Fishers hit plan to reclaim 40,000 ha of bay, lake
Urban poor and fishermen’s groups on Tuesday protested the government’s plan to reclaim at least 40,000 hectares (ha) of Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay, a project which they said would sharply reduce fishing grounds and displace hundreds of thousands of people living in coastal areas.
The groups, facing off with officials of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and other government agencies in a dialogue, said the government should present a viable alternative source of livelihood for residents who would be displaced.
“The urban poor will not be a hindrance to development,” said Vilma Dalangin, head of a fishermen’s group based in Cavite province.
“We are ready to support development,” Dalangin said. But Dalangin said she was praying that the projects would also benefit the poor.
Other leaders of groups at the dialogue expressed the same sentiments.
Rodolfo Rondon, of the fishermen’s group Pangisdaan, said government agencies involved in the projects should address their concerns and “hold more dialogues.”
“They must consider the plight of poor families who would be displaced,” Rondon said.
Pamalakaya, another fishermen’s group, said the projects would reclaim at least 26,234 ha of Manila Bay.
Data from the Philippine Reclamation Authority showed 15 projects are set to be implemented.
The bigger ones included the P399.7-billion Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control Coastal Defense and Expressway project of the Department of Public Works and Highways, which will cover an area of 18,000 ha.
Also to be implemented are the 944-ha Bacoor City reclamation project and the P26.2-billion Las Piñas-Parañaque Coastal Bay reclamation project targeting 635 ha.
Liza Masa of the NAPC cautioned government agencies against hastily executing the reclamation projects.
“We must first check whether this kind of development is what our people need,” she said.
Environment Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna said environmental standards for reclamation projects should be the same as those in First World countries.
“The burden is on the government to prove reclamation of lands is needed,” Luna said.
Lawyer Benjamin Felipe Tabios Jr., of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said his office’s concern was the projects’ impact on the livelihood of fishermen.
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