MANILA — Fisherfolk and environmental groups on Tuesday, also World Fisheries Day, trooped to the Department of Agriculture office4 in Quezon City to protest reclamation projects.
Carrying placards, members of Pamalakaya, Defend Manila Bay Network, and other groups called for the immediate termination of reclamation projects that the environment department declared suspended earlier this year pending review.
They said reclamation work has been harming the livelihood of fishermen in Manila Bay and challenged Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. to take a stand against it.
"Kung talagang wala na siyang interes doon sa negosyo ng kanilang pamilya, at bilang lingkod bayan, nananawagan kami na manggaling mismo sa kanya. I-denounce na niya ang planong reclamation ng Frabelle ng kanyang pamilya sa Bacoor City," said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chair.
(If he really no longer has an interest in his family's business, and as a public servant, we call on him to denounce his family corporation's reclamation plans in Bacoor City.)
Prior to being appointed secretary, Laurel owned Frabelle Corp., a food conglomerate that also has stakes in reclamation. Laurel has divested himself of shares in the company, a requirement meant to avoid conflicts of interest in government.
Hicap said Pamalakaya was also protesting the privatization of fisheries and illegal Chinese occupation on some features in the West Philippine Sea.
Group claims reclamation work continues
Defend Manila Bay Network meanwhile said suspending the reclamation projects is not enough.
Jonila Castro, convenor of the network, said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s earlier statement suspending reclamation is being ignored and that dredging and dumping has continued at some supposedly stalled projects.
"Wala namang pangil ang salita lang. Dapat may papel na ipinatutupad ang suspensyon ng reklamasyon," Castro said.
(Words have no teeth. There should be a written order suspending the reclamation projects.)
She added that environmental groups like Defend Manila Bay are calling for a total stop to reclamation work, which they say destroy marine habitats and endanger coastal communities.
"Sa ngayon kasi, yung reklamasyon nagdudulot ng pagkawala ng kabuhayan ng mga mangingisda, dahil napapalayas sila," she said.
(As of now, reclamation has caused loss of livelihood for fisherfolk because they are being displaced.)
Displaced fishers are forced to look for other sources of income because they no longer have access to the sea and their fishing grounds, she also said.
Reclamation has been a divisive issue for environmentalists and economists, and even among lawmakers because of the need to weigh potential financial gain from the developments against the environmental and social costs of the projects.
Most of the reclamation projects in the Philippines are along Manila Bay, which stretches from Bataan in Central Luzon to Cavite in the south.
Pamalakaya has been protesting the projects, citing massive destruction in the marine biodiversity of the bay, which is also a huge fish source for the country.