Project threatens marine protected areas in Dumaguete, scientists claim

July 12, 2021

Environmental scientists have raised concerns over a reclamation project that they said would “bury” the remaining marine ecosystems in the central Philippine city of Dumaguete.

The 174-hectare reclamation project will pave the way for the construction of a “Smart City” in Dumaguete and will reportedly affect four marine protected areas, including “more than 200 species of fish.”

In a statement issued on July 10, eight environmental scientists warned that the project “will directly destroy, literally bury, the few remaining coral reefs, seagrass and soft-sediment ecosystems that support small-scale fisheries” around Dumaguete.”

The local scientists who signed the statement are Angel Alcala, Betty McCann, Ben Malayang III, Hilconida Calumpong, Rene Abesamis, Enrique Oracion, Janet Estacion, and Robert Guinoo.

They cited a study that recorded more than 200 species of fish in one of the areas that would be directly affected by the reclamation project in Dumaguete.

“About 60 percent of these fish species are relied upon by local fishers in Dumaguete for livelihood and subsistence,” read the group’s statement.

The scientists said the reclamation project will have a “direct and indirect” impact on the 104 hectares of the city’s four marine protected areas.”

“Some of these [areas] may even cease to exist,” it added.

The group said if the project is implemented, the city of Dumaguete “will renege on its commitment to do its part in marine conservation for the province, region, and country.”

The city government has already issued a Notice of Award to the project proponent on June 23.

The project aims to develop a “5G-equipped ‘Smart City’ island” with commercial and residential infrastructures.

Myka Reambonanza, student council president of Silliman University in the city, said the proposed project “did not undergo public consultations.”

“We call on the city government to scrap the project, which will not only displace communities but will also destroy the massive marine biodiversity,” she said.

Marinel Ubaldo of Living Laudato Si Philippines called on the city government “to scrap” the proposed project, which she claimed “will only benefit the interest of the businesses.”

“The government must protect the environment and the people from destructive projects. It should prioritize the welfare of all creations over profits,” she said.

Ubaldo, who heads the United Nations-led Local Conference of the Youth in the country, urged churches and civil society groups to “serve as the conscience for concrete ecological actions and support the plight of the people of Dumaguete.”

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