Fishers, experts call for 10-year moratorium on reclamation

ABOUT 200 fisherfolk leaders, marine science experts, environmental lawyers and activists from over 50 organizations across the Philippines closed the People’s Summit on the Impacts of Reclamation today with an urgent call for a 10-year moratorium on all reclamation projects prior to the stringent review and rationalization of the National Reclamation Plan (NRP).

“The NRP lacks genuine stakeholder consultations. This is a gross violation of the right to citizens to participate in decision making, an obvious lack of rigorous scientific assessment of the environmental risks and impacts of reclamation projects, and a lack of transparency in concerned government agencies,” participants to the People’s Summit on the Impacts of Reclamation said.

The Summit participants pointed out that the proposition was urgently needed, stating that “various independent and scientific studies such as in Panglao, Bohol, in Cordova, Cebu and in the Manila Bay have extensively demonstrated how existing reclamation projects can potentially result in the decrease productivity and biodiversity, disruption of vital ecosystem functions, increased vulnerability to floods, and the displacement and dislocation of thousands of families dependent on the affected environments for their livelihood.”

“The country consistently ranked the third most vulnerable country in the world to disasters. Implementing the NRP exposes our people to grave dangers and degrades further the severely degraded environment,” they said.

Leon Dulce, spokesperson of Kalikasan party list added that the situation in areas covered by reclamation projects merits an urgent and unconditional moratorium. “ President Benigno Simeon Aquino and the PRA should listen to the demand of the people to carry out an across-the-country moratorium on land reclamation and allow a thoroughgoing review of all reclamation projects and their impacts over the last five decades,” said Dulce.

The Kalikasan party list spokesperson maintained that land reclamation is noted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) as perhaps the most irreversible form of environmental degradation, resulting to biomass loss, which Dulce noted would have immediate and severe ecological and socio-economic impacts such as coastal community and  fisherfolk displacement and destruction of ecosystems.

Participants of the Summit committed to the formation of a national campaign network of concerned individuals, institutions and formations that aim to collaborate in engaging the stakeholders as well as the local and national government on the issue of reclamation and coastal management.

In its unity statement, the Summit called for a ten-year moratorium on the National Reclamation Plan and all other reclamation projects outside the plan. This aims to provide ample time for a rigorous scientific and participatory assessment of the ecological and socio-economic impacts posed by the NRP.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were challenge to immediately cancel reclamation projects subjected to fierce opposition from the people, as well as for those assessed to have adverse effects on the environment and its dependent communities.

Inputs from various scientific, socio-economic and legal experts during the Summit confirmed that the NRP was in direct collision to such landmark environmental  and humanitarian laws and policies as the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act and policies on the  Environmental Impact Assessment, where areas such as mangrove forests and seagrass expanses are defined as critical habitats, or cited as essential to resiliency to disaster and climate change impacts, but nevertheless destroyed by reclamation projects.

The Summit encouraged government actors to “rethink and reformulate [its] programs and policies on the management of our coastal and marine resources, particularly on reclamation, in accordance with environmental and other relevant laws.”

“We must support and promote alternative and strategically viable coastal management and other development practices that will ensure maximum and accessible benefits to the people and the environment. We must also be at the forefront of supporting and promoting alternative coastal management and practices,” they furthered.

The Summit was organized by the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, PAMALAKAYA Pilipinas, Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology in UP Diliman, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, Alliance for Stewardship and Authentic Progress, Kalikasan Party-list, Advocates of Science & Technology for the People (AGHAM), Philippine Earth Justice Center and the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center, Inc.

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