Navotas fishers plead for permanent ban on reclamation
MANILA, Philippines—Navotas fishermen, a militant fisherfolk group, environmentalists, and activists are pressing President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to issue immediately an executive order or back legislation that stops and forbids all reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
Manila Bay, a center of biodiversity that spans 199,400 hectares with a coastline that runs through the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, and Bataan and the Metro Manila cities of Pasay, Manila, Malabon, and Navotas, remains in constant threat of ecological ruin following the suspension of reclamation projects, according to environmental groups and advocates.
Earlier this month, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga announced that all 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay are suspended. This came after Marcos Jr.’s pronouncement that all but one reclamation project was suspended—a decision that various groups and civil society organizations welcomed.
However, the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) stressed that in a recent budget hearing, the environment department admitted that the government had not issued an official suspension order on the reclamation projects.
“Fishers won’t find solace as long as reclamation vessels that are causing immense harm to our livelihood remain on our shores,” said Pamalakaya vice chair Ronnel Arambulo.
“What we need is an assurance that these destructive projects will permanently come to a stop,” he said.
Arambulo also emphasized that Marcos Jr. should solidify his verbal order by issuing an executive order to terminate all ongoing reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
“Furthermore, we urge him to certify the House bill declaring the area as a ‘reclamation-free zone’ as urgent,” said Arambulo.
“We also reiterate our call to DENR Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to immediately revoke the environmental permits it has granted to 22 destructive reclamation and dredging projects in Manila Bay,” he added.
Last week, Pamalakaya reported the presence of vessels engaged in dredging off the shores of Rosario, Noveleta, Tanza, and Naic in Cavite despite the government’s suspension of all reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
Navotas reclamation projects
Data gathered from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) showed that two of the reclamation projects in Manila Bay are located in Navotas City.
One is the proposed 15.62-hectare Rehabilitation of Navotas Fish Port Complex Project, which was still prequalified before the President’s verbal suspension order and under application stage status.
The other one is the Navotas Coastal Bay Reclamation Project, a 650-hectare proposed by food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. in collaboration with the city’s local government.
As of last May, the project was among the reclamation projects already issued permits by the PRA.
A video shared by Rep. Toby Tiangco last year detailed the project, dubbed as the “Southern Gateway to the Manila International Airport”, as host to at least 3,480 socialized housing units, which would make it the “biggest housing project” in the city.
The project includes plans for residential condominiums, open spaces, parks, public facilities, commercial areas, tricycle and pedicab terminals, and an organized vendor area.
The video also claimed that there will be no existing houses that will be affected by the project.
However, Pamalakaya previously stated that the Navotas Coastal Bay Reclamation Project threatens the livelihoods of more than 1,000 fishermen, fish workers, and operators of fishing structures.
“In the country’s fishing capital, thousands of small fisherfolk and fish workers are at the risk of losing their livelihood courtesy of the ongoing dismantling of fishing structures and mussel farms for reclamation,” Arambulo said.
“One can only imagine the extent of the damage to local fisheries production if these productive fishing structures would entirely vanish,” he added.
In September last year, the group appealed to the DENR for an “immediate on-site investigation” into dismantling mussel farms and stationary fish traps for the project.
Pamalakaya stressed that the city planned to dismantle over 200 mussel farms and other fishing structures, which, in turn, will affect at least 1,000 small fisherfolk and owners of stationary fish traps and mussel farms.
Arambulo said for members of Pamalakaya, income has plummeted by at least 80 percent already since the project started.
He added that since September last year, the local government has been forcing the dismantling of mussel farms and fishing traps.