DENR chief will nose bleed defending Manila Bay demolitions, says fishers group
The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday said environment secretary Joselito Atienza will have a nose bleed explaining to the Supreme Court the justification of his campaign to rid Manila Bay of fishing structures and houses in connection with the ongoing Manila Bay clean up.
“Secretary Atienza will nose bleed. His lawyers and legal staff will experience the same in explaining the legal, moral and political rationales why they went on an across-the-bay rampage destroying the livelihood of small fisherfolk in Cavite,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
The Supreme Court last March 4 ordered Secretary Atienza to comment within 10 days on petition of Pamalakaya, the fisherfolk of Bacoor represented by Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite (SMBC) and Anakpawis party list questioning the DENR demolition of fish pens and mussel growing structures along Manila Bay.
Hicap said the order of Supreme Court to Atienza, made his group and the fisherfolk of Cavite as official parties to the Manila Bay clean up case filed by concerned citizens against government authorities.
“The SC found merit on the petition we filed against the ongoing demolitions undertaken by the office of Secretary Atienza. The move of SC ordering the DENR chief to reply to the issues we raised last Feb.23 is an indication that we are now part of the Manila Bay clean up case. This is a positive development but it still a long way to go and things are still uncertain as far as the legal battle is concerned,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
In their “very urgent and respectful motion for leave to intervene” filed at the Supreme Court on Feb.23, the petitioners Pamalakaya, its regional chapter Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog, Anakpawis party list and SMBC said they are 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.”
“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,” they said.
The petitioners 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,” they said.
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 ) to make them fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
In February 2009, DENR caused the destruction of the mussels, fish cages and fish traps of the movants. Every week, eight hundred fourteen thousand pesos (P814,000.00) of public funds were used by DENR in demolishing fish traps and mussel growing structures in Manila Bay, including make-shift structures.
Pamalakaya maintained that the decision of the Honorable Court dated December 18, 2008 does not warrant or suggest that the rights of small fishermen in the Manila Bay be trampled upon. 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.
“Let it be noted that 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. It is the source of their livelihood and these activities of the small fisherfolks constitute passive fishing, and therefore not destructive to the environment and the Manila Bay but in fact, they are environment friendly,” it said.
Pamalakaya asserted the fishing activities of the small fisherfolks are not the cause of the degradation of the Manila Bay but the toxic chemicals and industrial waste of factories and companies.
They were sourced not from the Manila Bay itself. As stated in the material facts of the case, almost 60 percent of pollution entering Manila Bay comes through the Pasig River, and 80 percent of the pollution comes from industries and commercial establishments situated along the country’s major river system in the National Capital Region. Another 15 percent of the pollution that gets into Manila Bay comes from Pampanga River, is colonized by big and small polluting factories.
“Ostensibly, therefore, 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 group added.
Pamalakaya said the same decision will later on be used by the petitioners to justify the further demolition of the houses of small fishermen and the destruction of the mussel-growing structures, fish traps and fish cages to give way to further reclamation activities in the bay.
“Thus, 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 and will dismantle 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,” it said.
Pamalakaya further noted that “It must be said then, that the misplaced interpretation and interpretation of the decision of the Honorable Court by the petitioners especially the DENR will defeat the significance and usefulness of the decision. They have led their sight to the small fishermen, while turning a blind eye to the destructive effect of the conversion and reclamation projects in Manila Bay.”