By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – At least 15,000 small fisherfolk and mussel growers in Cavite are elated over the suspension of the government order to demolish so-called ‘illegal’ structures along the stretch of Manila Bay in four coastal towns in the province of Cavite that threatens their income and livelihoods.
This, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said, is supposed to rehabilitate Manila Bay.
In a statement today, Pamalakaya said the government is temporarily halting the implementation. The fisherfolk group attributed this to the strong public outcry, as livelihoods and income of thousands of small fisherfolk and coastal residents from Noveleta, Kawit, Cavite City, and Bacoor City are threatened.
“Rehabilitating Manila Bay should be to restore its marine resources for the benefit of small fisherfolks. But the DENR’s thrust says otherwise. The government’s rehabilitation program has brought fear among the fishing and coastal population because its aim is to actually destroy our livelihood and displace us from communities,” said Pamalakaya Chairperson Fernando Hicap.
The group said that the DENR is using the rehabilitation program and the dismantling of fishing structures as “precursor to a massive reclamation plan in Cavite, especially in Bacoor City, which has a 420-hectare proposed reclamation project.”
The project has already acquired an environmental compliance certificate from the DENR last year.
Hicap, a former lawmaker representing Anakpawis Partylist, said that “fishing structures in Manila Bay do not pose any pollution or harm to marine biodiversity compared to industrial and commercial establishments rampantly discharging solid and liquid wastes into the waters.”
He emphasized that the mussel farms “support the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolk and provide food for the poor.”
Progressive groups, including the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), also stood in solidarity with the fisherfolk and mussel farmers in opposing the demolition threat of fishing structures in their communities.
“The DENR is willing to sacrifice the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolk and mussel farmers on the pretext of disaster risk reduction. This is yet another move that truly shows the utter disregard of the government in people’s live and welfare,” asserted CPDG Spokesperson Liza Maza.
The demolition threat is said to echo the real objective of the government’s sham food security program, pushing for more neoliberal reforms to boost the food supply and modernize production.
CPDG explained that last May 2021, in the National Food Security Summit led by the Department of Agriculture, government planners argued that hiding behind protectionism will not bring food self-sufficiency or security as it hinders economic opportunities with both local and foreign private investors.
The group believes that the Duterte administration is in a haste in implementing its neoliberal program before the coming elections to give way to foreign corporate interests. They feel that this is the purpose of the demolition in fisherfolk communities in Cavite.
The Manila Bay rehabilitation sparked protests following the dumping of millions-worth of dolomite sand in a rather small portion of its stretch. Critics said that funds used could have been utilized to provide due social protection to poor families hit by the pandemic.
“We should not allow any move of the administration and its agencies to inflict more damage in people’s lives especially amid the crises of a pandemic and its dismal COVID-19 response riddled with possible corruption,” Maza ended. (JJE, RTS)