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Saving Taliptip

by Leon Dulce

Obando Fishport was bustling with activity at 6:00 in the morning. A colorful and tightly packed flotilla has gathered, fishing boats carefully slipping and sliding past each other to get their turn at docking.

 The bustle slowly fades to an idyllic backwater as we travelled via pump boat to the coastal village of Taliptip in Bulakan town, Bulacan province. Its surrounding seas is life to some 5,000 mostly fishers and salt-makers. It is from the gentle waters and mangrove corridors where they get their bounty of fish, mussels, crabs, shrimp, and krill.

On this collection of small island communities, a 2,500-hectare reclamation project by the San Miguel Corporation is being aggressively pursued, threatening to convert everything in its wake into a an aerotropolis complex of airports, expressways, and urban expanse.

 The project was a well-kept secret from Taliptip’s residents until concerned environmental advocates and church workers raised the issue among the communities—and until President Rodrigo Duterte was seen in the news already inking the project’s deal.

 Residents, especially the families who have lived in the village over the past 80 years, are concerned that their life and livelihood are under threat by this project.

A fisherman tending to his nets in Taliptip. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

“So long as the sea is here, there is hope…What will we fish when all this is turned into cement?” said Arthur*, a fisherman from Sitio Kinse, an island community of Taliptip ensconced in a dense shroud of mangroves.

 Arthur shared that the average fish catch for a day would net them around 500 pesos. Deductions from their gross income will be used to defray gasoline and other expenses and pay their boat consigner’s share. During the dry seasons, some fishers tend to the salt fields and get 154 to 254 pesos as payment per sack depending on the quality of the salt.

 A good day’s catch is a rarity nowadays, however. Gloria*, a woman resident of Sitio Dapdap, explained that fishing families usually stock up their live catch in makeshift pens and sell these on a weekly basis. A daily trip to and from the central market in Obando is simply too expensive compared to the dwindling daily catch.

A section of the Bulakan Mangrove Eco-Park. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

The hardships push the people of Taliptip to be sustainable by necessity. Living off the grid, residents pooled their resources to set up solar panels and batteries for their simple electricity needs. The residents take care of the mangroves since the shellfish they harvest live among its roots, and serve as a natural barrier to big waves.

 Aside from a 25-hectare eco-park established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), various other stretches of mangroves are spreadt across Taliptip’s waters. A huge population of birds such as terns, egrets, kingfishers, and swallows make a home out of these trees.

A plethora of birds roosting over makeshift structures put up by fisherfolk. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

It is not hard to see the importance of these coastal greenbelts. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the lead agency that approved the reclamation project, however, apparently has a diametrically-opposed view.

 San Miguel has pronounced that it can payroll entirely for the P735.6-billion aerotropolis, a hefty price tag that must have been the clincher. That amount seemed enough to justify ignoring the thousands of people set to be displaced and the ecologically critical vegetation to be converted.

A portion of a stretch of mangroves allegedly cut by San Miguel personnel. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

Early this year, the Duterte government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dutch government to cooperate in the crafting of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP). The cart came before the horse, however, with projects such as the aerotropolis rapidly progressing without the guidance of a comprehensive sustainable development and management framework.

San Miguel personnel were reportedly behind a massive mangrove-cutting spree in Taliptip two weeks ago. Communities had no idea if the cutting had a special tree cutting permit from the DENR, as required by law.

 Almost 30,000 hectares of such projects presently cover the entire length of the bay.

A fisherman off the port of Obando. Proposed reclamation projects span the entire coastline of Manila Bay. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

For Arthur, defending the only livelihood they know from the real threat of reclamation is non-negotiable. “We will not leave our homes. We will fight so long as there are people supporting us and giving us strength to fight,” he declared.

Environment groups and churches are digging in deep with the communities for the struggle to save Taliptip and various other communities across Manila Bay. Will Duterte stand with the people and stick to his rhetoric against reclamation, or will he bow once again to the oligarchs it has vowed to stand up against?#

= = =

Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). Follow the local people’s struggle to save Taliptip on Facebook, or through the hashtag #SaveTaliptip on Twitter.

*Real names withheld for security purposes

 

 

 

Homeless, jobless, and penniless, residents resist closure of the Philippines’ Boracay island

Residents and workers of the Philippines’ Boracay island are speaking out against the government’s order to shut down the world-famous resort destination for six months in order to carry out renovation work that includes the upgrade of the island’s obsolete sewerage system.

