Fishers not opposed to new airport
BULAKAN, Bulacan — Fishermen here expressed no opposition to the proposed P700-billion Aerotropolis project being pushed by beverage giant San Miguel Corp., saying they could learn new livelihood skills should they be displaced.
Polluted waters due to rain and river runoffs from Bulacan towns that drain toward the Manila Bay had discouraged fishing here, according to Rico Liwanag, chair of the Bulakan Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council.
The investment coordination committee of the National Economic and Development Authority had approved the development of the airport, spanning 1,168 hectares (ha) and a city complex to be built on a 2,500-ha property here.
The project drew objections from the militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, which said reclamation work that would be required to build the airport near the coast would threaten 20,000 fishermen in the villages of Taliptip and San Nicolas here.
Liwanag, however, said his group would not oppose the airport plan but that the developer should establish a fishing zone for the local community.
Small fishermen earn from P100 to P500 a day, said Ildefonso Canquin, chair of the Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Council.
Many families felt they were left with no choice when the project was outlined to the fishing communities last year but most fishermen would adapt to change, Canguin said.
They are banking on a 2010 council resolution which required business companies and investors to make sure 70 percent of their workers come from the local communities.
For five years, the number of families dependent on fishing had dwindled to 700 because of the scarcity of marine life in polluted waters coming from Metro Manila.
Bulakan waters were technically part of Manila Bay, which was ordered protected by the Supreme Court through a Writ of Kalikasan in 2008, said Eliseo Ildefonso, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission secretariat.
Because of the pollution, “fishing has become infrequent so we have started to look for other opportunities,” Liwanag said.
But the construction of the airport may require dredging and cleaning up of waterways, which could improve fishing grounds, he added.
Nicolas Roque, chair of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council, said he feared that reclamation projects may affect not just Bulakan but the neighboring towns of Hagonoy and Paombong and the City of Malolos. —Carmel Reyes-Estrope
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