By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – Like the jeepney phaseout to jeepney drivers, reclamation looms to push scores of fisherfolk to joblessness.
In Navotas City, some 20,000 fisherfolk will be displaced due to the 650-hectare reclamation project, Navotas Boulevard Business Park (NBBP).
Today, Oct. 17, fisherfolk led by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) staged a fluvial protest in Manila Bay, sailing from Tangos village up to the Navotas Centennial Park.
Myrna Candinato, vice chairperson of Alyansa ng Mandaragat sa Cavite and a member of PAMALAKAYA-Cavite, recalled how reclamation in their area resulted in loss of livelihood for the fisherfolk.
In the reclamation for the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX), Candinato said they were made to believe that the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) was going to construct a viaduct, as the fisherfolk requested. But such did not happen.
From 10 tons of fish, they now only get only three to five tons after the reclamation was completed. It is worthy to note that the bay is rich in various fish species like sapsap-laway, bisugo, and lapu-lapu.
With their homes demolished, the fisherfolk are often relocated to an area where they could not fish. In the case of Caviteño fisherfolk, they were forced to relocate to Naic, Tansa, and Trese Martires. Candinato stated, however, that a lot of those who relocated have come back to the ports to return to their old livelihood.
A fisherman who requested to only be called “Mario” mentioned that the reclamation is part of Navotas City Mayor John Rey Tiangco’s project to “widen” the city.
Aside from the non-suitability of relocation sites for the fisherfolk, he also mentioned the lack of support of the government for their sector. Often victims of corruption and “hold-up” of maritime police and so-called members of the “Bantay Dagat”, the fisherfolk are penalized amounts ranging from P10,000 to P100,000 ($195 to $1,950) for illegal fishing.
Forced to go farther than their usual perimeter or range to catch fish because of relocation and environmental damage caused by large-scale fishers, Navotas fisherfolks often reach the waters of Cavite.
Former Anakpawis partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap mentioned that this is why they are campaigning for communal fishing grounds. He that the reclamation project is largely part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to the Chinese government in exchange for the aid given for the Philippine military and ammunitions.
“We will not let them destroy the remaining mangroves left in Manila Bay. We assert our right to fishing grounds and genuine rehabilitation of Manila Bay through mangrove-installation instead of destructive reclamation,” Hicap said in a statement.
The group also called to scrap the government’s National Reclamation Plan which contains more than 100 reclamation projects throughout the archipelago.