AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People welcomes the investigation on cumulative impacts of reclamation projects in Manila Bay conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“We welcome DENR’s investigation on reclamation projects; however, it should be impartial and transparent,” said Jerwin Baure, public information officer of AGHAM. “For years, AGHAM, together with other fisherfolk and environmental organizations, warned about the potential ecological and social impacts that reclamation projects pose. In fact, mangroves have been cut down in Bulacan since 2018 due to the construction of San Miguel Corporation’s New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project, and fisherfolk in the area were also prohibited from fishing near the area. Meanwhile, fisherfolk in Cavite also reported a decline in their catch due to dredging activities related to NMIA, as sand extracted from Cavite is used as filling material for the reclamation project in Bulacan.”

The opposition of reclamation projects by various people and civil society organizations has been going on for years, yet the DENR gave attention to this major issue only this year. At the start of the Marcos administration, member organizations of the People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE) requested for a dialogue with DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, but they were given audience almost a year after, on April 2023. The need for a cumulative impact assessment for reclamation projects was also highlighted in an Expert’s Forum held by the department the following month.

“During the dialogue with the DENR last April, the People’s NICHE requested for a moratorium on ongoing reclamation projects while DENR’s investigation is ongoing,” added Baure. “Yet two months after the dialogue, dumping of soil on the coasts of Manila Bay and extraction of sand from the seabed in the municipal waters of Cavite still continue.

AGHAM asserts that development projects like reclamation have grave ecological and social impacts that will far outweigh their perceived economic benefits. The continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court mandates the DENR to rehabilitate Manila Bay, an important fishing ground in the Philippines. This rehabilitation should be prioritized before any development projects along the coasts of Manila Bay are implemented, as it is rather impossible to rehabilitate Manila Bay if the sea is turned to dry land, preventing marine organisms from establishing their populations.

“We challenge the DENR to conduct a transparent and impartial study on the impacts of reclamation,” said Baure. “This investigation should be participatory, and include affected communities and other civil society organizations, such as AGHAM and other members of the People’s NICHE. As the DENR undertakes its investigation, we continue to call for a moratorium on reclamation and dredging in Manila Bay. The DENR should immediately implement this moratorium as environmental conservation must be prioritized amid the climate crisis that we are facing right now. We urge the environment agency to exert its full commitment in protecting the environment before it’s too late,” he ended. ###


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