Fisherfolk hit relocation order
Fisherfolk groups on Thursday criticized Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s order to speed up the demolition of thousands of informal settlements near Manila Bay and other communities on the banks of one of Metro Manila’s major waterways.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), an alliance of fisherfolk groups, said it was strongly opposed to the relocation of thousands of fishermen and coastal families living near Manila Bay to pave the way for a clean-up drive.
“While he only addressed the domestic waste that can be visible to the naked eye, he deliberately turned a blind eye to the chemical and toxic wastes being discharged by industrial and commercial structures on a regular basis, as well as other government projects that are destructive to the marine ecology of one of the country’s major fishing grounds,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.
Pamalakaya said that the relocation order could be a prelude to reclamation projects pending on Manila Bay.
According to the alliance, there were 43 reclamation projects covering more than 32,000 ha lined up under President Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
“We are saddened and enraged at the same time that we have been the frontline casualties of government-sponsored, corporate-driven environmental disasters and yet, we are being wrongfully accused of polluting our own fishing grounds. We can never pollute nor destroy Manila Bay because this is where we make a living; it is part of our culture and everyday lives,” added Hicap who said he was a fisherman.
Establishments next target
On Tuesday, Cimatu told reporters that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was also planning to close establishments along the shore of the bay that do not comply with environmental regulations.
“Those establishments that are right on the water will be closed. I will recommend to the local government that in the first place, they shouldn’t be given business permits,” he said.
In an interview, Manila City administrator Ericson Alcovendaz said the city government would willingly comply with Cimatu’s orders since it was also mandated to facilitate the cleanup of Manila Bay along with other national government agencies.
The problem, however, is that there is a lack of available housing units for some 6,000 out of the total number of 11,600 informal settlers living in the vicinity.
“Our position has always been to relocate all the informal settlers living on esteros that lead to Manila Bay,” said Alcovendaz.
“We’ve done the necessary social preparations, and it’s up to the national government, specifically the National Housing Authority (NHA), to facilitate the relocation of [informal settler families],” he added.
Alcovendaz said that as early as 2014, the city of Manila had already recommended to the national government the relocation of the informal residents, based on a census of residential houses and establishments that contribute to pollution on the bay.
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