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Reclamation projects feared to endanger ecosystems

By Kristine Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:06 pm | Friday, February 24th, 2012
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About 38,000 hectares of coastal land in the country would be swallowed up by new real estate and commercial projects that seek to copy reclamation projects in Singapore and Hong Kong, a document from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said.

A December 2011 letter from the agency to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said there are 102 reclamation projects covering 38,000 ha in the country under the Aquino administration’s private-public partnership program. Of that number, 38 are located in the coast of Manila Bay. These projects encompass 26,234 ha.
There are seven projects in Cebu with 6,000 ha, while another seven constituting 238 ha are slated in the Davao Gulf. The PRA said 50 projects are scattered in other provinces such as Albay, Iloilo and Leyte, covering 5,000 ha.

The plan to use the coastal areas for commercial projects was approved by the Cabinet economic cluster last year, the PRA said. According to the document, the economic managers recognized the “huge potential investments” that the projects could generate.
It cited the successes of Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, which developed their harbors and coasts into commercial areas.

Various environmental groups have hit the government’s plan to create new land from sea for real estate and commercial purposes saying it destroys ecosystems and displaces fishermen. It also heightens threats like storm surges.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and Pamalakaya, a progressive group for fishermen, have challenged plans to cover parts of the Manila Bay with soil.

In a statement yesterday, Pamalakaya urged the DENR, which has directed the concerns of PRA to its regional offices, to stop the reclamation project for the sake of the endangered bird species and the livelihood of fishermen along the coast.

“Public interest compels the DENR to refrain from issuing clearances to these reclamation activities the PRA want to undertake on a nationwide scale,” Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap said.

Some 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos in the early 1990s to give way to reclamation projects, Pamalakaya said.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines previously expressed fears that the large-scale reclamation projects in Manila would destroy mangroves and wetlands that are home to endangered bird species like the Chinese egret and Philippine ducks.

Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines called for the protection of the Davao Gulf in Mindanao.

Raising an alarm over the unregulated and intrusive man-made and industrial activities in the gulf, WWF said Davao Gulf has one of the highest marine mammal diversity in the country and is part of the Coral Triangle.

The organization stressed that the gulf is a breeding and nursery ground for small and large pelagic species. It is also frequented by whale sharks, dugong and leatherback turtles.