P100-B fund Campaign Behind Atienza’s Manila Bay Noise, Says Fishers’ Group

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said aggressive fund-sourcing is the ultimate motive for Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza’s current talk on rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, which the group said has never been a priority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

Contributed to Bulatlat.com
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said aggressive fund-sourcing is the ultimate motive for Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza’s current talk on rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, which the group said has never been a priority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

“All of a sudden Secretary Atienza transformed himself into a crusader for the environment and called on the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other funding agencies here and abroad to finance the P100-billion ($2.21 billion at the Aug. 15 exchange rate of $1:P45.31) Manila Bay rehabilitation plan. This is moneymaking at its best,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement sent to Bulatlat.

Hicap added: “Secretary Atienza even mentioned the problem of climate change and global warming indicating that Malacañang and the DENR are set to make an ambitious project proposal for Manila Bay rehabilitation. P100 billion is P100 billion and its a huge fortune for the corrupt regime of Mrs. Arroyo.”

On Aug. 15, Secretary Atienza urged various donor agencies to help the national government in restoring the quality of Manila Bay by providing support to the DENR’s plan to put up water treatment facilities that would clear water wastes before these come out into the river and out into the bay.

Secretary Atienza said setting up the water treatment facility alone would cost the national government at least P25 billion ($551.6 billion) in taxpayers’ money. He said water concessionaires Maynilad of the Lopez group and Manila Water of the Ayala group have yet to comply with their agreement with the national government regarding the setting up of water waste treatment facilities.

In a press statement released last week, a copy of which was obtained by Bulatlat, the environment chief said all is not lost if Maynilad and Manila Water would comply with the contract the water companies signed with the government to construct a sewage treatment facility for Manila Bay.

The DENR chief said the deterioration of the water in Manila Bay will continue as long as wastewater from houses, the domestic waste of residences continue to flow from the Pasig River to Manila Bay that connects Cavite, the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Bulacan and Bataan.

Atienza said the second major contributor of Manila Bay waters’ deterioration is the proliferation of fishpens along the coast of the bay from Cavite to Bataan. He ordered the demolition of all illegal fishpens in Manila Bay starting Aug. 26.

He said the participation of local government units in Manila Bay rehabilitation is also necessary to help the national government battle huge environmental problems confronting the bay which he said could be the country’s engine for economic development, because the government could set up all kinds of businesses along the 190 kilometer coast.

Not happy

Pamalakaya rebuked Atienza’s theories that the dumping of untreated water wastes and the proliferation of fish pens are to be blamed for the deterioration of the waters of Manila Bay, adding that the DENR secretary is misleading the public.

The militant group said the full-blast commercialization of Manila Bay that started during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos up to the present administration of President Arroyo is the main reason the 190-kilometer bay is on the brink of general collapse.

“Please allow us to state the real score about Manila Bay. Eighty percent of the untreated water wastes that are thrown or dumped into the bay come from industries and commercial establishments situated along the bay. The reclamation activities of the government that began during the Marcos era up and which continue at present are also destroying Manila Bay and have prevented the ecosystem and marine life from regenerating,” Pamalakaya stated.

“We are not happy with the way the national government is treating Manila Bay. We are being blamed for its deterioration. Why us? We are not destroyers of natural resources and marine environment. We cannot destroy our main source of livelihood. It is impossible for us to do that, because destroying Manila Bay is like destroying our basis for existence. In fact, we are victims here,” the group said.

The militant group said about 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters have been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.

The militant group said Secretary Atienza has given the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) the environmental clearance certificate to develop the 90-hectare reclaimed casino and resort complex in Manila Bay that will begin in the third quarter of the year. Pagcor said companies with approved proposals must invest at least one billion U.S. dollars for their projects, with initial $400-million investments in the first two years.

On top of the $-15 billion casino project to be constructed along Manila Bay, Pamalakaya said Secretary Atienza had granted ECC to the ambitious Cavite Coastal Road Project II that would involve reclamation of more than 8,000 hectares of coastal waters along Manila Bay from Bacoor to Cavite City.

Reports said aside from coastal road that would link Manila to Cavite, an international seaport will be constructed and will be annexed to the revive Sangley Point, a former US military base.

Pamalakaya said close to 3 million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite are still dependent on fishing as a principal source of livelihood, and any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project and the Cavite Phase II Coastal Road project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins.

“From 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted almost daily. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of coastal communities,” the group said.

The setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was included in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.

Pamalakaya recalled that 3,500 small fisherfolk in Pasay Reclamation Area, and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.

Class suit

Pamalakaya said it is contemplating on filing a separate class suit case against Secretary Atienza if he refused to stop government reclamation activities along Manila Bay, which the group said contributes to its major destruction.

“It is being considered by leaders and members of Pamalakaya in Manila Bay. We will sit and talk about this legal battle and finalize it maybe not later than this week,” the group said.

The fisherfolk group said it would mobilize pro-bono and pro-environment lawyers in their case against Atienza and other government officials that would include President Arroyo.

Eight years ago, environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa, Jr. and concerned citizens of Manila Bay filed a class suit against the government for remiss in its constitutional duty to rehabilitate the bay, which they described as a huge toilet that has not been flushed for years.

The case was filed at the Court of Appeals (CA), but Secretary Atienza filed a motion before the Supreme Court urging the high tribunal to dismiss the case before CA.

Atienza, in last week’s Supreme Court hearing on their motion, revealed that he government has already completed a 108-page detailed plan on Manila Bay coastal strategy, which would demand no less than P100 billion in total budget for the bay’s rehabilitation. Contributed to (Bulatlat.com)

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