[OFFICIAL STATEMENT] Earth Day 2024: Filipinos fight back against reclamation and dredging 

April 22, 2024

Earth Day 2024: Filipinos fight back against reclamation and dredging 

In celebration of the 54th Earth Day, the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. (CEC) stands in solidarity with environmental defenders, advocates, and grassroots communities in fighting for environmental rights and climate justice. After more than half a century, the question of the appalling proliferation of environmentally destructive activities despite the climate crisis remains as potent as ever. 

Currently, reclamation [1] and dredging [2] operations are the leading threats to ecology and the lives of the Filipino people. The term “reclamation” is misleading since there is no land to reclaim as reclamation makes land in areas where there is water. There are 187 approved and proposed reclamation projects nationwide according to the Philippine Reclamation Authority. This means that the situation nationwide mirrors that of Manila Bay, multiplied by a hundredfold. 

As for the environmental impact, reclamation necessitates the clearing of mangrove forests and dumping of filling materials on seagrass beds. Siltation also occurs. All these affect the life cycle of marine species such as fish which causes a decline in fisheries production. 

Meanwhile, the Marcos Jr. administration had presented nothing but a mirage of green promises. For instance, in August 2023, Marcos Jr. verbally announced the suspension of all 25 reclamation projects in Manila Bay but one which totals 260 hectares. The absence of an executive order or any legally binding document renders this announcement useless. Along with this, is the deafening silence of Marcos Jr. on human rights violations perpetrated innumerable attacks against environmental defenders. A month after Marcos Jr.’s verbal suspension, two environmental defenders who were researching the Manila Bay reclamation, Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were abducted by the military in Bataan and held for 17 days. Jhed and Jonila were subjected to harassment and threats all because of their commitment to defending the environment and the people. 

The marginalized communities, the fisherfolk, peasants, indigenous peoples, and the urban poor are in the chokehold of this crisis. It is the fisherfolk who suffer the most severe repercussions of reclamation projects as it directly affects their livelihood. The operations require blocking of access to fishing grounds and the disturbance of the marine ecosystem causes the decline of fish. This is true to the experience of fisherfolk in Navotas City. In March 2024, the call of fisherfolk in Navotas to stop the demolition of Mussel farms was ignored by the LGU to favor the 650-hectare Navotas Coastal Bay Reclamation Project. The fisherfolk and concerned groups assert that this reclamation project will further exacerbate poverty, environmental destruction, and the decline in food production in Metro Manila. As if having an insatiable appetite for profit, the Marcos Jr. administration opts to look the other way by proposing a Charter Change that will ease the road for local and foreign businesses to continue with reclamation and dredging projects. 

What Manila Bay, Navotas Coastal Bay, along with all other water systems in the Philippines needs is pro-people rehabilitation not reclamation. Genuine development will only be achieved if fisherfolk are given support rather than harming their fishing grounds.

This Earth Day, we are urging the Philippine Government to heed the call of environmental defenders, advocates, fisherfolk, and coastal communities to address the impacts of dredging and reclamation projects. Their experiences clearly show how the rule of law is endangering the environment and lives of our people. We firmly stand by environmental defenders in their opposition to reclamation and dredging and in seeking accountability for the environmental destruction perpetrated by erring companies. Let’s continue defending Manila Bay and our coasts from reclamation!

#NoToReclamationAndDredging #DefendManilaBay #EarthDay #EarthDay2024 

 

[1] Reclamation is a “deliberate process of converting foreshore land, submerged areas or bodies of water into land by filling or other means” (Philippine Reclamation Authority, n.d.).  

[2] Dredging is defined as an “excavation activity usually carried out underwater, in shallow seas or freshwater areas with the purpose of gathering up bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location” (Philippine Reclamation Authority, n.d.).