Priest, groups reject Manila Bay reclamation

By Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2013 04:20 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2013 12:20 AM

MANILA - A multi-sectoral alliance for the protection of marine ecosystems is pushing the government to junk several reclamation projects along Manila Bay due to its adverse affects on the environment and the livelihood of coastal communities.

The newly-formed People's Network for Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People's NICHE) called for the "restoration, instead of reclamation, of the coastal waters in Manila Bay."

Some 26,000 hectares of sea front spanning from Cavite to CAMANAVA has been identified for the construction of a commercial complex for entertainment and tourism.

"Further reclamation of Manila Bay will endanger the fragile marine ecosystem which contributes to food production and mitigates the disastrous effects of calamities and floods in nearby areas. The bay also has historical and cultural value that must be preserved for future generations," said People's NICHE spokesperson Dr. Jojo Carabeo in a statement.

Fr. John Leydon of SOS Save Manila Bay said the projects will effectively privatize an essentially common area.

"Manila Bay belongs to everybody. This is essentially a finance driven project and will only benefit a few people. We think it will ultimately lead to urban decay," said Leydon, who is the parish priest of Malate Church.

Environmental advocate Atty. Ipat Luna elaborated on the environmental impacts of the reclamation project, saying the proposal would cause tremendous stress on an already struggling ecosystem.

"Unang-una yung pagkukunan ng filling material, whether galing sa Manila Bay o bundok, siguradong maapektuhan nito yung mga environment doon. Idagdag mo pa yung mga mamamatay na marine species sa tatabunang mga areas. At kahit doon sa katabi niya, yung mga mangroves na mahalagang migratory area ng mga ibon, magsusuffer din," Luna said.

Clemente Bautista Jr. of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment called on the national government to implement the comprehensive clean up of the bay as ordered by the Supreme Court on February 2011.

"Hindi lang kalikasan kundi kabuhayan ang apektado sa proyektong ito. Itataboy niya ang maraming komunidad, lalo na yung mga mangingisda," Bautista said.

People's NICHE called for the abolition of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), which they say has no redeeming value nor benefit during a time of increasing climate change concerns. The group said they also plan to push the issue during the upcoming electoral campaign, to force candidates to take a stand on the reclamation projects.