A coalition advocating for the preservation of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), commended the decision of the Philippine government to suspend reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
The group Protect VIP, however, raised concerns regarding reclamation activities associated with liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and power plants in Batangas province.
“It is only a matter of curiosity for us if the motivation is environmental or geopolitical. If it is the former, then the President should also order the DENR (Department on Environment and Natural Resources) to review the status of gas terminals around the VIP,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, convenor of Protect VIP.
The priest said LNG projects in Batangas “involve land reclamation, displacement of fisherfolks and surrounding communities, and destruction of marine habitats”.
“It is only then that we can be convinced that both the government and DENR are sincere on its new stance on reclamation,” the priest added.
Verde Island Passage holds significant marine shorefish biodiversity, but it faces the threat of hosting over 20 gas facilities that local communities and advocates oppose due to their adverse effects on the environment, fisheries, and the local economy.
Noting that Manila Bay projects were initiated before the current administration’s term, Gariguez called for a similar thorough evaluation by the environment department of projects near the VIP.
“Manila Bay and the Verde Island Passage are both important ecological hotspots and fishing grounds. Reclamation and destructive development in these areas will disrupt the marine and coastal ecosystems they house and cause exacerbated vulnerabilities to coastal communities,” the priest said.
Earlier this week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced that all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, except for one, have been suspended due to problems in their implementation.
On Thursday, environment secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga told reporters that all 22 reclamation projects in Manila are under review and thus are deemed suspended.
“The declaration is really that all of these projects are suspended at this point. So all are under review, we have to take our time, really beginning with those that are ongoing because they’re in fact already impacting the areas and then we will graduate to all those in fact still not yet begun,” said Loyzaga during a press briefing.