Reclamation will cost P 77-B of fishery income loss per year

THE 102 reclamation projects all over the country under the National Reclamation Plan (NRP) of the Philippine Reclamation Authority involving over 38,000 hectares of coastal waters will result to loss of P 77 billion per year, according to organizers of the first People’s Summit on the Impacts of Reclamation.

The organizers of the People’s Summit on Impacts of  Reclamation led by Center for Envrionmental Concerns (CEC), fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment said the NRP will undertake reclamation of 38,272 hectares, which will destroy seagrass beds of the same space and may trigger trigger the denudation of 382.72 square kilometer of seagrass areas, which they said will kill 4.7 million species of invertebrates and 3.78 trillion fishes equivalent to P 77 billion loss in total revenues.

Pamalakaya national chair and Anakpawis party list no.1 nominee Fernando Hicap said one acre of sea grass bed could produce 40,000 species of fish per year and 50 million invertebrates per year valued at $ 20,500 per acre.

“The PRA under the Office of the President have never recognized this fact in their cost-benefit analysis of all reclamation projects under the NRP. On top of this environmental disaster and economic loss, the government is set to displace 1.4 million fisherfolk and urban poor people along Manila Bay— the center of the center of all the reclamation projects of the Aquino government,” noted Hicap.

On October 16, Pamalakaya sent an omnibus demand to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje urging the environmental chief to cease and desist from issuing environmental compliance certificates to PRA, the local government units and private developers who will carry out the reclamation projects all over the country.

“Imagine the big amount of economic loss and the environmental damage these large-scale and anarchi reclamation activities would bring to the people and to the environment. This is extremely unpardonable,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Pamalakaya’s call for a 10-year moratorium on large-scale and destructive reclamation projects are supported by environmental groups, marine science experts and environmental lawyers providing institutuional support to struggling communities against reclamation.

“The sorry situation of small fisherfolk and the condition of devastated coastal areas due to large-scale reclamation should compel the government to halt all land reclamation activities for at least 10 years and allow independent reviews and studies of reclamation projects all over the country,” said Anakpawis-NCR chairperson Roy Velez.

Velez, also a convener of Sagip Manila Bay Movement agreed with the position of Pamalakaya, CEC-Phils and Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) calling the DENR to cease and desist from granting ECCs to PRA, the LGUs and private developers.

On September 5, Pamalakaya and 11 other organizations representing fisherfolk, urban poor, church and health associations and environmental alliances and non-government organizations have coalesced to press the Supreme Court to allow them to act as petitioners-intervenors in the case filed by former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar and more than 300,000 residents of the city against the P 14-B Manila Bay reclamation project.

In their 14-page motion to intervene, the groups composed of the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya represented by Fernando Hicap and Salvador France, Anakpawis and Bayan Muna party list led by Reps. Rafael Mariano and Teodoro Casino respectively, the Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay), the Bacoor-based Alyansa fisherfolk group, Pamalakaya-Bulacan chapter, the Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), the Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC-Philippines), the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, Earth Island Philippines and the Alliance for Stewardship and Authentic Progress (ASAP) argued that the P 14-B Las Pinas-Paranaque reclamation project involving 203.43 hectares of Paranaque coastal territory and 431.71 hectares of Las Pinas territory is major threat to the livelihood of small fisherfolk sourcing their subsistence from Manila Bay.

“The source of this collective fear is based on the experience of small fishermen, mussel growers and shell gatherers beginning 2010 upon the completion of R-1 Extension Expressway Project which is now known as Cavite Expressway or Cavitex.  Two years after the completion of the solid-based road infrastracture done through massive reclamation of not less than 5,000 hectares of foreshore waters along Bacoor Bay, a dramatic decline in fish capture and aquaculture production took place,” the petitioners said.

According to Pamalakaya and other 11 groups marginal fishermen have been complaining of declining fish catch from an average of 5 kilos to 10 kilos per fishing trip prior to the reclamation and road project to 2 kilos to 3 kilos of average fish catch due to the negative impact of reclamation and road infrastructure project along Bacoor Bay.

The petitioners-intervenors also told SC that several hundreds of hectares of mussel farms were demolished causing grave economic difficulties to small and medium scale mussel operators in Bacoor. Those who were allowed to operate mussel growing in Bacoor Bay likewise suffered further decline and income loss due, while shell gathering once a productive activity in Bacoor Bay is now a thing of the past due to the ecological imbalance created by massive reclamation.

The groups maintained that the massive reclamation in Las Pinas and Paranaque aside from impeding movements and natural flow of waters that cause massive flooding and sky high storm surge during tropical storms and torrential rains will also pave way to widespread demolition of fishing and urban poor communities and total eviction of people from their means of subsistence— which is a gross violation of socio-economic and political rights of the bay people as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

The petitioners-intervenors said government agencies such as the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the private company tasked to undertake the reclamation of more than 600 hectares of coastal shores in Las Pinas and Paranaque committed a serious and grave error when they gave their seal of approval to the massive reclamation project, which purpose is to facilitate the construction of entertainment and gambling hub. Their (PRA and DENR) joint and respective acts violated the landmark decision of the Supreme Court on Manila Bay rehabilitation.

The petitioners-intervenors noted that the Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay rehabilitation has been effectively used and abused by government agencies such as the DENR and the PRA to remove marginalized fishermen and other poor coastal villages from their main source of living and communities.

They said the Las Pinas –Paranaque Coastal Bay project will directly and indirectly affect the economic and social being of 552,660 population in 16 barangays of Paranaque City and 532, 330 residents of Las Pinas City, excluding tens of thousands of fisherfolk and coastal villagers in nearby Bacoor town and neighbor cities of Manila, Navotas, Malabon and coastal towns in Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces who will also be affected by the large-scale reclamation project in various levels.

The groups took notice of the fact that the government has more than 30 big reclamation projects along Manila Bay under the National Reclamation Plan project which is inspired by the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of the present administration.

They said the Las Pinas-Paranaque Coastal Bay project is just one of these large-scale reclamation projects. The reclamation projects in Manila Bay alone will engage an across-the-bay reclamation project that would cover 26, 234 hectares of coastal waters— which for movants are an open invitation to economic displacement and environmental catastrophe.

“Let it be noted that the catastrophic impact of the 7-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension Project which involved the reclamation of 7,500 hectares of submerged public lands and mangrove areas in Manila will be predictably repeated in the case of Las Pinas-Paranque Coastal Bay project.” the 14-page motion said.

Pamalakaya and other petitioners also noted that the reclamation project in Las Pinas and Paranaque which is primed as a major PPP project upon during implementation and upon completion will further destroy the 175 hectare mangrove areas in this Southern part of the metropolis, remove not less 26,000 fisherfolk and urban poor families and will have its far-reaching effects felt by neighbors in Cavite, Manila, Navotas, Malabon, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.

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