File photo of children playing along a divider in Manila Bay in Manila, Philippines. File photo of children playing along a divider in Manila Bay in Manila, Philippines.  (ANSA)

Philippines: ‘Fight not over’ against reclamation projects

Several environmental groups in the Philippines welcome the moratorium on new applications for reclamation projects but continue to campaign for the stoppage of all reclamation projects in the country.

By Zeus Legaspi

The battle has been won, but the war is not over yet for multiple green and fisher’s groups in the Philippines as they welcomed the decision of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to not accept new applications for reclamation projects.

PRA assistant general manager Atty. Joseph Literal said that the decision was a directive from the Philippine President and was due to the public’s persistent objection to the effects of reclamation projects on the environment and their communities.

“Reclamation is the process of conversion by filling, dredging, or other artificial means of foreshore land or submerged areas into land suitable for use as habitation or for cultivation,” the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) said in its guidelines on the issuance of area clearance for reclamation projects.

However, this moratorium does not include the 22 reclamation projects that have been processed and have received environmental compliance certificates (ECC) from the DENR.

“It’s like the battle has just begun, but the fight is still on,” said Marlon Pareja, an environmental scientist from De La Salle University – Dasmariñas as he mulled over the PRA’s decision.

Fisher’s group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) expressed in a statement that they are “elated with this recent development,” but said that their fight against reclamation is “far from over.”

Pamalakaya Chairperson Fernando Hicap said that while they welcome the moratorium on new applications for reclamation, they “demand that the ongoing and pending reclamation projects be unequivocally revoked.”

“What good is a moratorium on new applications if existing ones continue to ravage our marine environment and the livelihood of fisherfolk?” the group added.

Meanwhile, the scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) echoed this, saying in a statement that “it is imperative that the DENR implement a moratorium on all reclamation and dump-and-fill projects in Manila Bay while the agency is still in the process of studying the cumulative impacts of reclamation projects.”

‘Rehabilitation, not destruction’

This decision came after the DENR held a forum involving scientists and civil society organizations on reclamation projects in the country, especially those around Manila Bay.

In the forum, held on May 8, scientists and representatives of environmental groups pointed out that reclamation projects may cause geological hazards and extensive damage to the ecosystems around Manila Bay where reclamation and dump-and-fill projects take place.

AGHAM’s Public Information Officer Jerwin Baure in a statement reminded DENR of the continuing mandamus issued by the Philippine Supreme Court which mandates the department to “clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay, and not allow its destruction through reclamation and dredging activities,” Baure said.

At present, reclamation projects with ECCs with a total area of 4,349 hectares in the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, and around Metro Manila are still continuing and are in various stages of development. 

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

16 May 2023, 15:19