Manila Bay continues to support life and livelihoods, experts and leaders of civil society organizations asserted, as they pressed the government to stop all land reclamation and seabed quarrying projects that threaten marine resources in the region on Tuesday.
“There is no truth to the claim that Manila Bay is dead. Manila Bay is a life-sustaining ecosystem for many fishes, mangroves, and birds. Every day, millions of artisanal fisherfolk and coastal communities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces continue to derive livelihood and sustenance from the bay,” Oceana Vice President, Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos told the media during an online news conference on February 7.
“What threatens Manila Bay and all life it supports are the massive, destructive dump-and-fill activities which are causing irreversible damage to our marine and coastal ecosystems. Land reclamation is destroying the rich biodiversity of marine and coastal ecosystems in Manila Bay. These also endanger Metro Manila residents near Manila Bay’s coast as the projects add to the worsening hazards, such as flooding, storm surges, land subsidence, and liquefaction,” she added.
As of February 28, 2023, the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) listed a total of 52 reclamation projects in the country, including a similar project in Coron that has been forfeited by the government. Of this number, 22 projects are located in Manila Bay, and half of these or 11 are already under way.
Outside of Manila Bay, the PRA lists a total of 30 projects—14 were approved plus Coron and 15 applications under Executive Order 74 with memoranda of understanding.
Manila Bay has been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area. It is a rich sardine spawning ground as shown by data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (BFAR-NFRDI). It is also a stopover for millions of migratory birds from the northern hemisphere.
In addition, Oceana reminded the local governments of their clear mandates to protect the municipal waters and the constitutional right to a healthy, safe, resilient environment of its constituents and ensure that mechanisms and safeguards for the protection of the environment are complied with as mandated by Memorandum Circular 2022-018 issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
“Instead of land reclamation, the government should be working on its rehabilitation as so directed by the Supreme Court in the landmark 2008 ruling, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority vs Concerned Residents of Manila Bay. By restoring its health and abundance, Manila Bay will in turn provide food and livelihood for so many Filipino families as it has done so for several generations. There are also mangroves there, which have the potential to provide climate resiliency to the coastal areas. Let us not waste this precious resource, it is worth so much more than the false promises of development,” Ramos said.
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes