Fishers group decry reclamation project in Manila Bay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — Members of a fishermen's group took to the streets to protest the government's plan to reclaim 500 hectares of Baseco and Isla Puting Bato in Manila amid the rehabilitation of Manila Bay. 

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) along with the Anakpawis Party-list group staged a protest in Mendiola, Manila on Monday, proclaiming that the reclamation project will do more harm than good to fishermen and the environment. 

"Pangunahing epekto nito ay ang pagwasak ng ecosystem o ang normal na daloy ng pangingisdaan ng ating bansa at kapag ang isang lugar ay nireclaim o tinambakan, hindi na maibabalik sa dating anyo o sa dating pangigisdaan ang mga tinambakan na mga pangingisdaan sa ating bansa," PAMALAKAYA Chair Fernando Hicap said during the rally. 

[Translation: The main effect of this is the destruction of the ecosystem or the normal means of fishing in the country and if one place if reclaimed or filled with land, we cannot return this to its original state.]

Hicap explained that Manila Bay used to be abundant with clams, sea grass and other sea life prior to reclamation projects implemented in the area. 

"Napakayaman ng Manila Bay napakaraming iba't-ibang klaseng shells ang matatagpuan dito sa mga lugar na nireclaim…Marami pong nakukuhang halaan diyan," he said. 

[Translation: Manila Bay was abundant. Different kinds of shells can be found in the places that were reclaimed…You could find lots of clams there.]

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) earlier defended the reclamation effort saying it would transform the bay's expanse into an economic hub that would create more jobs. PRA Assistant General Manager Joselito Gonzales argued that it could also solve Metro Manila's flooding problem. 

However, Hicap maintained it would add to pollution in the area amid the massive cleanup being implemented by the government. He also clarified that they are not opposed to the rehabilitation of the bay. 

"Yes to rehabilitation, no to reclamation," he said.

As of February 11, there are 22 reclamation projects pending under the PRA. This could affect nearly 10 percent of the bay's total area. Lawmakers have also expressed doubt on the benefits of reclamation saying the PRA have not expounded enough on the possible negative impact of the projects.