Dredging continues in Cavite despite Manila Bay reclamation suspension -Pamalakaya

Amid the suspension of the 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay, a fisherfolk group said Sunday that dredging activities continued off Cavite.

Pamalakaya Pilipinas said on Twitter that vessels were seen engaged in dredging operations off the shores of Rosario, Noveleta, Tanza, and Naic in Cavite on Sunday morning.

“The dredging activities, operated by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and San Miguel Corp. (SMC), are for the dump-and-fill projects in Manila Waterfront Reclamation and the Bulacan Aerotropolis Project, respectively,” the group said.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., announced last week that all reclamation projects in Manila Bay except one were suspended due to problems in their implementation.

The President said the sea along Roxas Boulevard could disappear because of such reclamation projects.

According to Pamalakaya, small fishers in Cavite lost 80%-90% of their daily income since dredging activities started two years ago.

The group thus called on Marcos to issue an executive order to ban the reclamation.

“We reiterate that unless an official Executive Order or a legislation banning reclamation is issued, President Marcos Jr.’s verbal declaration is toothless and holds little weight,” it added.

In a Palace briefing earlier this month, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonia Yulo Loyzaga said the reclamation projects are necessary in improving the economy, but its ecological effects should be considered.

Not a reclamation project

However, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) responded that the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project was being built not on reclaimed land, but on existing low-lying land that, historically, was vulnerable to heavy flooding and was converted to commercial fishponds.

In a company statement, SMC President and CEO Ramon Ang said it was important to clarify the nature of its airport project amid recent discussions surrounding Manila Bay reclamation projects.

The construction of the airport project, covered by Republic Act 11506, did not involve creating new land from Manila Bay, Ang clarified.

Rather, it involved re-developing existing land that had been inundated by water in previous decades due to flooding from heavily-silted river systems, conversion to fish ponds, and over-extraction of groundwater that made it more susceptible to land subsidence, among others.

“The airport project does not involve reclamation. The project site has existing, valid land titles indicating its original status as land. Due to natural processes over time, this land had become prone to regular inundation. Instead of creating new land, we are redeveloping it to its former state, ensuring its productive and sustainable use for the future,” Ang said.

SMC also emphasized that the project site was an island, as can be seen in maps of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Mapping Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) from the 1990s.

The company added that the low-lying land had been converted into fish ponds, which they said contributed to flooding in nearby towns, as the flow of the surrounding rivers out to Manila Bay had been impeded, and since the rivers had become shallow due to siltation and pollution.

Ang reiterated that the land re-development was being carried out with international experts and partners, including global maritime services expert Royal Boskalis, to ensure that the project followed the strictest international standards in environmental and social impacts mitigation.

As part of the airport’s development, SMC was also implementing a massive river cleanup and rehabilitation effort covering not just the nearby Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river systems (MMORS), but other rivers throughout Bulacan, to help address the province’s perennial flooding problem.

GMA News Online had also sought comment from Philippine Reclamation Authority on the matter, but the PRA had yet to respond as of posting time. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/DVM, GMA Integrated News

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