AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People supports the cumulative impact assessment that will be conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Recently, DENR announced that it is gathering experts including physical and chemical oceanographers, fisheries experts and marine biologists, as well as engineers as part of its cumulative impact assessment team .
“We welcome the DENR’s initiative to look into the possible impacts of reclamation projects in Manila Bay,” said Jerwin Baure, public information officer of AGHAM. “We notice, however, that the DENR Secretary has not mentioned including a social scientist among its pool of experts. For the past few years, we have gathered different narratives from fisherfolk and coastal residents of Bulacan and Cavite about how they lost their livelihood due to reclamation and dredging activities. We have also received reports of human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in Bulacan, where fisherfolk are harassed, intimidated, and even illegally detained. We have also heard that San Miguel Corporation has not properly compensated displaced fisherfolk. All of these were properly documented in the Global Witness report  published last February. The cumulative impact assessment should not only focus on the ecological but also on the social impacts of reclamation and associated dredging activities.”
In May, a moratorium for new reclamation applications was imposed by the DENR, but ongoing reclamation projects still continue business-as-usual. “In order to prevent further irreversible damage to the environment, we continue to demand the DENR to impose a moratorium on ongoing reclamation projects,” said Baure. “Fisherfolk are already complaining about their dwindling fish catch. Why does the DENR administration continue to be tone deaf to the realities of communities affected by reclamation?”
“We challenge the DENR to be transparent in reporting the findings of the assessment,” Baure continued. “We expect that aside from the reclamation projects listed under the Philippine Reclamation Authority, other similar dump-and-fill projects such as San Miguel Corporation’s Bulacan Aerotropolis project and the associated dredging activities of Boskalis in Cavite would also be included. Reclamation and dredging activities related to the Aerotropolis are far larger in scope compared with all other reclamation projects in Manila Bay. The DENR should release a public document showing the status of this project, including the number of mangroves destroyed and communities displaced since construction started.”
“Much has already been discussed about Manila Bay reclamation,” said Baure. “It is high time that the DENR should listen to the calls and demands of fisherfolk, scientists and environmental groups. With the climate crisis that we are facing now, the DENR must immediately and decisively address this issue. We shouldn’t allow such coastal development projects to destroy what’s remaining of our biodiversity for the sake of development that only would benefit the ruling elite,” ended Baure. ###