By Gloria Madonna Velarde, Sugar Hicap and Ella Mae France
MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE)A group of activist fisherfolk in the country on Tuesday urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to stop the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) from constructing man-made islands through massive reclamation projects.
“We strongly urge President Aquino to stop the PRA which is under the Office of the President from creating left-and-right Temptation islands all over the country.
Imagine, the PRA under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program of this administration, private developers will be allowed to build 102 man-made islands, and they have the assurance of the Aquino government that they will get what they want in terms of huge return on their investment sealed with sovereign guarantee from Malacanang” said Gerry Albert Corpuz, information officer of Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance.
The 102 Temptation Island projects to be constructed through land-reclamation include the 38 reclamation projects in Manila Bay that will cover 26, 234 hectares of foreshore lands from Cavite City to Bataan province, the 7 reclamation projects along Davao Gulf which will entail land reclamation of 238 hectares and 50 more reclamation projects in Panay island, Guimaras, Negros Island, Cebu and Leyte provinces.
‘It would be politically incorrect and morally disturbing on the part of Aquino administration to change the geography of the country from an archipelago of 7,101 islands to 7,196 islands with 102 man-made islands at stake for construction under this graphically insane PPP reclamation program just to attract investments and please financial oligarchs and speculators across-the-globe. This is wrong, very wrong,” said Corpuz.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list had strongly rebuked the plan of the PRA to reclaim 26, 234 hectares of foreshore land in Manila Bay. The groups said the reclamation in the historic bay is a top priority of Malacanang and PRA under the PPP program. They said the 635 hectare foreshore area and the 175 hectare bird sanctuary in Las Pinas and Paranaque are part of the ambitious reclamation project of PRA along Roxas Boulevard.
Citing documents obtained from the DENR and the PRA, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said there are 38 reclamation projects in Manila Bay and these projects will entail land reclamation activities in Cavite, National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.
The groups said on top of the 38 reclamation projects along the shores of Manila Bay, there are 7 reclamation projects along Davao Gulf that constitute 238 hectares and 50 other reclamation projects covering 5,800 hectares of foreshore land areas that include additional man-made land areas in Cagayan Special Economic Zone (220 hectares), Albay Gulf (100 hectares), Leganes Reclamation in Iloilo (1,200 hectares), Bacolod City reclamation (250 hectares), Semirara Island Reclamation (980 hectares), Kalibo reclamation (200 hectares), Isabel reclamation (113 hectares) in Leyte, Talisay Reclamation (250 hectares) in Cebu and San Jose de Buenavista Reclamation (300 hectares) in Antique.
On December 5, 2011, PRA General Manager and CEO Peter Anthony Abaya formally asked environment Secretary Ramon Paje to issue area clearances for 50 reclamation projects which the PRA wishes to undertake in soonest time possible.
In his letter to Paje, Abaya said the issuance of clearances by the DENR is necessary so the PRA could process applications to reclaim within areas in the National Reclamation Plan (NRP) to ensure that such areas are free of any legal impediments.
The PRA chief said the NRP project was presented to and approved by the Cabinet Economic Cluster Committee sometime in June and July 2011. It said the cluster group had recognized the huge potential investments that reclamation projects in the NRP could generate similar to Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore experience.
Abaya further said other countries are implementing reclamation projects not only by the hundred but thousands of hectares as tool in achieving economic growth and development. He said the PRA is in receipt of a proposal from the Pasay City government for a 50-hectare reclamation project within its jurisdiction along the NRP Manila Bay sector.
On December 12, 2011, DENR undersecretary Atty. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh issued a memorandum to all regional executive directors of the DENR except NCR and Regions IX and XII regarding the request of a programmatic Area clearance sought by PRA for its 50 reclamation projects under NRP.
Undersecretary Teh asked concerned regional directors of the DENR to undertake prompt action on the request of PRA and keep PRA chief Abaya well informed about the status of the request.
Instead of reclamation, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis insisted that the Aquino government should undertake a massive mangrove reforestation program in Manila Bay to save this once highly productive fishing ground from eventual death and destruction.
‘If the Aquino administration and the DENR want to save Manila Bay and bring back its old glory of clean environment, pristine waters and productive fishing ground, the mangrove reforestation, not reclamation is the logical, scientific and logical action to this objective.
Instead of pushing for the privatization and conversion of Manila Bay, the government should come out with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that will involve mangrove reforestation with the key support of small fishermen and community residents in all fishing villages situated along Manila Bay,” the groups said.
Pamalakaya had been at logger heads with PRA since the early 90s over reclamation projects in Manila Bay. The group claimed that PRA had approved the reclamation of more than 20,000 hectares of foreshore areas along the stretch of Manila Bay since the era of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
The group claimed reclaimed lands in Manila Bay played host to SM Mall of Asia, the President Diosdado Macapagal-Boulevard and pre-Marcos establishments such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theater, the Philippine International Convention Center, the Coconut Palace, the GSIS and the current Senate Building, the Manila Film Center and the Philippine Westin Plaza in Pasay and Manila areas.
Pamalakaya said during the term of former President and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the PRA reclaimed 7,100 hectares of coastal areas in Cavite to give way to the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Road Project.
It said another 5,000 hectares of foreshore areas in Cavite City is being undertaken for the expansion and development of Sangley Point as an international seaport in Southern Tagalog.
On June 21, 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 629 directing the PRA to develop Sangley Point in Cavite City into a logistical hub with modern seaport and an airport, citing the R-1 expressway extension project as enabling component.
The group said PRA is “hell bent” to reclaim the 175-hectare mangrove forest along the Manila bay, which serves as shelter for several species of waterfowl and birds. Pamalakaya said the reclamation project in Las Pinas-Paranaque coastal lagoon will also entail the reclamation of additional 635 hectares of coastal waters adjacent to Las Pinas-Paranaque coastal lagoon.
Pamalakaya said during the year 1992-1995, some 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos to give way to reclamation projects which is now home of the commercial buildings.
Pamalakaya also disclosed that in Navotas City, there are also some reclamation activities going on. It said that the national government is pushing the North Bay Boulevard Project (NBBP) in Navotas City that will entail the reclamation of not less than 5,000 hectares of foreshore lands to the detriment of more than 20,000 fishing and urban poor families who will be immediately displaced once this national project proceeds. @