AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People joins the celebration of the 50th World Wetlands Day. This year’s celebration highlights the role of wetlands as “a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss.”
Despite their invaluable importance to biodiversity, food security, and climate regulation, wetlands are being threatened. In the Philippines, coastal and inland wetlands are facing destruction due to the government’s infrastructure projects, such as reclamation and mega dams.
In Manila Bay alone, at least 22 reclamation projects have been approved or are pending approval. The largest among these reclamation projects is San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) New Manila International Airport, commonly known as the Bulacan Aerotropolis. This airport project will reclaim around 2,500-hectares of fishponds, mangrove forests, and coastal zones in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan. In 2018, around 600 mangrove trees were cut down by men allegedly from SMC. Just recently, fisherfolk reported another incident of mangrove cutting in their community. Scientists, fisherfolk, and various environmental groups have raised concerns on the possible ecological and social consequences of this project, yet the government has remained deaf to these concerns. Worse, our lawmakers just recently decided to grant SMC the franchise to construct and manage the airport, as well as tax exemptions for 10 years. Even before the franchise was granted, state forces have already been deployed since December 2019 to harass and force the residents to concede to SMC’s demands.
On the other hand, wetlands along with freshwater ecosystems, such as in rivers and lakes, are also being threatened by the construction of dams. Several of the Duterte administration’s flagship projects under the Build, Build, Build program include mega dams in major rivers in the country, which also happen to be within the ancestral domain of several indigenous peoples (IP) groups. Damming of rivers threatens not only biodiversity, but also IP communities, as these communities are forced to leave their lands and livelihood due to heavy militarization and high incidence of human rights abuses. The latest of these abuses happened in the island of Panay when combined forces of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines massacred 9 Tumandok tribal leaders who opposed the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam in Capiz and Iloilo. The Tumandok of Panay has long suffered from harassment and intimidation perpetrated not only by the PNP and AFP, but also by the National Irrigation Authority.
As the global climate crisis worsens, we need our wetlands now more than ever.Protection and restoration of mangrove forests and freshwater swamps must be central to the government’s plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the country. On World Wetlands Day, AGHAM reiterates its call to defend Philippine wetlands. We urge the government to listen to scientific opinion and reconsider the implementation of reclamation and mega dam projects. Protection and restoration of wetlands must be considered in climate change mitigation programs and development projects in order to ensure sustainability for future generations to come.
Defend the mangroves in Manila Bay! Oppose Manila Bay reclamation! No to Bulacan Aerotropolis!
Defend our inland wetland ecosystems! No to Kaliwa Dam, Jalaur Mega Dam, and Chico River Dam!