Manila, Philippines-Manila Bay fishermen identified with the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday accused the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of maintaining a policy not to invite their organization in any hearing regarding large-scale reclamation projects along Manila Bay such as the 148 hectare Solar City reclamation plan in Manila.
“It seems there is a de facto policy the DENR maintains that bars our group from participating in any public hearing concerning reclamation.
The office of Secretary Ramon Paje and his ilks in the Environmental Management Bureau know our organization and our national headquarters is just an Php 8 ride from the national office of the environment office,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France lamented.
“It is supposed to be a public hearing, how come our group which represents the most affected sector in Manila Bay is not invited and represented in the hearing? To Secretary Paje, please explain,” the Pamalakaya official added.
The DENR-EMB on Monday called a public hearing on the controversial Solar City reclamation project in Manila. The hearing was held in Tondo, Manila and was attended by representatives of the proponent– the Manila GoldCoast Development Corporation and other environmental groups opposed to the reclamation project.
In said public hearing, representatives of the Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. allayed fears that the project would be courting catastrophe similar to what happened in Tacloban City, saying it would have five-meter sea walls designed to block killer waves of Yolanda’s scale.
The threat of storm surges was raised during the public hearing held by various stakeholders on Goldcoast’s pending application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), a crucial government requirement for its 148-hectare reclamation project called Solar City.
Manila Bay based groups like Pamalakaya, Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) and Anakpawis partylist-Manila Bay chapter said the DENR should call another hearing and invite other organizations opposed to large-scale reclamation in Manila Bay including but not limited to the Solar City project.
The groups asserted that the Philippine Reclamation Authority has 36 reclamation projects in Manila Bay involving 26,234 hectares of coastal areas, of which, more than 13,000 hectares are located in Cavite and National Capital Region, and another 13, 000 hectares to be reclaimed in the coastal portions of Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces.
At the public hearing, Manila Gold Coast Development Corporation promised to provide 100,000 jobs during the construction of Solar City which will be built on the soon to be reclaimed 148 hectare land, and another 500,000 jobs when the Solar City project gets operational.
The city government of Manila said aside from job creation, the local government is assured of P 17-B in tax revenues annually, and P 10-B worth of realty taxes for the local government.
“The seal of approval to the blasphemous 148 hectare reclamation in Manila Bay is an open declaration of war by against the people of Manila and the people of Manila Bay,” said Pamalakaya.Opposition groups led by Pamalakaya said they are now contemplating in challenging Manila City Ordinance No. 8223 before the Supreme Court. The ordinance allows the city government of the premier capital and Manila Gold Coast to revive and proceed with the reclamation of 148 hectares south of Manila along Roxas Boulevard.Pamalakaya said the Consortium Agreement signed between Manila Gold Coast and the city government of Manila on April 17, 2012, allowing the former to reclaim 148 hectares including 12 hectares at the back of the Manila Yacht Club and Philippine Navy is illegal, immoral and inimical to the interest of the public.”We can challenge this ordinance at the highest court of the land, but definitely the mass action in the streets will play the decisive and key role in putting this reclamation madness along Manila Bay to an end.For the information of DENR, the city government of Manila and corporate interests behind this reclamation project, Manila Bay remains a fishing area and a settlement for coastal people. It should be spared from big business groups whose objective in life is to earn huge profits from reclamation and construction of gambling and entertainment centers along the bay that needs to comprehensive and genuine rehabilitation,” said Pamalakaya.
According to the group, the 148 hectare reclamation project is one of the 112 reclamation projects approved by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) under the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) inspired National Reclamation Plan (NRP) of the national government.
Pamalakaya agreed with observations raised by other environmental groups that the country’s annual fish catch is on a steady decline largely attributable to severe degradation of coastal and marine habitats with up to 98 percent of our coral reefs currently at risk, 75.6 percent of mangroves lost in the past 82 years, and 50 percent of sea grass beds lost in the past 50 years.
It blamed reclamation for the severe degradation of coastal and marine habitats is extensive reclamation. ###