Fishermen’s group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla in connection with the proposed 420-hectare reclamation projects in Cavite.
According to Pamalakaya, the twin reclamation projects in the city are the Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project that consist of 320-hectare islands, and the Diamond Reclamation and Development Project, a 100-hectare island executed via a public-private partnership.
Pamalakaya said the projects are feared to displace some 700 families.
In their complaint, Pamalakaya alleged that Mercado violated the 2008 Supreme Court mandamus to “clean-up, restore and rehabilitate” Manila Bay and the administrative order expediting the restoration of the waterway through the reclamation of fish ponds and mangroves.
“She makes the Manila Bay rehabilitation program of the Duterte government a sham,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said.
“She should have been coordinating with the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to develop the fishing industry of her city but she is on the opposite and destructive path of reclamation,” Hicap also said.
The Bacoor City government said the reclamation projects are expected to address flooding and facilitate the resettlement of families living along 10 coastal villages.
However, the fishermen stressed that the land-filling of fish ponds with solid materials mixed with garbage is threatening the remaining mangrove forests in the coastal city.
Mangrove areas are important not only because they provide breeding grounds for marine species but they also protect coastal communities from waves and cyclones, according to environmental group Oceana Philippines.
Pamalakaya vowed to “contest and stop these environmentally and fishery devastating projects in Bacoor City and in the entire Manila Bay in the parliament of the streets, in any appropriate court or forum and in the court of public opinion.”
In the letter, the fisherfolk lamented that the ongoing reclamation activity of a fishpond located in Barangay Maliksi III in Bacoor, beside a public cemetery, is being done without signage of project details. As a result, they are questioning whether this is indeed a project of the local government.
Moreover, the dump-filling of the fish pond with materials mixed with garbage is threatening to destroy the remaining mangrove forests in the coastal town.
The group said the local government should have coordinated with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to improve the marine life and state of fishery production in the city.
In failing to do so, they said their livelihood is affected and is being destroyed.
“In the pursuance of genuine Manila Bay Rehabilitation and upholding of the socio-economic rights of the small fisherfolk of Bacoor City, we are submitting this complaint and are optimistic that the august Office of the Ombudsman [will] serve as a staunch defender of the environment, as well as champion of the wisdom of the 2008 Supreme Court mandamus against the profit-driven and anti-people development projects being pushed by the Bacoor City local government, particularly by Mayor Mercado-Revilla,” the letter read.
Over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected any private sector initiated reclamation projects. The chief executive, however, said he would allow reclamation activities in Manila Bay only if in connection with a government project.
Around 10,000 hectares from Navotas City to Cavite would be covered by the 25 proposed reclamation projects./Stacy Ang