MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Fisherfolk groups staged a rally in front of the Supreme Court Monday after urging the high court to take another look at its decision on the Manila Bay Clean-up which is allegedly being used by government agencies in their efforts to privatize the area.
Members of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM), Anakpawis party list and Alyansa ng Mga Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite Inc participated in the rally.
“Ang mga mangingisda ang nagiging biktima ng mga development programs na sa totoo lang ay ginagamit ng mga awtoridad para isulong ang kanilang mga pampribadong interes (Fisherfolk are the victims of these development programs which are being used by authorities for personal gains),” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.
Hicap said that authorities, in invoking the court’s order to evict illegal establishments around the bay, are actually evicting fishermen and depriving them of their livelihood.
He cited 2009 and 2010 reports that members of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) destroyed certain fisheries in Cavite.
He added that authorities should put a check to certain ecotourism-centered reclamation projects like constructions of Casinos and expressways because they continue to be “threats to our fishermen.”
Earlier, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM), Anakpawis party list and Alyansa ng Mga Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite Inc. urged the Supreme Court, in a five-page letter, to exercise prudence in enforcing its decision requiring government agencies to work together to clean up Manila Bay.
The letter, addressed to Chief Justice Renato Corona, said that the high court’s decision was being used to “demolish people’s livelihood and communities along the bay, along the Pasig River and coastal communities surrounding the 94,000 hectare waters of Laguna Lake.”
“Manila Bay is absolutely nothing without the fisherfolk and the people. These vast human resources are principal to and integral part of Manila Bay’s life and survival,” the group said in their letter.
The group said that while they laud the high court’s intention of bringing back Manila Bay to its old grandeur, the local governments were using the ruling to eject the fisherfolk and pave the way for the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) escapades in Manila Bay and adjacent rivers, tributaries including Laguna Lake,
On February, 2011, the high court affirmed its 2008 decision ordering government agencies to work together for the Manila Bay clean up.
Voting 11-4, the high court instructed the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) until December 31, 2015 to remove illegal structures along water systems, river banks and waterways connected to Manila Bay.
The decision said “On or before June 30, 2011, the MMDA shall submit its plan for the removal of said informal settlers and the demolition of the aforesaid houses, structures, constructions and encroachments, as well as the completion dates for said activities, which shall be fully implemented not later than December 31, 2015.”
The decision also gave the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local governments in Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces until December 31, 2012 to demolish illegal settlements near river banks.
Since the 1970s up to present more than 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters had been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.
The Philippine government and the DENR also upheld proposals of the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to develop the 90-hectare reclaimed casino and resort complex in Manila Bay and on top of the $-15 billion casino project to be constructed along Manila Bay.
In previous years, the DENR granted ECC to the ambitious Cavite Coastal Road project II that involved the reclamation of more than 8,000 hectares of coastal waters along Manila Bay from Bacoor to Cavite City.
Recently, the group said Navotas city government demolished some 14, 000 fishing and urban poor families to pave way for big ticket projects. In Bacoor, the local government slashed the scope of aquaculture area allocated to mussel growing by 90 percent to pave way for reclamation and construction of roads, eco-tourism areas and high rise buildings in the name of big business interests.
“Honorable chief Justice Corona, our small fisherfolk and poor people in Manila Bay have been the objects of wholesale private interest driven clean up since the era of the Marcos dictatorship. Today, the Manila Bay clean up decision is being used and abused again by people in authority and influential business alliances in the name of investments and profits while sending the death warrants to fisher people and poor folks and marine environment of Manila Bay,” the group said in their letter.
They added that they should not be blamed for the deteriorating condition of the Manila Bay.
“We are not destroyers of natural resources and marine environment. We cannot destroy our main source of livelihood. It is impossible for us to do that, because destroying Manila Bay is like destroying our basis for existence. In fact, the fisherfolk are long running victims here of corporate exploitation and capital accumulation.”