With the signing of Presidential Proclamation 475 on April 26, 2018, the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed Boracay under a state of calamity — a move which formalized the tourist island’s temporary closure, and which several groups are petitioning the court to invalidate.

Appellants at the Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of what they deemed to be an arbitrary decision by the president. They also sought a temporary restraining order on the closure and eviction of businesses on the island.

Authorities have justified the shutdown as part of its efforts to purportedly “rehabilitate” the island amidst environmental woes. But after it was reported that the government had initially approved the construction of two mega casinos on Boracay, many people questioned this rationale.

Still, the closure has been pushed without any prior master plan for rehabilitation, or any strategy to minimize its effects on the livelihood of those who live and work on Boracay, many of whom will be forced to relocate. The massive lay-offs have already affected thousands of workers.

The Friends of Boracay Facebook page highlighted the negative effects of the shutdown on people’s lives — and livelihoods. These online testimonies have been included in the statements gathered by civil society organizations during a fact-finding and solidarity mission they conducted in and around Boracay and Aklan province between April 16-19, 2018.

Some of these organizations include Bayan-Aklan, Friends of Boracay, Tabang Aklan Action Center, Gabriela Panay-GuimarasThe Center for Environmental Concerns, the Iloilo Pride Team, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

One tour guide shared how the closure of Boracay will affect his family:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“I am a Boracay tour guide. I have been in Boracay for 11 years. What’s happening to us is very painful; there are 2,000 of us tour guides. We have no regular wages because we work only on a commission basis. I went to the Labor Department because of the closure. I have social security, which I have been contributing to for six years. I asked if I can apply for a calamity loan, just so I have a budget for food. I live in a cardboard house in the Wetland. Our question is, will there be alternative employment? We are idle, yet we need to eat every day. I have three children and I send them money in Bacolod. We need financial assistance.”

A resident recounted the aggressive behavior of authorities who were sent to issue eviction notices to small businesses and resort owners on the island:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices

Sir, we would like to tell the story of what they did to us here. We were served [by the government’s environment ministry] a Show Cause Order and Notice to Vacate. When they came, they were accompanied by five policemen in fatigue uniforms carrying long firearms. We were panicking because there were children. They went back and forth among the houses. They gave us 15 days to vacate our homes.

A single motor operator had a similar experience with the police:

Photo by Friends of Boaracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“People already don’t have work, yet they still do things through intimidation. Which leads us to ask, are we included in the demolition? There are no more passengers; we go round and round but get no income. Will we be bulldozed like dogs and left to sleep on the ground? Of course, we will not resist if we are demolished, they are heavily armed. We have nowhere to go. We have feelings and we are very afraid because they are armed.”

Sand artists insisted that it is the government’s own actions that created the problem in the first place:

 

“We cousins have been making sand art for four years. We are from Boracay. We are not destroying the island. Those building the big buildings who were given permits by the [government’s environment ministry] are the ones destroying Boracay.”

One Facebook post echoed the views of many who are concerned about the plight of the displaced:

“As an advocate for the environment I want it rehabilitated too… BUT I BLEED MORE for the people who are affected by the closure because of lack of planning and foresight on the part of the government in ensuring that safety nets are in place prior to closedown.”

According to the initial fact-finding and solidarity mission report, 40% of the island’s population have received notices to self-demolish and vacate their residences. These notices came from state employees who were accompanied by heavily-armed policemen, over 600 of which have been deployed to the island days ahead of its scheduled closure.

In response to the outcry, President Duterte has threatened the permanent closure of Boracay — but workers, residents and their supporters are not backing down. They continue to defend their livelihoods, and oppose the entry of big casinos into the island. # (Karlo Mongaya/Global Voices)

(This article was originally published by Global Voices. Kodao is a Global Voices’ Philippines partner.)

Boracay

By George Tumaob Calaor

 

you have planted seeds of terror

that sprouted fear in the island

of my dreams turning the dreams

for my children the nights of nightmares

of their horrified future?

the sands that used to be so pure and white

the sands where I used to build castles of our lives

the sands that bridges me and my love ones across to the brighter sides of life

is now a captive of your greed and tyrant device

turning it into an embering grave of my love ones dreams!

guarded by the dogs of your howling scheme!

so proud and unashamed!

but don’t ye for you cannot hold the anger of our tides

and winds shall whisper our weeping to the oceans and our broken pride

and ask the waves to surge our cause to the fullest of their heights

and swallow you like drifted wicked and fascist souls from the beach of our paradise

as freedom like sun rise of gold, on its victorious revolt, so equal shall rise!

