Gov’t urged to stop all reclamation, quarrying in Manila Bay
MANILA, Philippines — Experts and environmental advocates have called on the government to stop all land reclamation and seabed quarrying projects in Manila Bay, saying the activities threaten the marine ecosystem and survival of the people in the area.
Based on the data from the Philippine Reclamation Authority, a total of 22 reclamation projects were in Manila Bay and half of these were already “underway” as of Feb. 28.
There are also 30 reclamation projects outside of Manila Bay — 15 were approved and 15 were applications under Executive Order No. 74 with memoranda of understanding.
At a recent press briefing, conservation group Oceana said the projects were approved even though Manila Bay was identified as a key biodiversity area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other groups.
“We have come together, Oceana, Pamalakaya, and scientists led by Dr. Kelvin [Rodolfo] to call for help because reclamation, while it sounds like a good developmental idea, may not be as sound as we think. It affects the already dwindling source of food for all of us,” said Emily Abrera of Save Our Shores. Rose-Liza Elsma Osorio, legal and policy director of Oceana, pointed out that there were many environmental laws but these were not being implemented or enforced properly.
Among the laws she cited were the Amended Fisheries Code, Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, and the Clean Water Act.
Osorio said they tried to ask the Supreme Court to issue a writ of kalikasan to contest the construction of the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan for violations of various environmental laws.
Former Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta in dismissing the petition said it was “not sufficient in form and substance.”
“Lately, what we’re doing is we wrote the DENR to request the environmental impact assessment documents that became the basis of issuing environmental compliance certificates to the 22 Manila Bay reclamation projects,” she said.
If the DENR would not respond, Osorio said they plan to take legal remedies to stop the projects.
In the same press briefing, Mia Catenza, a fisherfolk from Cavite province, lamented the damaging impact of seabed quarrying in their area.
“We have been suffering for almost two years. We used to make a living somehow from fishing, but now, it’s really difficult because we can’t catch anything, we always lose money,” she said.
In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged the DENR to revoke the environmental permits of two dredging projects in the southern area of Manila Bay.
According to the fishers’ group, Silverquest Mining Resources Inc. was able to secure an environmental certificate compliance in 2021 to conduct a seabed quarry that covered 2,124 hectares of municipal waters of Ternate and Naic in Cavite.
“Since the beginning of dredging in the municipal waters of Naic in 2021, fishermen’s income has dramatically decreased to only an estimated P300 for two days of fishing, which is equivalent to P150 per day,” said Fernando Hicap, chair of Pamalakaya.