Earth Day outrage: Fishers, environmental activists are mad with top environment chief

Earth Day outrage: Fishers, environmental activists are mad with top environment chief

Manila, Philippines-Staunch critics of environment secretary Joselito Atienza on Earth Day expressed their outrage against the controversial DENR chief by dumping a sack of mud sourced from dredged soil near the site of the 11-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension Project in Bacoor, Cavite.

Around 200 members of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and its Cavite affiliate—Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite (SMBC) joined forces with the environmental activist group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) in assailing secretary Atienza over the DENR’s massive uprooting of small fishpens and mussel growing structures in Manila Bay to pave way for the construction of the P 4.3-billion Cavite Coastal Road Phase 2 Project.

In a joint statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista charged Atienza of spearheading the destruction of Manila Bay to allow the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project, which both leaders said will destroy the livelihood of the people and the remaining marine life in Manila Bay.

“We are mad with the Office of the President and Secretary Atienza. They are responsible for the massive loss of livelihood and all-out destruction of the bay in the name of corporate interests and bureaucratic corruption. On the occasion of Earth Day, we declare President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Atienza as enemies of the people and environment, and coddlers of big time plunders and destroyers of the environment,” the Pamalakaya and Kalikasan-PNE leaders said.

According to SMBC President Rodolfo Torres, the R-1 Expressway Extension Project had already displaced 26,000 fisherfolk families from their main source of livelihood, and he blamed Atienza for issuing the environmental compliance certificate to the project jointly undertaken by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Malaysia group UEM-Mara Philippines.

Torres said the ECC granted by DENR to PRA and UEM-Mara allowed the national government and its foreign investor client to reclaim not less than 5,000 hectares of coastal waters in Bacoor and nearby towns of Rosario, Noveleta, Kawit and Cavite City.

But Pamalakaya, its regional chapter Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog and Kalikasan-PNE said the ECC granted by the DENR to R-1 proponent UEM Mara-Philippines Corporation in 2007 clearly stipulated that the 11- kilometer expressway shall be constructed on top of a viaduct to avoid flooding in the low-lying areas of Bacoor, Cavite.

“Secretary Atienza is politically, lawfully and morally obliged to reply in all honesty about this public inquiry. Did his office gave UEM-Mara the go signal to reduce the ECC into a plain piece of thrash paper and do whatever they wanted to do. There is a big difference between a viaduct and a solid land expressway made possible by all-out reclamation,” the groups asserted.

Based on the document obtained by Pamalakaya, it said the ECC awarded to UEM-Mara Philippines Corporation, the private firm was not allowed to destroy the remaining mangrove areas and reclaim coastal waters for the R-1 Expressway Extension Project.

Pamalakaya said a resolution of the municipality of Bacoor urging President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to temporarily halt the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project until the design is modified for the benefit of the people of Bacoor.

In the resolution dated October 20, 2008 and signed by Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla and councilors Rolando Remulla, Hubert Gervacio, Normita Celestino, Avelino de Castro, Miguel Bautista, Bayani de Leon, Catherine Sarino and Gianne Louise Olegario, the local government of Bacoor appealed to President Arroyo to immediately order the temporary cessation of the R-1 Expressway construction, as they urged Malacañang to construct the road project on top of viaduct and not by reclamation involving thousands of reclaimed and to be-reclaimed areas.

In said municipal resolution, Mayor Revilla and other councilors reiterated that the R-1 Expressway Extension project as specifically mentioned in the ECC granted by DENR shall be constructed on top of a viaduct to avoid flooding in the low areas of Bacoor.

Mayor Revilla and the councilors asserted that UEM Mara through its contractor SARGASSO Construction and Development Corporation reclaimed large tracts of land in Bacoor Bay resulting in the economic displacement of hundreds of small-scale fisherfolk. #

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