Statement of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines on the occasion of the World Ocean’s Day
Every June 8th, World Oceans Day stands as a marker for the celebration and commemoration of all the oceans around the globe. It encourages people to discover what the oceans mean to them, learn its biodiversity and our interconnectedness with it, become a beacon of change for eco-friendly pursuits, and celebrate our wondrous connection with the oceans and its natural resources.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here in our country’s shores. There is a need to raise awareness on the issues concerning the degradation of marine ecosystems, from the coastal areas to the deep sea, especially in archipelagic countries such as the Philippines.
One of the major concerns these past years is reclamation. Reclamation is the process of extending land area by filling, dredging or utilizing other artificial means of converting submerged areas into land. The burying of seagrass, clearing of mangroves and displacing of marine life results in a loss of biodiversity. These environmental impacts affect the livelihood of fisherfolk and informal workers who transport and sell the fisherfolk’s catch.
In Manila Bay alone, there are a total of 28,647 hectares covered by reclamation projects. One example of this is the unsolicited proposal of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the Bulacan Aerotropolis International Airport Project, that covers 2,500 hectares in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan. If this project pushes through, it will damage local ecosystems which results in a loss of livelihood and income, and impact the overall well-being of Manila Bay. It will displace families of fisherfolk, with majority of the family members not knowing other types of livelihood aside from fishing.
With the proliferation of the so-called development projects that damage marine ecosystems, it is no wonder that fisherfolk remain the poorest sector. These supposed traditional protectors of the oceans are the ones displaced and disregarded.
It should be noted that the fisherfolk are not the only ones who will be affected. The degradation of marine ecosystems will also affect food provision, climate regulation, protection from extreme weather and other ecosystem services.
There is a need to raise awareness on these issues and take actions based on it. Our oceans and its protectors are suffering, and we all need to help. In this year’s World Ocean’s Day, let us remind ourselves of our roles and demand the government to act immediately, address concerns being raised by communities and experts on the issue and make the change that our oceans need.