By Mama Mila Liguasan and Billy Javier Reyes
Pasay City- Fisherfolk affected by ongoing government projects in Manila Bay yesterday staged a 70-boat fluvial protest from Barangay Sineguelasan in Bacoor, Cavite to the coastal shore of the Philippine Senate to demand an immediate stop on all reclamation activities along the bay, including the construction of the controversial R-1 Expressway Extension Project and the demolition of some 26,000 coastal families.
The fluvial action was organized by the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), its regional chapter Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog and staunch allies Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite (SMBC), Anakpawis party list and the Alyansa ng mga Magdaragat ng Bacoor Inc (AMB). Small fishermen from Paranaque and Las Pinas also joined the water-based mass action.
The 70-boat fluvial protest participated by more than 300 fishermen across Bacoor Bay and parts of Manila Bay in Las Pinas and Paranaque disembarked at the coastal shore of the Philippine Senate by lunch time. At the Senate, they were met by Senator Jamby Madrigal, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, who invited their leaders as resource persons to the 1 pm senate hearing called by the opposition senator to investigate the impact of government projects and reclamation activities on Manila Bay environment.
“The twin catastrophe across Luzon left by storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng should serve as lesson to the current occupant in Malacanang and their cherished clients from the corporate world. The unstoppable greed for super profits of big business clients of Malacanang and the equally unbridled fetish of state officials for fat kick backs and huge commissions should be blamed for this full-blown humanitarian crisis and all time high environmental disaster,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
Hicap added: “Enough is enough. The government master plan of destruction in Manila Bay should be smashed into pieces at all cost.”
The Pamalakaya official said the infrastructure projects undertaken by the government in partnership with foreign investors along Manila Bay had destroyed the capability of the bay to provide livelihood to millions of small fishermen and residents along the bay, adding that government destructive projects which started in the late 70s and early 80s caused the alarming reduction in the average fish catch of small fisherfolk from 5 kilos to 10 kilos daily, to an average 1 kilo to 3 kilos a day.
Hicap said government reclamation projects which served as host grounds for industrial, commercial and infrastructure projects will continue to frustrate efforts aimed at rehabilitating Manila Bay. He said the demolition of fishing communities and urban poor is not the solution to the problem.
The fluvial protester said the condition of Manila Bay further deteriorated when previous governments allowed the reclamation of more than 20,000 hectares of coastal areas since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Government and private establishments like Folk Arts Theater, Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Coconut Palace, the GSIS and the Senate building and now the SM Mall of Asia were constructed along these reclaimed portions of Manila Bay.
Pamalakaya-Timog Katagalugan chair Pedro Gonzalez said the R-1 Expressway Extension project had already reclaimed 60 percent of the target 7,000 hectares of coastal areas along Bacoor Bay that includes the municipalities of Bacoor, Kawit, Binakayan, Noveleta and Cavite City. He said the government also intends to reclaim another 5,000 hectares of submerged public lands in Cavite City to expand the Sangley Point Naval Base which the government will develop into a major international seaport in Southern Tagalog region.
Gonzales maintained that aside from destroying the marine environment and killing the livelihood of coastal people, these reclamation and other government sanctioned projects will displace 26,000 fisherfolk families and urban poor residents along Bacoor Bay. Last year, the government demolished 1,000 families in several coastal villages of Bacoor.
Pamalakaya 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 group 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.
Pamalakaya and allied groups said Palace top officials and other government officials like environment secretary Joselito Atienza, Metro Manila Development Authority chair Bayani Fernando, Laguna Lake Development Authority general Manager Edgar Manda and Cavite governor Ayong Maliksi are exploiting the Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay clean up to effectively remove small fishermen and urban poor from their main source of livelihood and coastal villages to enable the national government to pursue flagship projects funded by big business groups #