‘No plan, no heart’ in Boracay closure, envi group says

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) held a picket Tuesday at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office in Quezon City to protest the impending closure of Boracay island.

The group said the arbitrary six-month closure had no comprehensive scientific rehabilitation plan, but will displace thousands of workers in the process.

“Duterte’s Boracay closure order is like bar-drunk swagger that had no comprehensive, scientific basis and no heart for the 36,000 workers it will displace. His yes men are struggling to come up with rehab, security, and even completely illogical land reform plans, but these cannot justify the full closure of the island,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

“With no comprehensive rehab plan whatsoever, we see Duterte’s closure order will benefit the only Boracay projects that have full plans and in full implementation, the Chinese-backed mega casinos,” Dulce added.

The environment group noted that the planned casino of Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment will be built on an inland forest area of Boracay and still has a provisional permit from the government in effect up to present.

“What kind of environmental rehab plan would allow the conversion of native tree forests into a mega casino? Despite the Department of Tourism’s claim the Galaxy casino is searching for a new location, locals report the company’s local partners recently continued to acquire land in Boracay. The DILG’s guidelines on the closure do not even include a moratorium for new construction projects which makes the closure order even more suspect,” Dulce said.

Part of the protest action at the DENR Tuesday. (Kalikasan PNE photo)

A Fact-Finding Solidarity Mission (FFSM) was conducted last week by environmental groups and people’s organizations to investigate the circumstances and effects of the impending closure of Boracay on the people.

The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) was among the groups that joined the mission.

“Despite repeated requests by various organizations and even media outfits, President Duterte and the DENR has not yet divulged any plan or paper which details how exactly they are going to embark on rehabilitating the island, or as to why they arbitrarily chose six months as the supposed recovery period,” CEC researcher Lia Alonzo said.

“There was not even a public consultation held prior to Duterte’s verbal pronouncements on closing the island. Up to the present, there is still no order or legal basis for the closure,” she added.

Kim-Sin Tugna, of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Aklan, who was also part of the FFSM, reported that the deployment of 630 fully-armed police only sowed fear and terror among the populace.

“Despite the absence of a writ of eviction, which can only be issued by the courts, the DENR escorted by police forces have been asking residents to leave since their houses were said to be built on wetlands. The residents wondered why they were being evicted now when they have been paying taxes for the land they were occupying,” Tugna said.

“The intimidation of the police in fatigue uniforms and bearing high powered rifles caused fear and panic among the residents. During our public consultation, residents reported to that the police told them that they will ask for the deployment of soldiers and turn Boracay into a ‘new Marawi’ if the residents will resist,” Tugna added.

“Although the rehabilitation of the Boracay is indeed much needed, any move to help the islands heal should also not leave behind the livelihood concerns of the residents who have no other means to earn decent income in the first place,” Dulce said.

“But with a casino to be built on Boracay’s forest itself, the closure order only reveals that the Duterte regime’s environmental pronouncements are a sham. Moreover, we castigate the Duterte regime for enforcing its arbitrary closure order using draconic and dictatorial methods which only terrorize the people,” Dulce concluded.#

Earth Day eco-walk in QC, Manila highlight threats to environment

Environmental advocates led by the Lumaban sa Cha-Cha, Ipagtanggol ang Kalikasan (LUNTIAN) Coalition held ‘eco-walks’ a day before International Earth Day at the University of the Philippines – Diliman and Manila to draw attention to what they say are threats to Philippine patrimony by the proposed changes to the Constitution.

“From our mountain ridges to our urban green spaces down to the coral reefs, our last ecological frontiers are facing increased risks of plunder today,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator and LUNTIAN convenor Leon Dulce said Saturday. Read more

Davide hits charter change as ‘war against the environment’

By Kalikasan PNE

Calling the proposed charter change (cha-cha) a “war against the environment,” former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said the constitutional amendments threaten a “catastrophic environmental crisis and grave intergenerational injustice.”

In his keynote speech in a public forum on the ecological implications of cha-cha held at the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute last April 12, 2017, Davide said the lifting of the 60 percent Filipino citizenship requirement is potentially dangerous.

“[L]eaving it completely to Congress to provide a new rule, which could even include no requirement at all, would end up with the outright surrender of the natural wealth – and eventually even of the country itself – to foreigners, especially to foreign business conglomerates,” Davide said.

