Thirty families were told to vacate the land where they have lived for decades to give way to the 576-hectare reclamation project of San Miguel Corporation
By ARNETH ASSIDAO
MANILA — A fishing community in Tanza, Navotas faces eviction with the implementation of the P57.4-billion (US $ 1.19 million) Navotas Coastal Bay Reclamation Project.
Jaezielle (real name withheld upon request), 30, said she and other residents were informed last December by a local “caretaker” hired by San Miguel Corporation that they needed to vacate the land where they have lived for decades to give way to the 576-hectare reclamation project.
Thirty families were asked to relocate to a nearby “temporary shelter site,” which Jaezielle described as prone to flooding and unsafe especially for children.
She said they are still trying to negotiate with the local government to further elevate the site of the temporary shelter, which has been dredged in preparation for the relocation.
On January 6, they were asked by the local government’s planning department to sign a document stating that each family will receive P15,000 (US$312) to build new 30-square meter houses on the designated relocation site. Jaezille lamented the amount is not enough to restart their lives from scratch.
Loss of livelihood
Local fishermen have been deniedd access to their traditional fishing ground. Dump trucks with “Government project do not delay” posters with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) logo regularly operate in the area, monitoring the movement of residents.
A 20-meter channel to be “established to serve as access by fisher folks” indicated in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has not been implemented according to the source.
Jaezielle said many fishermen were forced to travel for temporary fishing ground. However, many of them who used to go to Bulacan had to completely give up their livelihood as the reclamation for SMC’s megaproject Bulacan Aetropolis also paralyzed fishing activities in the area.
When asked about the boats docked in the area, engineer Raffy Serrano of the City Planning and Development Office said in a public hearing last October 2020 that “fisherfolks were given the opportunity to move outside of the area until the construction of the coastal dike is finished.”
Serrano added there will also be “livelihood packages” and “job opportunities” for the affected fisherfolk.
According to the project’s social development plan, its P1 million (US$20,818) budget per year “will be utilized for the implementation of activities such as livelihood programs, education assistance, medical assistance, IEC (Information, Education and Communication).”
However, aside from the expected cash handouts and an empty relocation site, the residents haven’t received other kind of support from the government or SMC, said Jazielle.
The Navotas Coastal Bay Reclamation Project is among the four reclamation projects in Manila Bay given notices to proceed (NDP) by the Philippine Reclamation Authority in December 2019. The other three are Pasay 360-hectare reclamation project, Pasay 265-hectare reclamation project and Horizon Manila 418-hectare reclamation project.
According to a Philippine Reclamation Authority document, the Navotas reclamation project, also dubbed as the “Southern Gateway to the Manila International Airport” in Bulacan is envisioned as a “self-contained mixed-use community with industrial, commercial, institutional, residential areas.”
As of December 2020, there are 21 projects in various stages set to reclaim about 10,000 hectares of Manila Bay.
President Rodrigo Duterte previously expressed his disapproval of reclamation, despite backflipping only a month after quarantine started. Duterte was quoted as saying he is “willing to sell the whole Dewey Boulevard to whoever wants to reclaim it once the government’s pandemic funds are exhausted.”