People's Earth Day: Forum and protest against reclamation

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This article is available in Pilipino

Fisherfolk, environmental groups, religious people and residents of communities around Manila Bay came together in a forum and protest in Caloocan City and Navotas City yesterday, April 20, as part of commemorating the upcoming Earth Day. They demanded an immediate halt to destructive reclamations and dredging in Manila Bay, as well as in other parts of the country.

They held the forum led by the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Grace in Caloocan City where different groups and church people gave messages. The youth also performed dances and plays to show their concern for the environment. Subsequently, they staged a protest and a “human chain” on the Navotas City bridge.

In the protest, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) called for the local government of Navotas City to stop its ongoing demolition of the mussel farms and other fishing structures in the city. It has destroyed 20 kilometers of structures since March 16.

Pamalakaya and Navotas fisherfolk had earlier announced that they will definitely be hit by the demolition under the 650-hectare Navotas Bay Reclamation Project being pushed. It is a project of the local government and its partner Argonbay Construction Company, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation owned by Ramon Ang.

Pamalakaya data says since the reclamation of the Navotas coast began last year, the daily income of fisherfolk has fallen by 80%. This 2024, the local government will no longer accept the new applications for permits for mussel farm operations.

“Thousands of fisherfolk and fishery workers who depend on the city’s tuna industry have lost their livelihoods without alternatives or assistance from the government,” according to Fernando Hicap, national chairman of the group. Amid all this, he said they will continue to oppose the removal of fisherfolk’s livelihood and the destructive reclamation.

This 650-hectare reclamation project is one of only 22 projects approved in Manila Bay. Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) data in 2023 says there are 187 existing and approved reclamation projects nationwide.

EcoConvergence, Ministry of Ecology-Diocese of Kalookan, People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems, Ecumenical Bishops Forum, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Promotion of People’s Church Response, Church People-Workers Solidarity (CWS) and Defend Manila Bay group joined Pamalakaya in these activities and calls.

Caritas Philippines also extended support to the gathering. According to Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, president of the group, public support is needed in the defense of Manila Bay because it will have a big impact on everyone if it is destroyed.

“Protecting the environment is not just an environmental issue. It is also a matter of social justice. Manila Bay is not only an ecological marvel. This is the source of life for fisherfolk and entire communities,” Bishop Bagaforo said.

On April 22, the world celebrates Earth Day or the day to protect environmental destruction and plunder. It was first commemorated in April 1970.

AB: People's Earth Day: Forum and protest against reclamation