By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Three Manila Bay reclamation projects already issued with environment compliance certificates (ECCs) are located at the southern part of the bay which was already declared by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as a conservation area for sardines.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) revealed this as it urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately revoke the ECCs it issued to the 419-hectare Horizon Manila Project, 148-hectare Manila Solar City, and 318-hectare Manila Waterfront Project to prevent them from inflicting environmental damage to Manila Bay’s marine ecosystem and biodiversity. All three projects will rise at the conservation area for sardines.
“Those projects that already acquired an ECC will be located in the part of Manila Bay where there is an existing conservation area for sardines as declared by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said.
“Allowing these reclamation projects to proceed will defeat the purpose of government’s program to conserve the depleting fisheries specie in the southeastern part of Manila Bay,” he added.
The fisherfolk group cited a House Committee on Metro Manila Development hearing last Monday, in which the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) admitted that ECCs were already issued to the three reclamation projects and are now just waiting for a notice to proceed from the PRA.
The group also questioned the approval of ECCs to reclamation projects when many experts have long proven that such activity is one of the major causes of environmental degradation that could also result in natural disasters.
“Despite the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay, the DENR ironically has already given a go signal through an ECC to big-ticket projects that will further destroy our traditional and historic fishing water,” Hicap said.
LGU help sought
Meanwhile, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu called on local chief executives surrounding the Manila Bay to make active contribution to the bay’s rehabilitation by cleaning up rivers and other waterways within their respective jurisdiction.
“We have to clean all 47 esteros and all the rivers that contribute to the pollution of Manila Bay. Walang maiiwan, iisa-isahin natin,” Cimatu told the 178 mayors of cities and municipalities surrounding Manila Bay.
He reminded the local governments of their duty to implement environmental laws and to clear waterways of informal settlers who contribute to water pollution.
Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 provides that local government units are primarily responsible for waste segregation and disposal.
Cimatu also urged the local government units (LGUs) to identify the sources of water pollution in their localities and do something about it.
“Once we clean the esteros and rivers, garbage will not go out to Manila Bay. We’ll make it a point that the water that reaches Manila Bay is clean,” Cimatu said.
“Even if it takes us one, two, or three years to clean these rivers, we have to do it,” he added.
The DENR chief cited Tullahan River, the longest river that drains into Manila Bay; Vitas in Tondo, Manila; and Pasig and Parañaque rivers as among those which need to be cleaned.
Garbage, he said, is one of the culprits in the pollution of esteros and rivers.
Cimatu also urged mayors to make sure garbage collection contractors in their localities comply with conditions in their contract, including adherence to environmental laws.
“It’s the mayors and the LGUs who have the main authority over the signing of the contract with garbage collection contractors. I hope that after signing the contracts, the LGUs check that contractors follow what is stipulated in the contract,” Cimatu said.
The rehabilitation of Manila Bay will have three phases: cleanup, relocation of illegal settlers and protection, preservation and sustainment of the gains.
“Clean up may take one to three years, but relocation will take political will,” Cimatu said.
He noted that there are 220,000 informal settlers along esteros that lead to Manila Bay, but only about 10,000 informal settlers can be relocated in a year.