ECC to the ambitious Cavite Coastal Road Project II that would involve reclamation of more than 8,000 hectares of coastal waters along Manila Bay from Bacoor to Cavite City.

Reports said aside from coastal road that would link Manila to Cavite, an international seaport will be constructed and will be annexed to the revive Sangley Point, a former US military base.

Pamalakaya said close to 3 million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite are still dependent on fishing as a principal source of livelihood, and any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project and the Cavite Phase II Coastal Road project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins.

“From 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted almost daily. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of coastal communities,” the group said.

The setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was included in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.

Pamalakaya recalled that 3,500 small fisherfolk in Pasay Reclamation Area, and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.

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