Marcos asked to stop Batangas reclamation too
LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — Environmental advocacy group Protect the Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP) is calling on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to also stop ongoing reclamation projects on the coast of Batangas province for the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and power plants.
“The ongoing reclamation projects in VIP for the construction of fossil gas projects result in turbid waters and make [seagrass], coral reefs, and marine fauna vulnerable to stressors,” Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP convenor, said in a statement on Friday.
He added: “Putting up these gas terminals and power plants is destructive as the dumping and filling of land disturb the existing coastal habitats in VIP.”
VIP is a 1.14 million-hectare rich marine ecosystem that extends to the coastlines of Batangas, Romblon, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro provinces. It has been recognized as the “center of global shorefish biodiversity” due to the high density of valuable marine resources in the area.
Protect VIP also described the marine corridor as the “epicenter” of fossil gas and LNG developments in the country now that eight of 27 proposed new plants and seven of the nine planned LNG terminals in the country will be located in Batangas.
The group, however, did not pinpoint the locations of the ongoing reclamation projects in Batangas.
President Marcos has suspended all 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, according to Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga. She said the environmental impact of all the Manila Bay reclamation projects would be reviewed.
Protect VIP hoped that the suspension was motivated by the government’s “genuine desire” to protect the environment “and not solely because of geopolitical concerns raised by the United States.”
Marcos announced his decision to suspend the reclamation projects days after the US Embassy expressed concern about a Manila Bay reclamation project being undertaken by a Chinese construction company that was blacklisted by Washington three years ago.
On Aug. 1, US Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay said the state-owned China Communications Construction Co. “has also been cited by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for engaging in fraudulent business practices.”
However, if the suspension aims to protect Manila Bay from further destruction and pollution, then the Marcos administration should also stop the reclamation in the VIP, the group says.
The group urged Marcos to also order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “to review the status of gas terminals around the VIP that involve land reclamation, displacement of [fisherfolk] and surrounding communities, and destruction of marine habitats.”
“It is only then that we can be convinced that both the government and DENR are sincere on its new stance on reclamation,” Gariguez said.
Ecological hot spots
The group emphasized that Manila Bay and the VIP were both important ecological hot spots and fishing grounds.
“Reclamation and destructive development in these areas will disrupt the marine and coastal ecosystems they house and cause exacerbated vulnerabilities to coastal communities,” Gariguez warned.
Protect VIP has been demanding that the government include VIP on the list of protected areas under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 to shield it from “destructive human exploitation.”
The group warned that by allowing fossil gas facilities to be built and operated, it will expose the VIP to the frequent entry of LNG barges, and inadvertent oil spills or disposal of shipboard liquid waste and bilge water.