Davide said various doctrinal principles and rules on the right to environment, such as the jurisprudence of the ‘Oposa v. Factoran’ case on intergenerational justice and the Supreme Court’s Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases in 2010, “would be either put to naught or severely emasculated” by cha-cha’s proposed amendments.

He also noted that the proposed Federal component States or Regions, each “lorded over by enlarged or new political dynasties who may have their own business empires” would create new layers of corruption regarding the exploitation, development, and utilization of natural resources.

Kalikasan PNE photo.

In a unity statement released during the forum, the LUNTIAN (Lumaban sa Cha-cha, Ipagtanggol ang Kalikasan) coalition said that on top of allowing 100 percent foreign ownership, “timber lands, mineral lands, reclaimed lands, and national parks that have been exclusive for public interest will be reclassified to allow private ownership, making these critical ecosystems vulnerable to land grabs and monopolies by foreign capital and big business.”

They furthered that “cha-cha proposes to delete Article XVIII Section 25 which prohibits foreign military bases and facilities in the country. If approved, the conversion of our shoals such as in West PH Sea and Benham Rise into naval and air bases, including the storage of nuclear weapons and other dangerous war materiel on Philippine soil, will be legally free.”

The forum was organized by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) in cooperation with the LUNTIAN Coalition, Miriam Public Education and Awareness Campaign for the Environment (Miriam PEACE), Green Convergence, Advocates of Science & Technology for the People (AGHAM), Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC), Nilad, UP Green League, and the No to Cha-cha Coalition.

The forum organizers announced that they will hold an ‘Eco-Walk’ on April 21, 6:00 to 9:00 AM at the University of the Philippines – Diliman comprised of environmental education activities such as bird watching, native tree walks, a museum walk, and an urban gardening workshop for children, to highlight what is at stake should cha-cha push through.#

Kalinga, Bumangon Ka

While singing this song entitled, Kalinga, Bumangon Ka, which was composed during the height of the anti-Chico Dam struggle, members of the Innnabuyog-Kalinga are reminded of their responsibility as umili to defend once again their ancestral lands from the encroachment of so-called “development projects”: proposed dams along the Chico River under Pres. Duterte’s Build, Build, Build, Chevron’s geothermal project in the tri-boundary of Pasil, Lubuagan and Tinglayan, etc. which would mean the destruction of their livelihood and their way of life as Kalinga peoples.

Groups deny benefits from coal plants

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Environmental groups in Ilocos rebuked the claims of economic benefits by coal-fired power plant proponents. The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and Save Sual Movement (SSM), in a separate statement, argued that health and environmental cost out weights the promise of jobs and royalties from the coal-fired plants.

Two companies are set to build to coal-fired power plant in the region. The P80-Billion 670 megawatt twin-plant of Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation (GLEDC) in Luna, La Union and the P47-Billion 1,000 MW plant of South Korean energy giant Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Both organizations believe that residents, and the neighboring towns will be at the losing end of these projects.

Temporary benefits

Rosanna Marie Soriano, president of SSM said that KEPCO only presented “half truth” about its projects impact when it announced that it will create 5000 jobs during construction and collect about P800 million in real-property tax annually.

Her group explained that while the construction of the plant will require a considerable number of labor force, it will eventually “trim down to a few hundred skilled worker and office personnel.”

The same tactic was utilized by GLEDC and Mayor Vic Marron of Luna town. They flaunted to the media and the public the need for at least 3,000 workers and the P500-million in real property tax if the project proceeds.

For Defend Ilocos, its just routine for companies investing in coal-fired plants “to highlight the economic benefits” and “use of emission-reducing technology” but in the long term operation “this will entail heavier environmental and social cost.” The environmental network said that the plant which GLEDC and KEPCO intend to build are for big businesses and not for the local residents.

Mayor Roberto Arcinue explained that the Pangaisnan, the municipality of Sual and Barangay Baquioen will be share the revenue with each receiving 35%, 40% 25% respectively.

He also claimed in the past that revenue from the existing plant made Sual into a first class municipality. The town is the location of the 1,200 MW coal-fired plant, the country’s biggest in the country, operated by Team Energy. It started providing service in 1999 and full power capacity was delivered in 2007.

However, revenue seems to play a minimal role in the overall poverty situation in the area. In 2012, Sual ranked 8th among the municipalities generating locally sourced revenues. But she was also identified by the Provincial Poverty Reduction Action Team as one of the 10 municipalities with the highest poverty incidence.

