Fishermen and farmers from different regions on Sunday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop all coastal reclamations and conversion projects that are damaging the environment and threatening the livelihood of the fisherfolk.
During a dialogue, hundreds of fisherfolk representing different regions presented the cost of these projects in the coastal communities and fishing waters.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya said millions of fisherfolk nationwide are under the growing threat of effacement due to widespread water-based conversion and reclamation projects funded by private firms with guaranteed support from the state.
“We came here all the way from Bicol Region to directly present to [DENR] Secretary Gina Lopez our concerns regarding the impending destruction of Ragay Gulf courtesy of state-sponsored eco-tourism projects that are embedded with total fish ban,” said the Protect the Fishers and Save Ragay Gulf Movement.
Ragay Gulf encompasses Bondoc Peninsula of Quezon and provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate. About 97 percent of its population is fisherfolk and farmers which depend on the rich marine resources of Ragay Gulf.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority through its National Reclamation Plan approved the 102 reclamation projects nationwide covering 38, 272 hectares of fishing waters and coastal communities.
More than two-thirds or 38 of reclamation projects are found in Manila Bay which covers almost 26,000 hectares of water.
The fisherfolk also reported the intrusion of local and foreign commercial fishing fleets into their 15-kilometer municipal fishing grounds. Large commercial fishing fleets damage the reefs and exploit the marine resources.
The Save Laguna Lake Movement lashed out at the Laguna Lake Development Authority for its alleged incompetence to stop the ongoing reclamation activities in various municipalities situated along the 90-thousand hectare brackish lake.
“The LLDA said it has already ordered suspension in all reclamation activities in the Laguna de Bay. But we, the residents living along the lake continue to endure the stinky smell of the various waste dumped and filled in the lake,” Ronnie Molera, spokesperson of SLLM, said during the dialogue.
After the fisherfolk presented their clamor, the DENR guaranteed that they will study the demands and will release a Memorandum Order for the moratorium of all conversion projects at the minimum of 2 years. Also in their pledged memorandum is to prohibit large commercial fishing fleets from entering the 15-kilometer municipal fishing zone.
“We are delighted by the dialogue’s outcome. We will expect the DENR’s memorandum to be released and implemented as soon as possible. Our marine resources face serious environmental degradation courtesy of development aggression that plunders our seas. DENR should ensure that it will prohibit a genuine environmental protection policies to preserve our environment and on top of it, to save our fishers from demolition of their communities,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson said.
The fisherfolk vowed to continue their protest actions and lobbying in the concerned government agencies.
The fisherfolk who were at the dialogue came from Bicol Region and Quezon Province which reported the conversion and total fish ban in Ragay Gulf; fishers from Rizal and Laguna which brought the issue of Laguna Lake conversion; and fisherfolk from Cavite, Navotas and Bataan which presented the conversion in Manila Bay.
After the dialogue, the fishers and farmers led by the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas camped out at the Department of Agrarian Reform and joined the multi-sectoral protest in the occasion of President Duterte’s first 100 days in Malacañang on October 8.