Climate and Environment

Groups demand official order on reclamation suspension to ensure compliance

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Groups demand official order on reclamation suspension to ensure compliance
This photo shows an aerial shot of the reclamation site in Manila Bay on August 20, 2023.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — Environmentalists and fishers continue to press the government for an official written order suspending reclamation activities in Manila Bay, one month after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. made the declaration.

In August, Marcos ordered the suspension of 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay pending a review of their environmental and social impacts. However, the government has yet to release an official suspension order to the public.

“It’s been almost a month since Marcos Jr. suspended all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, and yet there is neither written suspension order nor clear guidelines on how this will be implemented,” said Cleng Julve, campaigns and advocacies officer of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM). 

“A written suspension order would give legal effect to the president’s verbal suspension and ensure that it is not just lip service,” Julve added. 

Fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) added that Marcos’ verbal order is “toothless,” citing continued dredging activities intended for dump-and-fill projects. 

According to the group, dredging activities that support reclamation projects in Manila Bay persist along the shores of Cavite. Dredging operations cover over 13,000 hectares of the province’s municipal waters, and affect the livelihood of more than 10,000 fisherfolk. 

Scientists from AGHAM stressed that, similar to reclamation, dredging disturbs benthic ecosystems where fish live, potentially impacting fisheries production and food security.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier said that the agency’s cumulative impact assessment covers all dump-and-fill projects in Metro Manila and neighboring Cavite province, and all activities related to reclamation.

‘Suspend construction of airport project, too’

AGHAM and PAMALAKAYA also called on the Marcos administration to suspend the construction of other coastal development projects such as the New Manila Airport in Bulacan. The airport project is not included in the list of the Philippine Reclamation Authority. 

“The construction of the Bulacan airport project that involves massive reclamation of mangroves, fish ponds, and other wetlands connected to Manila Bay is excluded from the suspension order. We ask President Marcos why he spared the Bulacan airport project from the suspension order?” PAMALAKAYA said.

“Whether it be offshore or onshore landfilling, it must be placed under suspension until a thorough cumulative impact study has been conducted,” it added. 

AGHAM also called on the government to protect environmental defenders opposing destructive development projects following the reported abduction of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. The two have been active in organizing communities affected by reclamation and other coastal development projects in Manila Bay.

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, and has been also the deadliest place in Asia for environmental and land rights defenders since 2014.

“The government should be at the forefront in fighting and mitigating the impacts of climate change, and not serve as a facilitator to environmental destruction by approving destructive development projects,” Julve said. 

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