Hazardous

GLEDC and KEPCO have boasted that their plant will run with the latest technology. Both local governments of Sual and Luna also claimed that the plants will be “environmentally-friendly.”

However, the groups are not convinced.

Defend Ilocos explained that “decades of utilizing coal for power generation across the globe have proven its detrimental impacts to our health and environment.” The group also pointed that “low-emission coal power facilities fail to address the overall impact of the coal industry from extraction, transport, stockpiling and waste disposal.”

It added that countries touted to have the most efficient coal fleet like Japan, China, and the United States failed to curbed the environmental and health issues associated with coal and coal-fired plants.

Soriano’s group, in its statement, mentioned a study by Dr. Romeo Quino of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in KEPCO’s 200 MW coal-powered energy facility in Naga, Cebu. The doctor was able to identify heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and arcenic in high concentrations from coal ash samples taken from the area. Residents in the place complained of of air, water and land pollution prompting even the Asian Development Bank, who funded the project to admit the said problems.

“Humihingi kami noon ng report mula sa LGU at sa planta kaugnay sa epekto nito sa environment pero wala naman silang ibinigay sa amin,” Soriano said. To bolster their proof, SMM will undertake water and air testing on March 31 to April 2 in the vicinity of the existing plant.

An independent consultant and researcher, Dr. Freddie Obligacion, in his published study in 2015 of 410 households from four major coal-powered plants found that “major coal-fueled plants in the country have adversely impacted our fellow citizens’ environment, health, livelihood, and life satisfaction.”

Health was the major impact area cited in the study. According to the document, fewer illness were experienced by the residents prior to the operation of the facilities. However, after the plants started operation, reports of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, skin allergies, infections, headaches and diarrhea became common. Of the respondents who encountered these diseases, 69% attributed it to the presence of the coal-fired power plant in their community.

No direct consumption

“Wala namang isang bahay dito na directly sa coal plant kumukuha ng kuryente, huwag niya (Arcinue) sabihin na kami ang pangunahing nakikinabang dahil dumadaan naman ito sa grid, its not only the coal plant that supplies the energy we use. Maganda sana kung diretly at libre ang kuryente pero hindi naman. Binabayaran nga namin yan. Kapag tumataas ang kuryente ay tumataas din ang sa amin kahit pa nandito ang biggest coal plant,” explianed Soriano.

The statement was her reaction to Arcinue’s foolish call to for SMM members to “refrain from using electricity produced by the power plant” to prove their sincerity in opposing KEPCO’s facility.

In 2015, Pangasinan was reported to having the highest electricity rate in Region 1 with a price tag of P17.7595 per kwh.

Harassments

Soriano said that her group are experiencing harassment from the local chief executive. While she claims to have not experience direct attacks, her family and colleagues are being singled-out.

“Yung mga kasamahan ko ang nakakaranas, lalo na yung mga nasa wharf area. Palaging sumusulat ang iba’t ibang office ng munisipyo, ang MENRO, Engineering Office at sinasabing dapat umalis sila. Pero ang pinapaalis lamang ay yung mga sumasapi sa amin samaantalang mga allies nila ay hindi naman pinapaalis,” the SSM leader narrated.

She added that even her family are threatened through their businesses.

“Marami siyang (Arcinue) sinisita na kung ano-anong violations namin, na we are not in compliance of somethings, gaya ng building code,” she said.

Like Soriano and her group, members of Defend Ilocos also experience harassment. The group said that its network TIMEK La Union, a fisherfolk organization that is opposing the construction the coal-fired plant in Luna are being monitored by the local police.

“In November 2017, PNP personnel went looking for TIMEK officers and members in Agoo and Bauang, and told the barangay officials that it is a front organization of the New People’s army,” stated the group in its year-end report.

Clean development

“Everybody desires progress, but let us have it in the proper, clean, safe and sustainable way… not with coal that will endanger our lives, our family and the future generations of Sual,” noted SMM in its statement.

Defend Ilocos on the other hand is pushing for the prioritization of “ industrial and service sector investments with less ecological impacts” to create jobs. The group also said that local governtments are “better off promoting rural development by pursuing genuine agrarian reform to strengthen agriculture and the fishery sector.” # nordis.net

No to Coal in Bohol

We, the Bohol Clean Energy Advocates, call on the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol to recognize the negative impacts of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.

