Fishers group tells SC: Ruling on Manila Bay being used to kill livelihood

Fishers group tells SC: Ruling on Manila Bay being used to kill livelihood

The Supreme Court decision on Manila Bay clean up is being used and abused by government agencies to effectively carry out the demolition of houses and the destruction of livelihood of small fisherfolk and urban poor people, according to the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

In their 14-page “very urgent and respectful motion for leave to intervene” filed at the Supreme Court this afternoon, the petitioners Pamalakaya, its regional chapter Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog, Anakpawis party list, Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor Cavite and the affected fisherfolk, the movants said small fishermen of Manila Bay are one with the public in approving the Decision of the Honorable Court promulgated on December 18, 2008, for the clean-up and rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.

“Unfortunately, however, the decision was used and abused by the petitioners, making it the basis for the illegal and incessant demolition of their houses, fish traps and fish cages and the destruction of one of their livelihood which is growing of mussels,” they said.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap, one of the petitioners said: “Let it be told that the decision of the Honorable Court does not warrant or suggest that the rights of small fishermen in the Manila Bay be trampled upon.”

The Pamalakaya leader added: “Nothing in the decision gives the petitioners, especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) the authority to demolish and destroy the houses and source of livelihood of the movants. They or the structures they have put up in Manila Bay were not the source of the pollution, toxic waste or contamination of the bay.”

Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog secretary general Pedro Gonzales said it is on this premise that movants hereto move that they be allowed to intervene and given the opportunity to be heard on this noble issue of cleaning, protecting and rehabilitating the Manila Bay.

“Our fisherfolk and poor people in Manila Bay should not bear the brunt of the decision but the real culprit behind the sorry state of the Manila Bay. They should not be deprived of life, livelihood and property by the erroneous interpretation and implementation of the petitioners of the Honorable Court’s decision. For rightly so, they are not the cause of the effluence of the Manila Bay but some other factors, which, unfortunately were not given much attention by the petitioners,” said Gonzales.

Movants have been adversely affected by the erroneous interpretation and implementation of the petitioners-agencies, especially the DENR, of the Honorable Court’s decision. They have no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. They are directly filing this motion to the Honorable Court as it was its very decision that has been used to justify the demolition and destruction of the source of livelihood of the movants by the petitioners-government agencies;

On December 18, 2008, the Honorable Court in the instant case rendered a decision directing the petitioners government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to SB level (Class B sea waters per Water Classification Tables under DENR Administrative Order No. 34 [1990]) to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation;

But Pamalakaya said the DENR, in February caused the destruction of the mussels, fish cages and fish traps of the movants. Ostensibly, however, the decision of the Honorable Court was merely used as cloak to justify the intention of the DENR to get rid of the structures established and used by the movants to grow mussels and to catch fishes in Manila Bay in order to give way to the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project of the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

The militant group said on the guise of implementing the decision of the Honorable Court for the clean up, protection and rehabilitation of Manila Bay, the DENR has dismantled the structures used by the movants for growing mussels and for catching fishes in the Manila Bay.

“But it could not be denied that their real intent is to get rid these structures to allow the unhampered construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project and reclamation of the portion of the Manila Bay without risk of civil, criminal and/or administrative suits and without compensating anything to the movants,” said Pamalakaya.

In their motion, Pamalakaya be noted that the 7-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension Project will involve the reclamation of 7,500 hectares of submerged public lands and mangrove areas in Manila. The project which is approximately 40 percent completed will further destroy the remaining coral and mangrove areas in the Cavite portion of Manila Bay and will remove 26,000 fisherfolk and urban poor families, including herein movants from their main source of livelihood and abode;

The group said that “it must be said then, that the misplaced interpretation and interpretation of the decision of the Honorable Court by the DENR will defeat the significance and usefulness of the decision. The DENR has led its sight to the small fishermen, which includes herein movants, while turning a blind eye to the destructive effect of the construction of the reclamation projects in Manila Bay.”

“As it was already the case and because the clean up, protection and rehabilitation of Manila Bay is a continuing act, movants will be adversely affected by the acts of the petitioners. They are mistakenly being targeted as the source of the pollution that beset the Manila Bay for which reason petitioners are supposedly justified to dismantle their houses, fish pens or fish traps and the other structures used to grow mussels therein. On the other hand, the petitioner-government agencies, especially the DENR, have not lifted any finger to stop, or even just to investigate the harmful effects of the reclamation activities undertaken in the Manila Bay.

The group also said “as such, movants have the right to intervene as their rights have already been trampled upon, violated and adversely affected by the erroneous interpretation and implementation of the Honorable Court’s decision by the petitioner-agencies while they ignore the plea to study the effects of the on-going reclamation projects in the Manila Bay.”

Pamalakaya said the small fisherfolk were directly affected and in fact are the actual victims of the erroneous interpretation and application of the respondents of the Honorable Court’s decision adverted to above, they have likewise the right to intervene to seek protection from the Honorable Court of their rights and interest. In the minimum, they expect clarification from the Honorable Court on the application of the decision to their right to life, property and livelihood.

The group said government reclamation and development projects along the bay like the on–going construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project, which directly affects their livelihood and will destroy the further destroy the remaining coral and mangrove areas in the Cavite portion of Manila Bay, movants who are directly affected thereof has also the right to bring to the attention of the Honorable Court that the reclamation of the Manila Bay is the first and foremost reason of the effluence and destruction of Marine Life thereof and not the fishing activities of the small fishermen thereof.

Pamalakaya said the task of their intervention, therefore, is to enable movants to articulate their position on the noble purpose of cleaning, protecting and rehabilitating the Manila Bay, and to seek clarification and protection from the Honorable Court on the scope of the decision to the small fishermen of the Manila Bay; to bring to the attention of the Honorable Court the misplaced interpretation and implementation of the decision by the government agencies; and the neglect to include the reclamation activities in the Manila Bay as the first and foremost reason for its destruction. #

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