Atienza told: Reject fish ban in Manila Bay or face storm of protest
The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday warned Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joselito Atienza that he and his office will face a storm of electrifying protest from small fishermen if he approved the proposed fish ban off Manila Bay.
The proposal to ban fishing in Manila Bay came from the River Basin Control Office (RBCO), the agency coordinating water-related initiatives nationwide. RCBO executive director Dr. Vicente Tuddao Jr. said he would bring the proposal in next week’s meeting of the Manila Bay Coordinating Committee (MBCC) with Secretary Atienza.
“Not only the extreme force of nature will confront Secretary Atienza if he will approve this crazy proposal, he will meet the extreme anger and slam bang protest of the Manila Bay fishermen who will be affected by this incorrigible act,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.
According to Hicap, the proposed fish ban off Manila Bay will massacre the livelihood of not less than 500,000 fishermen and their dependents. The Pamalakaya leader said the ban on all fishing activities will severely affect the livelihood of small fishermen and fish workers in all coastal towns of Cavite, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Navotas, Malabon, the coastal towns of Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces.
“The fish ban is not the solution to Manila Bay’s degradation. The government and its environmental planners are conspiring to eliminate small fishermen so they could sell Manila Bay to the transnational clients of the ruling Mafia in Malacañang,” said Hicap.
According to Pamalakaya, the government will impose fish ban in Manila Bay not to rehabilitate it, but to allow and fast-track all reclamation activities in this once rich fishing ground.
The fisherfolk group said the government is eying to reclaim another 90 hectares of shallow coastal areas in Pasay City Reclamation Area for the controversial Las Vegas style casino project along Roxas Boulevard which the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) will undertake.
Pamalakaya said the government also plans to construct another casino inside the Navotas Fish Port, while in Cavite, the government will undertake a 5,000 hectare reclamation project that would cover the coastal areas of Bacoor, Kawit, Binakayan, Noveleta and Cavite City.
“The Supreme Court ruling is clear. The national government through the DENR and other concerned agencies should bring Manila Bay back to its pristine state and glorious past as productive fishing ground. In order to do this, the government must stop all its destructive activities along the bay like reclamation, instead of enforcing this diabolical measure known as fish ban,” the militant group added.
Pamalakaya said it will ask its network of lawyers ‘groups regarding the proposal to impose fish ban and how they could challenge the measure before the Supreme Court, which December last year promulgated a decision putting to task the national government and all its attached agencies in ensuring the rehabilitation of the bay.
“The Supreme Court ruling sent marching orders to the government to conduct a comprehensive rehabilitation program. It did not say it should impose fish ban, pursue all-out reclamation and sell Manila Bay to the highest bidders,” the group added.
Manila Bay, once the country’s no.2 most productive fishing area has a surface area of about 1,800 square kilometers and a coastline of 190 kilometers connecting parts of National Capital Region to Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan. The bay has 4,600 hectares of wetlands that provide food and habitat for various species, act as reservoir for watersheds, help maintain and improve water quality in rivers and other water bodies.
Pamalakaya blamed the present and the previous governments for the destruction of mangrove areas in Manila Bay. The group said because of rampant reclamation projects in Manila Bay, its mangrove areas shrank from 54,000 hectares several decades ago, to 2,000 hectares in 1990 and further 794 hectares in 1995.
“The fisherfolk and all the Manila Bay dwellers are being blamed by the government for the sad state of Manila Bay, where in fact, it is the national government since time immemorial should be castigated and punished for privatizing and converting Manila Bay to accommodate super-profiteer clients of Malacañang from the very, very beginning,” the group added. #