Groups advocating ocean protection and conservation condemned on Tuesday the reported abduction of two volunteer nongovernment organization (NGO) workers who are helping coastal communities affected by a massive land reclamation project in Bataan province.
Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were reportedly abducted on Sunday, September 2, in Orion, Bataan. They are volunteers of AKAP KA Manila Bay, a non-government organization assisting the fisherfolk and coastal communities in Bataan province.
“This is a sad reminder of how environmental activists are constantly at risk in this day and age. It bears emphasis that the state has a duty to save our coastal ecosystem and fisheries so that the people truly benefit from these important resources. However, the coastal communities and fisherfolk remain marginalized and worst, forced to endure the destruction of the marine environment caused by reclamation, dredging, and seabed quarrying in Manila Bay and other parts of the country. Now that volunteers and organizers like Castro and Tamano are helping them speak out and stop these destructive projects, it is unfortunate and sad that they are subjected to undue harassment and threats to their life and liberty instead,” Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President said in a statement.
For its part, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the reported abduction of two youth environmentalists in Bataan province indicate the continuing culture of impunity.
According to Pamalakaya, the two NGO volunteers were abducted by still unidentified armed men in Barangay Lati, Orion, Bataan.
Before their abduction, Castro and Tamano had been active in organizing the coastal communities in the northern part of Manila Bay, Ronnel Arambulo, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya said in a statement.
“Their tasks as coordinators of environmental formation AKAP Ka Manila Bay are crucial, especially amid the pressing anti-reclamation campaign being waged by the fisherfolk and residents of Manila Bay,” said Arambulo.
The coastal towns of Bataan province are among the many areas that are threatened by reclamation projects.
In particular, Bataan is covered by the 18,000-hectare Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project. The said projects involve the dump-and-filling of productive fishponds, mangrove areas, and municipal fishing grounds in several towns of Bataan, Bulacan, and Navotas City.