Urban poor families fear eviction amid Manila Bay cosmetic rehab

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Urban poor families fear eviction amid Manila Bay cosmetic rehab
People gather at a pedestrian overpass to see the controversial sand made of crushed dolomite boulders along the shoreline of Manila Bay while viewing the sunset on September 6, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Urban poor families along the waterways of Manila Bay fear possible eviction over the hotly-contested "white sand" beach project, which could potentially leave them nowhere to go amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement sent to Philstar.com, Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran, a people's organization of residents of Baseco Compound in Port Area, Manila said that a looming eviction would displace 230,000 informal settlers’ families living in the area. 

READ: Urban poor face evictions even as pandemic requires them to stay at home

This comes amid calls for the government to halt its project to build an artificial "white sand" beach on the shore of Manila Bay, which environmental groups have also said violates at least five environmental and cultural laws.

Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran president Jeorgie Tenolete said: "The fear of eviction among Baseco families have always haunted us every time that the government does cosmetic rehabilitation in the Manila Bay. It simply says that poor people and their houses are eyesores and therefore these must go away."

"Based on our understanding and experience, reclamations will make us more vulnerable to disaster...Also, beautification projects always come along with the reclamation plan. Last year, families from the 20-meter easement were notified of relocation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the same agency that gave the go signal the dumping of dolomite ‘white sand.’ I hope eviction will not happen at this time of pandemic,” Tenolete said. 

'Urban poor families doing their part for Manila Bay rehab'

Joining other environmental groups, Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran also contested the notion that the state of the bay is due to the activities of urban poor families. 

Figures from the World Bank and the National Solid Waste Management Commission in November 2019 suggest that the 300,000 informal settler families targeted for relocation, around 1.38 million people, only contributed 5.01% of solid waste in the bay.

READ: Do informal settlers really contribute most of the waste in Manila Bay?

“When the government is asked why [they] relocate families living along the Manila Bay, they will always tell us that the urban poor pollutes the Bay because we have no trash cans, we have no toilets, and that the only way to end the vicious cycle of us polluting the Bay or waterways is through relocation. This statement is difficult to accept because we have been doing our share to help clean and rehabilitate the Bay," Mayeth Betasolo, the group's secretary said. 

The group highlighted that ever the residents have long felt that their days in Baseco were numbered ever since the Duterte administration launched its Manila Bay rehabilitation, saying that in 1,000 families are in danger of displacement in the Baseco compound alone.

Non-profit NGO Urban Poor Associates added in the statement that the residents are not against the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project, only the threat of eviction. The organization pointed to other unlawful evictions that have taken place during the coronavirus-induced lockdowns, saying it may happen again.

READ: PNR management 'notes' that its Cabuyao evictions are 'illegal'

“In 2010 we planted 1,000 mangrove trees in Aplaya, Baseco. No one believed us that Mangroves could grow and thrive along the shores of Baseco shore. But after ten years after, our Mangroves have grown tall and sturdy. For the past ten years, we made sure that we took good care of our Mangroves," Betasolo said. 

"We believe that this is the right and genuine way to rehabilitate the Manila Bay. Also, to help reduce the waste along the bay, we gathered the water lilies and made use of them for our livelihood projects. We have produced slippers, bags and plate mats out of dried water lilies.”

Tenolete also highlighted that his group, along with Urban Poor Associates proposed as early as 2012 a Baseco people's development plan that would have alleviated the living situation of the 13,000 families in the area at the time.

However, he said, the number has since skyrocketed to 22,000 families, all now at risk of eviction. 

The housing and development plan, a copy of which was acquired by Philstar.com, covers the area's 54 hectares and included a master list of families in Baseco.

 “I hope the government will not only see us as polluters but as citizens who through our small initiatives and contributions definitely help in the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay,” Tenolete said. 




As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 16, 2022 - 8:58am

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources orders the closure of Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard for "generating and discharging pollutive wastewater" amid the government's move to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay rehabilitation program involves cleanup activities, relocation of illegal settlers as well as apprehension of establishments that violate the Philippine Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. 

Last January 22, the Manila City government has ordered the temporary closure of Manila Zoo to allow the reconstruction of its sewer lines. The zoo is located near Estero de San Antonio Abad in Malate, Manila, which directly drains into the Manila Bay.

DENR ordered establishments around the bay to put up their own sewage treatment plants last January 11.

May 16, 2022 - 8:58am

The Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach will be reopened to the public on May 20, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announces.

June 7, 2021 - 2:18pm

A fishers' group slams the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for issuing an environmental compliance certificate to a reclamation project in Bulacan.

The DENR has granted San Miguel Corp. a permit for its P700-billion aerotropolis project that would cover over 2,500 hectares of Manila Bay.

Pamalakaya says the aerotropolis project is "on the opposite track" of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program.

“Reclamation defeats the purpose of rehabilitation as it endangers vital marine resources that keep Manila Bay abundant and biodiverse," Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap says.

November 20, 2020 - 1:03pm

Akbayan is calling on the original parties in the 2008 environmental protection case over Manila Bay to join them in questioning the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources' dolomite beach project.

The party does this in a statement after the Supreme Court denied its motion to intervene in the case, adding the court "has taken, quite sadly, a hands-off approach on an issue of transcendental importance."

It adds: "Even the high tribunal's statement that it found no violation of its continuing Mandamus is discouraging. It limited its findings to the reports submitted by the DENR on its specific directive to clean the waters of the bay and perform maintenance measures." 

"It failed to include in its assessment the DENR's dumping of fake sand as a polluting act violative of its order."

October 30, 2020 - 1:18pm

Akbayan party-list will hold a "bicycle action" on November 3 "coinciding with the Supreme Court's en banc session to deliberate on the petition Akbayan filed on the dumping of dolomite sand along Manila Bay."

Bikers will meet at Plaza Salamanca in the morning and head to the Supreme Court gates in Padre Faura.

In its announcement, Akbayan says it is calling for the SC to "hold the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in contempt for dumping fake white sand in Manila Bay, which is in violation of the court's continuing Mandamus on the area, as well to save Manila Bay the right way." 

September 29, 2020 - 12:39pm

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima slams the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for ordering the closure of two mining firms after acquiring dolomite from the two companies and dumping it on Manila Bay.

"Nakakatawa naman talaga ang DENR. Pagkatapos nilang isabog at ikalat ang dolomite sa dalampasigan ng Manila Bay, saka pa lang nila ngayon ipapa-imbestiga kung sanhi nga ba ng pagkamatay ng mga bahura ang natatapong dolomite ng dalawang minahan sa Alcoy, Cebu," De Lima says in a statement.

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