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MANILA, Philippines – If the US embassy is truly concerned with Manila Bay reclamation projects’ impact on marine environment, it shouldn’t just single out a China-owned reclamation project, said a fisherfolk group on Thursday, August 3.
Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that if the US embassy was genuinely concerned about the environment, it should oppose all reclamation projects “instead of just singling out a specific project that involves a Chinese firm and threatens its security protocols.”
The US embassy expressed concern over Manila Bay reclamation projects, particularly over one that had ties to the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).
Aside from the project’s “irreversible impacts to the environment,” the US embassy pointed out in a statement that CCCC had been helping the Chinese military “militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea.”
Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of Pamalakaya, said fishers will only appreciate the embassy’s concern if it doesn’t turn a blind eye to the reclamation projects in Cavite which are threatening their livelihood.
There are currently 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, three of which are located in Cavite province covering around 3,000 hectares of fishing waters.
“The reclamation and dredging in Cavite have been going on for years, yet we have not heard a single outcry from the embassy until now,” Hicap said. Fisherfolk recently reported flounders unusually surfacing in the waters of Cavite due to dredging. Surfacing of bottom-dwelling fish signals disturbance in natural habitats.
Meanwhile, think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) said on Friday that these projects have long been problematic “but not solely because of the parochial geopolitical concerns of the United States.”
Beyond geopolitics, reclamation projects cause “the displacement of coastal communities, the decline of fish catch, and the deforestation of mangrove areas,” said Gerry Arances, executive director of CEED.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that it has been conducting a cumulative impact assessment on all reclamation projects. International conservation group Oceana urged the DENR to temporarily stop the ongoing reclamation projects in Manila Bay while the assessment was ongoing.
Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga said on Friday, August 4, that they were looking at the possibility of halting or minimizing reclamation activities until they finish the assessment. Loyzaga clarified that the assessment was a scientific process that would take time. – Rappler.com