MANILA Bay based groups on Wednesday warned President Benigno Simeon Aquino III of a looming Battle of Manila Bay against large-scale and destructive land reclamation if his administration through the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) will insist in pushing 38 reclamation projects that would cover 26, 234 hectares of coastal waters along the bay.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis party list no.1 nominee Fernando Hicap said the Aquino administration would be facing an across-the-bay outrage of Manila Bay fishermen and urban poor dwellers who would be affected by these reclamation projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) driven National Reclamation Plan (NRP).
“It is going to be a major political suicide for Mr. Aquino if he insists in pushing this reclamation republic in Manila Bay. The issues pertaining to reclamation would be hot items come May 2013 elections. It is a make or break for the Aquino administration. Definitely pro-reclamation candidates of the Aquino administration will suffer at the electoral box-office next year,” Hicap argued.
The NRP includes the controversial P 14-B Las Pinas-Paranaque reclamation project, of which a petition of Writ of Kalikasan was filed by the former Las Pinas representative Cynthia Villar and more than 315,000 residents of the city filed before the Supreme Court and currently being tackled by Court of Appeals.
“An across-the-Manila Bay revolt to be headed by small fisherfolk and marginalized residents of Manila Bay is not a remote possibility if the PRA, which is under the Office of the President will push through with its plans to reclaim the bay at the expense of people’s livelihood, social justice and sustainable environment,” the groups said.
According to Pamalakaya, 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 group 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,” Pamalakaya said.
Pamalakaya maintained 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 group said 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.