President Simeon Benigno C. Aquino III
Malacanang Palace, Manila
Mr. Peter Anthony A. Abaya
General Manager and CEO
Philippine Reclamation Authority (Public Estates Authority)
7th Floor, Legaspi Towers 200 Bldng.
107 Paseo de Roxas Street, Legaspi Village
1226 City of Makati
Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)
12 Saint Josemaria Escriva Drive
Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1605
Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Visayas Avenue, Diliman, 1100 Quezon City, Philippines
Secretary Mar Roxas
Department of the Interior and Local Government A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St, Diliman, Quezon City 1100
Secretary Proceso J. Alcala
Department of Agriculture
Diliman, Quezon City 1100
Secretary Florencio B. Abad
Department of Budget and Management
General Solano St., San Miguel, Manila
Vice-Chairperson Mary Ann Lucille Sering
Philippine Climate Change Commission
Malacanang Palace, Manila
Chairman Felipe M. de Leon, Jr.
National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)
633 NCCA Building, Gen. Luna Street
Subject: Urgent Request for Nationwide Moratorium on Reclamation Projects
Dear President Aquino, Madame Sering and Gentlemen:
The People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE), a network of scientists, fisherfolk, environmentalists and concerned citizens organizations in different parts of the country, seeks a moratorium on the implementation of the National Reclamation Plan (NRP) pending a fully transparent, independent, scientific, and legal assessment of its ecological, health, and socio-economic impacts.
The NRP target areas include 70% of the coastal areas along Manila Bay (26,234 hectares), affecting several towns of Cavite in Southern Luzon, the Metro Manila coastal cities, and coastal towns of Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan in Central Luzon. Other big reclamation plans are in Cebu’s Mactan Channel, covering 6,000 hectares in Cordova, Talisay, Lapulapu, Naga, Minglanilla, Mandaue, and Consolacion; 1,280 hectares in Antique and 1,200 hectares in Leganes, Iloilo, Panglao, Bohol (650 hectares), Negros Occidental (253 hectares), Aklan (240 hectares), Albay (240 hectares), Davao Gulf (238 hectares), Leyte (233 hectares), and Cagayan (220 hectares).
The target reclamation area in Manila Bay is a vital part of a bigger and critical ecosystem. The affected Bay area from Bataan to Cavite includes the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), which has only recently been proclaimed as a RAMSAR site or an internationally protected wetland. The whole Bay area is connected biologically to mangroves, mudflats, sandy beaches, seagrass beds, coral reefs, which links to a network of rivers and estuaries that act as a drainage system of the Caraballo and Sierra Madre mountains.
Collectively, these coastal ecosystems offer shoreline protection, pollution assimilation, maintenance of nutrient cycles, carbon sequestration, and serve as catch basins, as well as breeding grounds and habitats of our critical fishery resources.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation have said that reclamation is the most irreversible form of environmental degradation. Although the Philippines has been scientifically found to be at the center of the center of marine biodiversity, years of neglect and irresponsible practices have left 98% of Philippine coral reefs at risk, 75% of mangrove areas lost in 82 years, and reduction of seagrass beds by 50% in 50 years. A reckless implementation of the NRP would surely add to these losses.
Reclaiming the said coastal areas in the scale proposed in the National Reclamation Plan, is bound to seriously alter the natural coastline length of the country, noted to be the highest among tropical countries, and that a recent study by Sanciangco, etal.(2013) has proven to be a major factor for the country’s wealth in marine biodiversity.
Reclamation will also alter the circulation of the water, leading to reduction in water quality and increased pollution. Changes to the physical natural environment resulting from reclamation can further lead to erosion, increased flood and typhoon risks, high storm surges during tropical storms and torrential rains, resulting to the stirring up of heavy metals and toxins already deposited in the sea floor.
All of these could not only negatively impact our environment, but can also wreak havoc on those who live and rely on the area for livelihood. We consider this to be in direct violation of our rights for socio-economic growth, healthy environment and human rights of the people as enshrined in our Constitution.
Implementation of the NRP would also substantially damage the historical and cultural values in the Manila Bay area. The Bay holds special significance in the fight for Philippine independence, as a historical gateway of trade and commerce for the nation even prior to the Spanish arrival, and as a natural reminder of local history and culture of Metro Manilans.
The NRP is envisioned to contribute some economic gain to the country. Scientific studies indicate, however, that the resulting over-all cost to the environment, the inevitable losses of fisheries and marine resources and loss of livelihood for sectors dependent on the affected coastal areas would far outweigh the projected gain and would be virtually irreversible.
Mr. President, to ignore these would be to violate our socio-economic and political rights, as enshrined in the Constitution as well as your “Social Contract with the People,” where your administration has committed to a Transformational Leadership that shall bring about an … “alternative, inclusive urban development where people of varying income levels are integrated in productive, healthy and safe communities…”
We thus call on your office and the various government agencies to undertake instead, a comprehensive review and a rigorous independent scientific and legal assessment of the Plan’s impacts on ecology, quality of life, heritage, climate, economy and sustainability, in collaboration with the various sectors and genuine stakeholder participation
Considering the above, the People’s NICHE, along with other concerned citizens of the country, earnestly urge you to listen to the voice of the people and reassess the NRP before engaging on a plan that would destroy our most valuable assets: our people and our environment. We hope to have an audience with you at your earliest convenience to further articulate our position.
We hope for your response to this letter, within ten days, pursuant to the provisions of RA 9485, the Anti-Red Tape Act. Thank you.
Very truly yours,
People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE)
c/o Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, No. 26 Matulungin St. Barangay Central, Quezon City 1100