Oct. 26, 2016, 10:54 p.m. – ENVIRONMENTALISTS condemned the reclamation of an endangered mangrove forest in Manila, amid threats of commercialization and land conversion from private organizations.

Arlen Ancheta, an environmental management expert and researcher, said the fisher folk would be the most vulnerable victims of the planned reclamation of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.

“[The fisher folk] are relocated, but they continue to go back along the coastal areas,” Ancheta said in a forum at the Beato Angelico audiovisual room last Oct. 26.

Ancheta said non-government organizations and advocacy groups were against the reclamation due to expected flooding, liquefaction, storm surges and more importantly, the deprivation of livelihood among fisher folk.

Glacy Macabale, director of the Save Freedom Island Movement Campaign, said only the local government would gain from the reclamation project.

“[M]eron pong 10 to 20 percent na malinis na ibinibigay sa local government kaya po maraming local government units ang gustong-gustong mag-reclaim,” Macabale said.

Macabale alleged that there was a “secret deal” between the Philippine Reclamation Authority and Cyber Bay Corp., a firm engaging in real estate development, to include the mangrove forest in one of its projects.

Environmentalist Fr. John Leydon used Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si to argue against the reclamation.

Laudato Si is the Pope’s second encyclical, which aims to raise awareness on man-made environmental destruction.

“If you’re going to come up with a project, [you] should [have a] dialogue [with the affected residents],” he said.

Simbahayan Director Mark Anthony Abenir said more people would benefit without the reclamation project.

“[Huwag] nating maliitin ang mga ipinaglalaban nila dahil kapag [nakamit] ang ‘no reclamation,’ maraming panalo dito kaysa mga talo,” Abenir said.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources website, the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area situated at the south of Manila Bay is a nature reserve established by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1412 dated April 22, 2007.

It covers an area of 175 hectares and is considered the first critical habitat in the country.

The forum, titled “Free the Freedom Islands,” was sponsored by the UST Simbahayan Community Development Office and organized by students from the UST Sociological Society.


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