AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People welcomes the decision of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to not accept new applications for reclamation projects . This decision came a day after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held an Experts Forum with scientists and civil society organizations regarding reclamation projects in the country, especially in Manila Bay.
During the said Experts Forum, critical points were raised regarding the impacts of reclamation to our environment. Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP Marine Science Institute raised the limited availability of biological data in Manila Bay, especially subtidal ecosystems. Dr. Siringan also raised issues on geological hazards related to reclamation, such as land subsidence, flooding due to blocking of waterways, and erosion that affects tidal patterns. He also raised concerns on the extent of ecosystems that we will lose and whether these could still be recovered. Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity stated that we are bound to lose 9.7 billion USD worth of ecosystem value due to reclamation based on a 2014 study. Other speakers during the forum have also raised the need for a cumulative impact assessment. Currently, the 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, as well as dump-and-fill projects such as San Miguel Corporation’s Bulacan Aerotropolis project, are individually assessed, yet their combined impacts to people and the environment remain unknown.
The said forum was also attended by representatives of member organizations of the People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE), namely AGHAM, Pamalakaya, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, and Oceana Philippines. During the forum, AGHAM representative Narod Eco presented the disaster risks posed by reclamation projects. “We are essentially manufacturing risks,” said Eco. “We need to determine who will be the most vulnerable sector, and they should be at the front and center in disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) planning.”
“The issue on reclamation and dump-and-fill projects in the Philippines is extremely alarming given their grave environmental and social impacts,” said Jerwin Baure, public information officer of AGHAM. “A Global Witness report  on San Miguel Corporation’s Aerotropolis project in Bulacan bared how mangroves have been widely destroyed, while fisherfolk have been displaced from their homes and livelihood, and subjected to intimidation and harassment by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That is contrary to what the DENR recently claimed that reclamation projects can potentially contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. While global examples have shown that reclamation can be successful and beneficial, DENR needs to take a look at how local reclamation and dump-and-fill projects are being implemented .”
Given all the valid points raised by scientists and other stakeholders, AGHAM reiterates its stand against reclamation and dump-and-fill projects in the country, especially Manila Bay. We call on the DENR to revoke the environmental compliance certificate of San Miguel Corporation’s Bulacan Aerotropolis project and halt the dredging operations of Boskalis due to various negative environmental and social impacts raised by fisherfolk and coastal residents of Bulacan and Cavite. Additionally, 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, and the guidelines for the approval process for such projects. A cumulative environmental and social impact assessment of these projects must be established first to determine if these projects must be allowed to continue or not.
“The DENR should immediately implement this moratorium as environmental conservation must be prioritized amid the climate crisis that we are facing right now,” said Baure. “We also demand the DENR to release a comprehensive report on the status of coastal ecosystems affected by reclamation and dump-and-fill projects. We continue to remind the DENR that the continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court mandates them to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay, and not allow its destruction through reclamation and dredging activities. We urge the environment agency to exert its full commitment in protecting the environment before it’s too late,” he ended. ###
 ABS-CBN. (2023, May 5). Aplikasyon para sa mga bagong reclamation project, tigil muna: PRA. https://news.abs-cbn.com/…/aplikasyon-para-sa-mga…
 Global Witness. (2023, February 2). Runaway Risk. https://www.globalwitness.org/…/holding…/runaway-risk/
 Manila Bulletin. (2023, May 9). DENR forum seeks review of PH reclamation policy. https://mb.com.ph/…/denr-forum-seeks-review-of-ph…