We urge the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BEDAG) and the Officials of the Provincial Government of Bohol to faithfully and strongly enforce the Vision and Mission of the province as “a prime eco-cultural destination and a strong, balanced agro-industrial province, with a well-educated, God-loving and law-abiding citizenry, proud of their cultural heritage, enjoying a state of well-being and committed to sound environmental management”, through “good governance and effective partnerships with stakeholders”; as well as the declaration of our province as an Eco-Cultural Tourism Zone under Republic Act No. 9446 that mandates us to “protect and enhance the natural features and cultural heritage of the tourism zone, while providing sustainable economic opportunities for the local community”.

Why is this important?

Alarmed that there are sectors in the Provincial Government along with investors and power providers who are poised to endorse a backward idea of a coal-fired power plant in the island, we demand that our leaders to lead us in achieving Bohol’s Goals that include, among others, Environmental Protection and Management; and, Responsive, transparent and accountable governance.

Drawing from our earlier manifesto, we echo the call, this time, taking a firm stand against whatever plans and machinations there might be to utilize coal in generating power within our province. We have united behind the following arguments:

1. THAT COAL IS DIRTY AND DEADLY. Coal damages both people and planet. Existing and proposed coal power plants in the Philippines can cause up to 2,410 premature deaths annually according to a 2015 Harvard study. Coal burning emits substances which contribute to smog, haze, lung disease, and respiratory illnesses; as well as neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals (US Energy Information Administration, 2017). Coal mining contributes to soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity. It is directly linked with climate change as it is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, inducing natural disasters.

2. THAT COAL IS COSTLY. While there is still a popular perception that coal is sold cheaply, a research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) revealed that coal use actually brings with it additional costs that are not traditionally taken into account such as: (1) Subsidies to coal producers; (2) Air pollution estimated to cause more than 6,000 global deaths annually; and, (3) Greenhouse Gas emissions that undermine targets under the Paris Agreement on Climate. If we monetize these impacts the total cost of coal is estimated to be around USD 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), more than double the cost of competing renewable energy based on recent renewable auction results.

3. THAT GLOBALLY COAL IS NO LONGER A VIABLE OPTION. The recent falls in solar Photo Voltaic prices have led India to cancel new coal capacity, in addition to rising concern about the impacts of coal use on air pollution. In China, this concern led to a moratorium on new coal plants in 28 out of 31 provinces. With the tide turning against coal across the world, there is real concern that investments made today could soon be impossible to operate on environmental, public health and cost grounds, leaving a legacy of stranded power stations as the last monuments to the age of coal. (IISD, 2017)

WE REJECT the proposal or plan of private or government investors in establishing a coal-power plant in the province of Bohol because it is tantamount to a violation of the existing laws and commitment for the Boholano people;

WE DECLARE that renewable energy is the way forward. A 2013 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report said that in 2011, at least 384 renewable energy service contracts were awaiting approval from the Department of Energy, equalling to 6,046 MW of generation capacity. Currently, there are 13 operational coal-fired power plants with a combined installed capacity of 4.937 MW;

WE STRONGLY SUPPORT the development of renewable energy sources as the way forward for our beloved Bohol that claims to have ecological and cultural tourism as its main path for sustainable development being one of its primary economic drivers.

WE ENJOIN our fellow Boholanos and residents to join us in this worthy cause to save our environment from this threat of destruction for our sake and the future generation.

WE DEMAND as citizens and voters that the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol shall recognize the negative impact of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing Resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.

‘Manila Bay is still alive,’ fisher folks opposing reclamations say

A special report by Reynald Denver del Rosario

MANILA BAY is alive and still able to provide livelihood for thousands of fisher folk and their families, communities and environmental groups say as they continue their campaign against ongoing and future government reclamation projects on one of the country’s most important body of water.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light to more than 80 billion peso worth of reclamation projects implemented by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). Despite opposition from various sectors, the government ordered a fast-tracked completion purportedly to give way to economic development and ease the metro’s traffic woes, among other reasons.

But beyond these promises of change and progress lie concrete problems faced by the environment and grassroots communities. One of the affected areas is Manila Bay, a body of water which different coastal communities rely on for their living.

With the implementation of these massive reclamation projects at full swing, affected residents face threats of losing their livelihood and communities. Since then, communities have strengthened their unity as they fight for their rights as citizens.

A Manila Bay fisher tending his boat after a day out trying to make a living. (Photo by R. Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Manila Bay to be ravaged by eight reclamation projects

The eight ongoing and planned reclamation projects on Manila Bay include the 650-hectare Navotas Business Park reclamation project, first initiated in the 1960s but was revived during the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.

Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada has also recently approved a fourth reclamation project under his term—the 419-hectare Horizon Manila project at an estimated cost of P100-billion. It involves the construction of a commercial hub composed of three new islands. This approval came two months after Estrada approved the P7-billion Manila North Harbor expansion, which will reclaim 50 hectares from the waters of the bay.

Last February, Estrada approved the New Manila Bay International Community project, a 407-hectare mixed-use commercial and tourism center proposed by UAA Kinming Development Corporation.

Estrada also upheld the Solar City project, a major entertainment hub which covers 148 hectares and approved by his predecessor Alfredo Lim.

Another reclamation intervention is the 635-hectare Las Piñas-Parañaque Coastal Bay project intended to be a residential, industrial, educational and commercial zone.

The other reclamation projects in Manila Bay include the 360-hectare project in Pasay City and the 300-hectare project in Parañaque City, a public-private partnership with a giant mall and real estate company as the private-sector partner.

These massive reclamation projects in Manila Bay are part of a larger national reclamation plan pursued by the government purportedly to further boost the country’s economy. These, however, shall come at the expense of fisherfolk and coastal communities being displaced, fisher folk and environmental groups said.

  1. Despite massive pollution, Manila Bay is still thriving.

The Manila Bay area is one of the Philippines’ major center of economic activity, including fishing and aquaculture activities. However, its ecosystem continues to face problems from multiple developments taking place in the area.

Pollution, over-fishing, and loss of habitats are few of the issues threatening Manila Bay, according to the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA). Its effects include the significant degradation of the involved ecosystems and biodiversity, which eventually affects those who are dependent on it.

According to the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), fish are already scarce in the bay according to a public scoping undertaken by no less than the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR).

Fisher folk challenges the claim, however, saying the DENR study is being used to justify the planned demolition of their communities and livelihood by and on the bay.

According to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas), fishermen still harvest a considerable amount of fish from Manila Bay. For them, the government should rehabilitate the waters, not reclaim them.

Navotas City, for example, benefits from what the waters of Manila Bay still have to offer. Dubbed as the “Fishing Capital of the Philippines” Navotas City and its residents largely depend on fishing and related industries for livelihood. Residents of Barangay Tangos in Navotas still benefit from the waters to sustain their livelihood, despite various obstacles. Fishermen harvest different kinds of seafood, including shellfish, squid and shrimp, among others.

An urban poor community sits under the shadow of the towering buildings of Makati City and along the polluted Parañaque River. (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Waste is used as justification to displace the coastal communities.

Forty eight year old fisherman Romeo Broqueza of Barangay Tangos couldn’t hide his frustration with Manila Bay’s waste problem, saying that the issue is used against them. According to him, most of the waste came from other places and not from their community itself.

“Kung tutuusin, pwede iyang pag-usapan, kasi madali lang naman linisin iyan e. Nandiyan ang barangay, tutulong yan,” he said. “Ngayon, ginagamit nilang dahilan ‘yang kalat para paalisin kami dito.”

Residents also scored the dumping of waste in nearby communities. According to Nieves Sarcos of PAMALAKAYA, big barges continue to deliver 100 truckloads of trash to Barangay Tanza per day.

“Mataas na ang basura, parang bundok na,” she said. “Maraming nahuhulog na basura mula sa barge, tapos aanurin papunta sa amin.”

In 2008, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay in 10 years.

PAMALAKAYA claims that almost 60 percent of pollution entering Manila Bay comes from Pasig River, in which 80 percent comes from industries and commercial establishments in Metro Manila.

Manila Bay Coordinating Office executive director Antonio Gaerlan stated that wastewater from 86 percent of the 14 million households served by water concessionaires is still directly flushed out into Manila Bay. The mandatory construction of wastewater treatment facilities for all households, establishments and industries was not included in the privatization of water services under the Fidel Ramos administration with Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services.

PAMALAKAYA has condemned past and present administrations that use the SC’s order as justification to demolish fishing communities.

The fisher folk group continues to push for the rehabilitation and clean-up of Manila Bay. With its continued destruction, small-scale fishermen have experienced the trend of fish-catch depletion, from 10 to 15 kilos down to two to five kilos of average catch per day.

A fisher folk is heading out to Manila Bay from the Malabon River. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Government policies threaten the livelihood of fishing communities.

