21 November 2017
On World Fisheries Day
Fluvial protest waged against ‘illegal racket’ of destructive reclamation
On World Fisheries Day, environment groups joined hundreds of fisherfolk and coastal communities across the Manila Bay launched a fluvial protest over the unabated expansion of land reclamation projects covering its important but fragile foreshore areas.
“The so-called ‘all-out support’ of Duterte for reclamation, as claimed by the PRA itself, is an all-out war against coastal resources, ecosystems, and communities. The aggressive promotion of land reclamation that has already sold over 1,000 hectares of coastal ecosystems is in fact a dangerous and illegal racket. There is no actual policy mandate and sound regulatory guidelines for any government agency to promote this destructive milking cow of greedy corporations and bureaucrats,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
PRA ventures illegal
In 2013, Senator Cynthia Villar filed Senate Resolution 294, which sought an inquiry into the mandate of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). The PRA came up with a National Reclamation Plan proposing the reclamation of 38,000 hectares of foreshore areas across the Philippines.
“Existing jurisprudence prevent the State from selling ‘reclaimed’ lands to private entities, even with the current tactic of using local government units as public ‘proponents’ for private deals. More than the legal mandate, there is no existing policy that clearly defines the scientific regulations needed to ensure its ecological, disaster, and climate risks are systematically addressed, and the ensured welfare of coastal communities that will be affected,” Dulce explained.
Manila City mayor Joseph Estrada has aggressively inked deals over the past year despite this lack of legal basis. These include the 148-hectare Solar City project, the 407-Ha New Manila Bay International Community Project, the 50-Ha Manila Harbor extension project, and the 419-Ha Horizon Manila Project.
Other threats include the 650-Ha Navotas reclamation project where fisherfolk communities have almost been blocked off by the LGU through the construction of coastal walls, and the 700-Ha Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project where LGUs have begun demolishing communities and landfilling waterfronts even without necessary permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The environment group feared, however, that the DENR has returned to being a rubber-stamp agency for destructive reclamation projects under DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.
“Cimatu has reversed the agency’s position on ensuring rigorous scrutiny of reclamation’s environmental compliance. Cimatu announced that he will resume issuing environmental compliance certificates to reclamation projects because ‘it is in the law’ shows he is grossly ignorant of the deficiency in the policy mandate for reclamation. This also means he fails to grasp the need for a strategic and scientific environmental and social assessment for all reclamation projects,” Dulce declared.
“DENR has back-tracked on the pro-environment reforms begun by former Secretary Gina Lopez and is now complicit to the corporate greed of reclamation proponents,” he added.
“We demand that the Duterte government immediately impose a moratorium on all reclamation projects until the policy conflicts are resolved. The bureaucrats and corporations involved must be penalized for their illegal transactions,” ended Dulce.#