By Prince Philippe Vera Cruz and Gerry Albert Copuz
MANILA, Philippines –(UPDATE) A top environmental official of the Manila government has rejected the demand of groups opposed to large-scale reclamation projects to recall environmental clearances it had issued to corporate developers over the last several years.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) rejected the Omnibus demand of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) to recall environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to land reclamation projects along Manila Bay, as well as the group’s plea for the environmental agency to cease and desist from issuing ECCs for same purpose.
In a letter to Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France dated January 9, 2013, Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna, Office In Charge- Director of CESO IV of the DENR- Environmental Management Bureau said the DENR regrets to inform fisherfolk group that the department cannot on the basis alone of perceived disasters grant the request to invalidate all the approved ECCs for reclamation projects as well as junk outrightly all pending applications.
“Please be guided that an ECC is a document showing that a proposed project has undergone an environmental study and the adverse environmental effects of the proposed project has somewhat predicted, and corresponding measures to arrest or mitigate the same will be implemented by the proponent,” Cuna argued.
“If we are to invalidate these documents, the primary intention of the Environmental Impact Assessment of protecting the environment will be put to naught,” the DENR official said.
Atty. Cuna said these reclamation projects in Manila Bay had been issued ECCs because proponents diligently undergone the process of mandated under the Philippine EIS System (PD 1586) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (DAO 2003-30).
He said the request of Pamalakaya for ECC cancelation needs careful study and that hard evidence should b presented to clearly show that reclamation projects will cause environmental damages if and when implemented.
On October 16 last year, Pamalakaya asked DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to recall all ECCs issued to reclamation proponents in Manila Bay. In their letter, the group said it was highly disturbed with the admission of the DENR that the agency will never be a major obstacle to the reclamation projects to be undertaken by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and local government units along the bay.
Pamalakaya particularly requested the DENR to recall the ECC given to the controversial Las Pinas-Paranaque Coastal Bay project which involved 203 hectares of coastal areas in Paranaque coastal territory and 431 hectares in Las Pinas territory.
The militant group insisted that the P 14-B reclamation project will affect the economic and social being of 552,550 population in 16 barangays of Paranaque City and 532,330 residents of Las Pinas.
Pamalakaya said the reclamation project in Las Pinas and Paranaque is just one of the 36 reclamation projects that would cover 26, 234 hectares from Cavite, National Capital Region and Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan, all in Central Luzon. The militant group along Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM) and Anakpawis party list-Manila Bay chapter said the impact of reclamation that paved way for the construction of Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) affected the livelihood of small fishermen.
They said fish catch was reduced from a high of 10 kilos per fishing trip to 3 kilos to 5 kilos per fishing trip. They also said due to reclamation, several hundreds of hectares of mussel farms were demolished causing grave economic difficulties to small fishermen and medium scale mussel operators in Bacoor. @