According to PAMALAKAYA and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), the Navotas Business Park reclamation project would displace 20,000 fisher folk and residents across four coastal barangays in Navotas City.

The group added that fresh and affordable fish from Navotas would also become unavailable due to the displaced communities.

Markers and fences are already constructed along the shores of Barangay Tangos in preparation for the project. The fisher folk fear that the barriers would block their fishing boats from going offshore and restrict their already limited fishing activities.

According to Republic Act 10654 or “An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing,” small and medium fishing vessels are only allowed to operate within 10 to 15 kilometers from the coastline in municipal waters.

Fishermen are directly affected with this policy. According to them, fish of high value like tilapia and bangus cannot be found in the shallow areas; they are forced to prioritize crabs, squid, shrimp, and other small fish, which do not sell as much.

According to Broqueza, only big ships benefit from the Manila Bay since small-scale fishermen can’t go too far out to sea.

“Dati communal ‘yang Manila Bay. Malalaking isda talaga tulad ng tuna at bangus ang nahuhuli diyan, kahit ng mga maliliit na mangingisda. Kaso, ngayon, wala na,” he added.

Fish continue to dwindle because of large-scale fishing by big companies, fisherfolk say. “Pag maliliit na fishers, ‘yung sapat lang at di sobra-sobra. Yung mga negosyo kasi, sobrang mangisda,” Broqueza said.

Due to the declining fish catch, small-scale fishermen choose not to bring their fish to the Navotas Fish Port for offloading.  Instead, they do business in their barangay despite earning substantially less. According to Dodong Remojo, a fisherman of 30 years, around 70 to 80 percent of the fish in the port come from Palawan anyway.

Fishermen also suffer from various violations imposed on them. There are no markers which indicate the 15-kilometer distance from the shoreline—they only estimate how far they have sailed. The ambiguity makes them vulnerable to violating the limitations stated by the law.

Patrol activities by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), fisher folk say, have become a venue for corruption through the filing of various violations against small scale fisher folk.. “Hindi ka pa nga nakakalagpas, nahuli ka na e,” a resident said. Fishermen are charged from P100,000 to as high as P1.5-million, depending on the violation, including illegal equipment, lack of permit and exceeding 15 kilometers, among others.

Forty-four year-old fisherman Danilo Tulda said the officials are on patrol day and night to get the chance to yield profit from accused violations. “Araw-araw ‘yan sila, nag-aabang talaga sa laot. Kapag tumakbo ka, papuputukan ka,” Tulda said.

Rafael Sales, a fisherman for 33 years, said they were forced to pay a fine of P1.5-million after supposedly violating the law while fishing in Bataan. They were lucky as the officials eventually agreed to lower the fine to P150,000. “Kahit wala kang violation, lalagyan ka. Kaya bang bayaran ng mga mangingisda ‘yon?” Sales said.

Children of fishing families practice their skills on makeshift rafts on the Malabon River. (Photo by Raymund Villanueva / Kodao)

  1. Damage has been done by the reclamation projects, and will continue to do so.

CEC’s Lia Alonzo cites previous reclamation projects as contributory to more hazards on the bay, such as the one which gave way to a giant mall by the bay and even earlier ones such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex undertaken under the Ferdinand Marcos regime.

Geologists said further reclamation projects pose greater danger as the area stands on top of a fault line. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) already said that Metro Manila is overdue for a strong magnitude 7.2 earthquake from the West Valley Vault that traverses Metro Manila from north to south.

Alonzo cites the flaws of DENR’s issuance of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) under the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as one of the factors.

The ECC is an issued document after a positive review that a project meets environmental laws and policies and certifying that the proposed project will not cause significant negative environmental impact. In practice, however, issuance of the said document favors the reclamation projects and its proponents.

According to CEC, the government failed to evaluate larger domino effects of the reclamation projects to different communities. “Nakikita natin na may mga lugar na maaapektuhan ng projects pero di na sakop ng EIS,” Alonzo said.

PRA said that engineering solutions will be applied to prevent potential damage.

CEC, however, stated that such processes are both expensive and are not foolproof. CEC maintains their stance of rehabilitating the Manila Bay under the mandamus issued by the SC. Reclamation, they say, will further destroy the already damaged ecosystems and shall affect many fisher folks.

“It is not enough reason to say na wala naman nang buhay diyan, kaya hayaan na lang nating i-reclaim,” Alonzo said. “Para sa mga mangingisda, di pa huli ang lahat para ma-rehabilitate ang Manila Bay.” #