LOOK: Youth climate activists slam government’s reclamation projects
MANILA, Philippines — Youth climate justice advocates have gathered at the University of the Philippines Diliman to protest ongoing land reclamation projects of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).
Led by the nationwide climate justice alliance Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), protesters asserted that the estimated 190 reclamation projects are detrimental to the livelihoods of coastal communities and the overall welfare of the nation’s natural resources.
“Ang ginagawang dredging at pagtambak ng lupa ay nakasisira sa natural na ecosystems sa dagat,” stated environmental advocate Cris Mordeno of Saribuhay UP Diliman at the protest.
(The ongoing dredging and piling up of land destroy natural ecosystems in our seas.)
“Papatayin din nila ang kabuhayan ng maraming mga mangingisdang nakaasa rito,” he continued.
(It will also kill the livelihoods of the many fisherfolks dependent on these ecosystems.)
READ: Gov’t urged to stop all reclamation, quarrying in Manila Bay
Most ‘destructive’ reclamation project
Protesters then cited San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) New Manila International Airport project in Taliptip, Bulacan.
While SMC has promised that the new airport and surrounding developments are “green-designed and future-ready,” the youth activists claimed it is one of the most “destructive” ongoing reclamation projects.
“The practice of reclamation is a clear example of how profit-driven engineering harms our environment and our communities. It benefits the interests of foreign imperialism and big corporations like San Miguel Corporation at the expense of our coastal communities and the environment,” said Migo Pagdanganan, a student science activist from Agham Youth UP Diliman.
“It displaces local residents, including fisherfolk who depend on the sea for their livelihood. The dredging of the bay and cutting down of mangroves leads to water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and loss of livelihood,” he added.
In December 2020, the international advocacy group Oceana Philippines filed a petition for a writ of kalikasan against the SMC airport project – which the Supreme Court dismissed a month later.
READ: SC throws writ of kalikasan plea vs SMC’s airport project in Bulacan
In a March 21 press release, SMC reported that it had launched several assistance initiatives for fisherfolk in affected Cavite towns. Efforts such as livelihood training sessions and financial assistance programs, among others, are under the company’s “commitment to managing its social and environmental impacts,” the food and beverage giant said.
SMC President and CEO Ramon Ang said they would also partner with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to study how to increase fishing yields from the shoal. Affected communities are set to be employed in the airport project as well, according to Ang.
INQUIRER.net has reached out to SMC for further comments but has not received a response as of writing.
READ: Bongbong Marcos vetoes bill on Bulacan Airport City ecozone
Rallyists also decried the multiple ongoing seabed quarrying projects in Manila Bay. Mordeno maintained that these projects endanger live coral reefs and aquatic ecosystems, challenging a previous claim by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that Manila Bay is a “dead body of water.”
READ: Manila Bay not dead, but reclamation killing it, say groups
“Marami pang nangabubuhay na mga isda at iba pang yamang dagat. 50 species ng isda ang makikita rito. May mga buhay na coral reefs din ang nakita sa may parte ng Cavite. Napakaraming mangingisda rin sa Cavite, Navotas, Bulacan, ang ikinabubuhay ang yamang-dagat na binibigay ng Manila Bay,” he asserted.
(Many fish and rich aquatic resources still live in these waters. Fifty species of fish can be found here. There are also live coral reefs seen in the part of Cavite. Many fisherfolk in Cavite, Navotas, and Bulacan rely on the resources found in Manila Bay.)
Apologies, donations can’t reverse environmental damage
In an interview with INQUIRER.net, YACAP international spokesperson Mitzi Jonelle Tan addressed the multinational corporations behind these reclamation projects, asking them to “own up to the responsibility to the destruction that they’re causing.”
“[Corporations] will give apologies, relief operations and donations, but those donations are nowhere near enough nor equal to the destruction that they’ve caused both in the livelihoods of people and the lasting impacts on environmental destruction,” Tan said.
She also emphasized the role that international private entities have to play in the implementation of reclamation projects around the country.
“It’s global north companies that are causing and investing in extractive mining industries and in the reclamation projects here… It’s usually global north [investors] that are funding companies like SMC,” she claimed.
Shifting gov’t priorities
Protesters likewise called upon lawmakers and government officials to create policies that protect the country’s natural resources, challenging previous assurances that reclamation projects are the path forward to widening and bolstering commercial and industrial development in the country.
“Prices and numbers do not capture all costs. The destruction of the ecosystem and the area itself affects not only the very input of these corporations but as well as the food stability of surrounding communities,” asserted Rickie Ricarder of the UP School of Economics Student Council.
Tan then criticized the government’s prioritization of Charter change and military exercises over environmental protection.
“The Balikatan exercises with the US military— where they shoot at an old fishing vessel which is destroying marine biodiversity and impacting the livelihoods of coastal communities. Government is focusing a lot on charter change in the middle of an inflation crisis and food insecurity which are all being impacted by the climate crisis,” she said.
READ: Fishers fear livelihood loss due to ‘Balikatan’
“To really address environmental problems and socioeconomic problems of the Philippines, the government needs to shift their priorities and focus on ensuring that the most marginalized are listened to and supported,” added Tan.
‘Gains for whole PH’: Solon says rehabbing Laguna Lake good for tourism
Ocean warming impact on PH: To know the future, look at the past
Palace takes over all reclamation projects in the country
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.