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Less catch in Manila Bay dredging, say fisherfolk

A group of militant fisherfolk on Wednesday expressed concern over the potential economic and environmental impact of the dredging activities on Manila Bay to the livelihood of small fishermen in surrounding areas.

“Dredging-related stressors such as movement of solid particles, the discharge of toxic contaminants, and noise pollution can effectively disrupt the movement of fish species and various marine life in Manila Bay,” said Fernando Hicap, national chair of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

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On Tuesday, the Department of Public Works and Highways began massive dredging activities in a 1.5-kilometer stretch of Manila Bay to remove more than 225,000 cubic meters of silt and garbage from the bay.

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“While we support a genuine rehabilitation of Manila Bay to restore its ecosystem, the government must assure us that the dredging part will not result in reclamation and that the rights of the small fisherfolk would be respected,” added Hicap, a former Anakpawis party-list representative, addressing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Hicap said he feared that long-term dredging would affect the income of small fisherfolk whose catch had been dwindling in recent years because of environmental degradation.

Fisherfolk used to catch from 10 to 15 kilos a day.  That has now fallen to 2 to 5 kilos, he added.

Pamalakaya said the government must provide more livelihood and economic assistance to the fisherfolk who would be affected by the dredging.

43 pending projects

The group also urged the DENR to prevent “a full-scale sellout of Manila Bay” to private developers, as it noted that there are over 43 pending reclamation projects covering more than 30,000 hectares of Manila Bay.

Included in the project are 4,900 hectares encompassing portions of Cavite province, according to Pamalakaya.

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In Bacoor, Cavite, the local government has partnered with Frabelle Fishing Corp. and Aboitiz for a 944-hectare reclamation project.

Another joint project between the provincial government and controversial businessman Wilfredo Keng covers more than 2,200 hectares.

The reclamation projects could affect 26,000 coastal families from Bacoor, Noveleta, Kawit, Rosario and Cavite City through displacement and forcible ejectment, Pamalakaya warned.

Malacañang earlier said that the reclamation projects would generate income for the government and bring in more jobs for Filipino workers.

Although Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has said that all reclamation projects would be reviewed, he also clarified that while his department could recommend whether or not the project should push through, Malacañang would have the last say.

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TAGS: Fernando Hicap, Manila Bay dredging, Manila Bay rehabilitation, Pamalakaya
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