Gov’t officials “used and abused” SC ruling on Manila Bay to effect baywide demolition, fishers told Senate hearing
The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said Cavite Governor Ayong Maliksi, along with environment and natural resources secretary Joselito Atienza, former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr., chair of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and public works and highway secretary Hermogenes Ebdane used and abused the Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay to effect widespread demolition along the bay.
At the Senate consultative hearing called by Senator Jamby Madrigal, chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment held in Barangay Sineguelasan, Bacoor, Cavite, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap asserted that the controversial R-1 Expressway Extension Project being pushed by the national government in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the PRA and the Cavite provincial government is contrary to high court ruling thrust to bring the bay back to its pristine state and historical glory.
“The 11-kilometer expressway project is a road to perdition and a highway to destruction. But for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her officials, the R-1 undertaking is a multi-billion peso finance campaign worthy of millions of pesos of huge kickbacks in return. And to effectively carry out this P 4.3-billion road project, they are exploiting and prostituting the SC ruling on Manila Bay,” added Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader said the SC decision mandates the national government and concerned government officials and agencies to restore Manila Bay to its clean and productive state. Hicap said the ruling does not mention anything about the right of the state to evict poor fisherfolk and urban poor families from their main source of livelihood and communities.
“We have read and studied the SC decision on Manila Bay. The high tribunal is mandating the government to clean up the bay of wastes, not to clean this fishing ground of fisher people. The fisherfolk are part of the Manila Bay’s ecological life and survival and they are not wastes, nothing more, nothing less,” Hicap added.
Pamalakaya’s legal counsel Atty. Jobert Pahilga, executive trustee of Sentra Para Sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) and campaign advocacy officer of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) last Feb.23 assisted the group and the affected fishermen belonging to Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite (SMBC) in filing a motion to intervene before the Supreme Court in the Manila Bay clean up case.
The motion also asked the high tribunal to effectively rule a status quo while the issues raised against the R-1 Expressway Extension Project and the massive demolitions in Manila Bay have still be addressed and resolved by the high court.
Pamalakaya accused President Arroyo, Gov. Maliksi, Atienza, Ebdane and Revilla Sr. of destroying the remaining corals and mangroves of Manila Bay by pushing the R-1 Expressway Extension Project by allowing the reclamation of 7,500 hectares of the submerged public properties along the bay to give way to road construction.
“Reclamation will hasten the death of Manila Bay which is currently under the Intensive Care Unit and in full environmental comatose. That undertaking by design and by orientation, and by law is against the SC decision on Manila Bay,” the militant group said.
Pamalakaya said the R-1 expressway extension project will displace 26,000 fisherfolk families and urban poor residents in the coastal towns of Bacoor, Kawit, Binakayan, Noveleta and Cavite City. Last year, around 1,000 fishing and urban poor families were demolished and relocated to Tanza. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) promised to give P 15,000 to each family whose houses were demolished.
The militant group recalled that on June 21, 2007, President Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 629 directing the PRA to develop Sangley Point in Cavite City into a logistical hub with modern seaport and an airport, citing the R-1 expressway extension project as enabling component. The Pamalakaya leader said the Sangley Point project was Mrs. Arroyo’s birthday gift to Revilla.
Pamalakaya said the R-1 extension project resulted to diminished fish catch and destruction of remaining corals and mangroves in Bacoor Bay. The same Cavite road project is also being blamed for the flooding in Bacoor and nearby coastal towns in the province.