Green groups rally against reclamation projects

June 10, 2023

Pro-environment groups this week staged a demonstration urging the Philippine government to stop all reclamation, dredging, and seabed quarrying projects across the country. 

“Reclamation projects are merely equal to the short-sighted pursuit of profit, but they leave behind an ocean of environmental devastation,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). 

The People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE) emphasized the need for accountability on the environmental and social impacts of the projects. The network called for an investigation of all ongoing and planned reclamation projects.

According to People’s NICHE, data from the Philippine Reclamation Authority reveals that 53 ongoing and planned reclamation projects are impacting approximately 27,000 hectares of coastal areas in the Philippines. 

During an anti-reclamation summit on June 3, Jing Rey Henderson of Caritas Philippines said reclamation projects aggravate the impacts of sea level rise and the real consequences of climate change in coastal areas.

She cited Greenpeace East Asia’s warning that if sea levels continue to rise, at least 1.54 million people in the city of Manila alone will be affected, losing their homes and livelihoods, and facing exacerbated poverty.

“We still have not touched base on the adverse and permanent effects of reclamation on our natural resources, ecosystems, and communities. On how it brings housing problems, job displacement, food insecurity, and more devastating calamities and disasters,” she said. 

Henderson expressed hope that the summit would redefine the concept of reclamation, promoting a state of hopefulness for a climate-resilient future where development uplifts the lives and dignity of marginalized individuals.

In Manila Bay alone, 23 reclamation projects and two dredging projects are encroaching upon nearly a quarter of the bay’s total area, recognized internationally as a key biodiversity hotspot.

People’s NICHE said that these reclamation projects pose “social and environmental harm” to communities. It also criticized the alleged harassment faced by protesting communities in Bulacan province and the City of Manila.

“In our current economic and ecological crisis, we should no longer be investing in projects that will devastate our fisherfolk’s livelihoods and decimate our coastal ecosystems,” said Bonifacio.

He called on the Marcos Jr. administration to prioritize the protection of the Filipino people by discontinuing these destructive extraction activities.

The People’s NICHE coalition consists of various environmental and grassroots organizations, including the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines, PAMALAKAYA, Oceana, AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, One Pawikan, Save Gubat Bay Movement, and UP Fisheries Guild, among others.

As the nationwide alliance intensifies its campaign, the fate of reclamation and dredging projects in the Philippines hangs in the balance, prompting authorities to carefully consider the environmental and societal implications of such endeavors.

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