Atienza cannibalizing SC ruling on Manila Bay, says fishers group

DENR Chief is Butcher of Manila Bay, says Pamalakaya
Atienza cannibalizing SC ruling on Manila Bay, says fishers group

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said environment and natural resources secretary Joselito Atienza is cannibalizing the Supreme Court ruling putting to task concerned government agencies to bring the historic bay back to its old glory and pristine state.

“Secretary Atienza is distorting the real intent of the Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay. He is using the decision not to rehabilitate the bay, but to terrorize and destroy the livelihood and homes of small fisherfolk and poor people,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap charged in a press statement.

Hicap said the high tribunal ruling ordered the national government through the DENR and other concerned agencies to bring Manila Bay back to its pristine state and glorious past as productive fishing ground.

“But Secretary Atienza is performing his role to the hilt as the Butcher of Manila Bay. He is destroying the livelihood of small fish pen operators and mussel growers not because he cares for the environment, but because that’s the only way to force people let go their fishing activities and leave the villages,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap said the areas occupied by fish traps and mussel growing structures in Cavite are targeted for reclamation. He said the national government intends to reclaim 7,500 hectares of foreshore land and shallow waters of Manila Bay for the 7-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension Project.

The project which is the current object of protest by Cavite fishermen and urban poor will displace 26,000 fishing families in the coastal villages of Bacoor, Kawit, Binakayan, Noveleta, Rosario and Cavite City. “The R-1 Expressway Extension Project is extremely anti-environment and anti-people. It will kill the Cavite and National Capital Region portions of Manila Bay, but DENR is very silent on this,” said Pamalakaya.

Last week, Secretary Atienza proceeded with the demolition of 10 fishpens in Bacoor, Cavite. Pamalakaya said the DENR spent P 814,000 for rental of back hoe and tug boat which were used to wreck “alleged illegal fishpen structures”.

Pamalakaya also said it will ask its network of lawyers regarding the proposal of the River Basin Control Office to impose fish ban in Manila Bay in lieu of the high court ruling last year.

The proposed fish ban 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. brought the idea in last 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,” the group said.

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.

“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 sorry 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. #

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