Residents of Barangay Bayanan in Muntinlupa gathered in a reclamation forum in the village this afternoon to learn from Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao the various reclamation projects of the governments that would affect numerous urban poor communities in Metro Manila. The Save Laguna Lake Movement organized the forum.

Residents here live in the Laguna de Bay area that have been under threat of demolition with-then ‘Public-Private Partnership’ and now ‘Build, Build, Build’ project Laguna Lake Expressway-Dike Project (LLEDP). Fishing is among the common livelihood of residents in the area, while many have turned to informal or service work to augment their incomes due to the dwindling catch in the bay.

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) estimated those who will be affected by the LLEDP at 4.9 million fisherfolk and urban poor families in Muntinlupa, Taguig and towns in Laguna and Rizal provinces that surround the 90-thousand ha lake.

The LLEDP has two component projects: a 47-kilometer expressway dike from the cities of Muntinlupa and Taguig to Los Banos, Laguna; and the 700-ha reclamation area for commercial, residential and mixed use.

Fisherfolk, residents and environmentalists opposed the LLEDP due to foreseen environmental damages on the already fragile marine environment and species.

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao shares the reclamation projects of the government with the residents of Bayanan. Photo by Jade Dela Cuadra.

 

More government reclamation projects

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said there are  120 reclamation projects in the country. In Manila Bay alone, the agency has listed 43 reclamation projects, all included in its National Reclamation Plan. Once approved, the projects would cover 22,000 ha or about 11 percent of the bay’s 1,994-square-kilometer area.

Three of these projects have been approved in principle by the PRA—the 360-ha Pasay reclamation project, the 140-ha Solar City project, and the Navotas Boulevard Business Park. Around 547 hectares of Manila Bay will be reclaimed for ports expansion and mixed-use projects.

The solon also shared with the participants various efforts of Anakpawis Partylist and Makabayan bloc in the Lower House of Congress to oppose “environmentally-destructive reclamation projects” that he said would also lead to loss of homes and livelihoods while earning superprofits for big businessmen. Around 1 to 1.5 million Filipinos would be displaced across all Manila Bay reclamation projects, said Casilao.

 

Protesting reclamation

The Makabayan bloc filed House Resolution 2452 on January 29, urging the government to postpone the rehabilitation of the polluted Manila Bay over concerns in how the government plans to resettle an estimated 300,000 informal settlers until an assessment on the socio-economic impact on poor sectors and a genuine and democratic masterplan has been carried out.

On February 7, Anakpawis and Makabayan lawmakers filed House Bill No. 9067, declaring Manila Bay as Reclamation-Free Zone. The move was pushed to cater the broader demand for the urgent rehabilitation of Manila Bay, and emphasized on declaring the bay as “reclamation-free.” The progressive lawmakers also wanted to reiterate that rehabilitation of Manila Bay does not equate to reclamation and called for “genuine rehabilitation” of the historic waters.

Rep. Casilao also hit the contract earned by Duterte’s ally Dennis Uy. The solon believed Uy’s fingers dipped in one of the big-ticket Manila Bay reclamation project stinks of crony capitalism or graft. The 265-hectare joint-venture “Pasay Harbor City” would be carried out by a consortium involving Davao-based businessman Uy and the local government of Pasay City.

The lawmaker accused Malacañang Palace of using rehabilitation as a vehicle for reclamation. Aside from environmental damages, the reclamation projects are big profit infrastructure projects for big private corporations that would also build and serve businesses at the expense of the displacement of around 1 to 1.5 million Filipinos across all Manila Bay reclamation projects.

 

Emergency aid for fisherfolk

Almost two weeks ago, PAMALAKAYA said the fishing sector is not spared from drought induced by El Niño phenomenon and must be given emergency aid and relief by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

The group said that the farm gate price of aquatic fish species in Laguna de Bay drops all time low due to the intense heat. Farm gate price of tilapia is now P20 per kilo compared to the pre-drought price of P50 per kilo or a 40% drop, while farm gate price of bangus or milkfish is now P50 per kilo, a 71% drop from the pre-drought price of P70 per kilo.

“During dry spell, fish in Laguna de Bay acquires earthy-taste and smell (gilik) because they go deep down the lake, making its farm gate price to drop because consumer demand for any kind of fish harvested during this season is very low. This reduces further whatever income small fishers can bring home to their families,” Ronnel Arambulo, coordinator of PAMALAKAYA in Laguna de Bay explained.

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