MANILA - Ahead of the Earth Day on April 22, environmental groups and bicycle advocacy groups on Saturday held a bike ride and a coastal cleanup at a marshland considered as a sanctuary for birds and mangroves, in support of the campaign opposing the planned reclamation of Manila Bay.
Around 100 bikers gathered at the Manila City Hall before kicking off the Earth Day Ride within the 20-kilometer route running through the cities of Manila, Pasay, Parañaque and Las Piñas.
They finished at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), where they were joined by representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and more than 35 volunteers in the cleanup operation.
The volunteers and bikers collected bottles, plastics and other waste that had washed ashore on Freedom Island, on the southwest coast of Manila.
"Ito ang last frontier ng Metro Manila laban sa matinding pagbaha. Magugulat tayo na meron pang mangroves na malapit sa Metro Manila," said Mark Louie Aquino, coordinator of the Bikers Unite.
According to Nilad Chairman Mong Palatino, about two truckloads of garbage are collected on Freedom Island every two months. The trash comes from a nearby shanty community and landfill, and washes up on the island's coastlines, threatening the home and life of about 82 species of migratory birds.
Manila has the highest garbage production in the Philippines, with its inhabitants producing 8,700 tons of trash every day.
The groups also argued that over the years, Manila Bay's shoreline has been reduced due to land reclamation. Its waters have also become increasingly polluted.
The groups believe that it is in the people's interest to protect the wealth of biodiversity, natural resources and ecosystem services of the Manila Bay.
"May mga alternative sa reclamation: ito ay ang cleanup. Sa halip na reclamation ay rehabilitation at restoration ng Manila Bay," Palatino explained.
They challenged election candidates to include environment protection in their platforms of government. Specifically, they urged the country's next leaders to reject the reclamation program of the present administration.
"Ang issue talaga ng ating mga kababayan ay yung issue ng mining, ng coal plant, ng environment na may direktang epekto sa ating mga kababayan. We are urging our politicians na mag-isip talaga sila ng mga batas na makatutulong sa ating mga kababayan, hindi sa nga big businessman," Aquino said.
"Hinahamon natin ang ating leaders at candidates to make a stand, a concrete action against reclamation," Palatino added.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority has approved a National Reclamation Plan which proposes to reclaim 26,000 hectares of the Manila Bay.
The organizers of the bike ride and coastal cleanup are Bikers Unite, Nilad, Save Freedom Island Movement, Earth Island Institute and the Office of Senator Cynthia Villar.