By KATEBELLE LADLAD
MANILA – A fisherfolks group belied the claim of the Philippine Reclamation Authority, which recently claimed that reclamation projects are considered as “coastal defense.”
In a statement, PRA claims that reclamation projects would not cause any flooding and damage as these serve as protection against tsunamis and storm surges.
“Officials from the PRA should be educated that it’s the mangrove trees, not the destructive reclamation, that shield coastal communities from intense flooding, ” said Fernando Hicap, chairperson of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).
In Bulacan, more than 600 mangrove trees were removed in 2018 to make room for an international airport. This was later on blamed as the root cause of intense flooding in Bulacan and Pampanga.
Fisherfolks group, Pamalakaya recalled that the number of mangrove areas in Manila Bay drastically declined due to years of reclamation projects. As of writing, only 500 hectares of mangroves are left across Manila bay.
In 2019, the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) started dredging at the baywalk area of Roxas boulevard as “part of the rehabilitation drive of Manila Bay”.
Pamalakaya said that similar dredging projects before the construction of establishments in Roxas boulevard had more than 6,000 fishing and urban poor families displaced in the area.
“Destruction of mangrove areas does not only expose coastal families to damaging floods and storm surges, but also threatens marine resources and fisheries production” said Hicap.
The impact of destruction to mangrove areas has affected the livelihood of fisherfolks based on research conducted by the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), which revealed that at least 670 kilos of fish are lost with every hectare of mangrove decreased.
Scientists and environmental experts have been calling the attention of the government to stop the approval of reclamation projects in Manila Bay given its vulnerability to floods, storm surges, and other natural disasters.