Summit highlights people’s struggle vs threat of biodiversity, fisheries loss

FISHER folks, scientists and environmental advocates will be sharing their experiences and knowledge in their struggle to protect coasts and communities from destructive land reclamation projects at the People’s Summit on the Impacts of Reclamation, to be held at the UP Diliman College of Science Auditorium on October 24 to 25, 2012.

The Summit was convened as a clear response to the growing threats to livelihood security and environmental safety of our coastal communities and ecosystems posed by land reclamation projects.

“Land reclamation may well be the most irreversible form of environmental degradation. Once a reclamation project transforms a wetland into solid land, the loss of biomass and its consequent environmental and socio-economic impacts are immediate and severe. The National Reclamation Plan (NRP) thus presents a real threat to our coastal ecosystems as it covers over 38,000 hectares of foreshore areas that are home to critical biodiversity areas,” said Dr. Rene Rollon, director of the UP Diliman Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, one of the summit organizers.

“Most reclamation projects seem to have been approved without genuine stakeholder consultation, with lacking technical risk assessments and often with incredible irregularities and opaque transactions and processes. This has resulted in the approval of projects that will severely affect coastal and marine ecological functions, such as the provisioning services provided by sea grasses, coral reefs and phytoplanktons necessary for fisheries to thrive,” said Dr. Rollon.

Testimonies from fisherfolks demonstrated the impacts of biodiversity loss on the country’s fisheries. In the Manila Bay alone where 70 percent of the scope of reclamation projects will be implemented, fish catch has drastically dropped from a high average of 15 kilos to only 3 kilos tops per day.

“The destruction of our rich aquatic biodiversity by reclamation projects threatens to imperil coastal communities as it increases our vulnerabilities to flooding. A case in point is a commissioned hydrological study of the possible effects of the reclamation project covering the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, revealing the possibility of 0.15 to 5.12 meter floods that will inundate 65 barangays across Las Pinas, Paranaque and Bacoor, factoring in the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Leon Dulce, spokesperson of Kalikasan Party-list.

“This makes the NRP diametrically opposed to the declared public policies and provisions in the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act to strengthen ecosystems and the resiliency of our people. What use are our national laws when the government’s administrative agencies themselves refuse to follow them? The Summit participants will be forging plans precisely to hold the Aquino government and its client reclamation companies accountable should they carry on with the anti-people and anti-environment NRP,” Dulce asserted.

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

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