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Adverse impact of Manila Bay dredging, reclamation bared

DEVELOPMENT AND THE ENVIRONMENT A reclamation barge spews sand at the coast of Manila Bay along J.W. Diokno Boulevard in Pasay City. Environmental activists and fisherfolk groups continue their uphill battle in the campaign against development projects being planned at the historic bay and other areas in the country.

Posted on February 22, 2023

The dredging activities in Manila Bay have resulted in bigger waves and increased tidal currents affecting the catch of fishermen in Cavite province, according to a fisherfolk group.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday said the ongoing dredging activities in the towns of Ternate, Naic, and Rosario in Cavite have disrupted and driven away fish while pollution and stressors have caused a drastic decline in fish stocks.

The group has officially written to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) officer in charge, Demosthenes Escoto, to appeal for a dialogue with officials to discuss the adverse impact of the dredging activities in the bay.

“We want to get the commitment of BFAR on this particular issue that we will present to them. The said agency has a responsibility to secure our fishing grounds and municipal fisherfolk,” Aries Soledad, Pamalakaya-Cavite provincial coordinator, said in a statement.

In 2021, the group also opposed the P12-billion project between the government and Silverquest Mining Resources Inc., which was issued with an environmental compliance certificate by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for seabed quarrying covering 2, 124 hectares of municipal waters off Ternate and Naic.

Pamalakaya said they resisted the project as it involved dredging of mud, silt, sand, and other quarry materials for the 318-ha Manila Waterfront Project in the City of Manila.

“Other issues to be raised by Pamalakays on the dialogue with BFAR include the effects of reclamation projects to the marine and fishery resources in the entire Manila Bay, and the Fisheries Code’s burdening provisions against municipal fisherfolk,” it said.

As this developed, the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), an inter-agency maritime surveillance and coordination unit, has flagged the illegal activities of Chinese vessels operating dredgers in Manila Bay and rivers in Zambales where they dredge sand and transport it to the reclamation areas in Manila Bay.

The NCWC has listed “suspicious activities” of the Chinese dredgers that were found to be “operating outside their approved areas of operation” issued by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

In its special report, the NCWC also noted that the Chinese dredgers were operating without clearance from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), no ECC from the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau, no memorandum of agreement between the DENR and the dredging company, no accreditation from the DENR-MGB, no ore transport permit, and no Notice To Proceed for their operations.

Another violation flagged by the NCWC was that the Chinese dredgers had been operating with a false Automatic Identification System (AIS) to properly monitor and record their exact movements inside Philippine territorial waters and that they turned off their AIS during operation and while berthed.

The NCWC special report had been endorsed by Malacanang for appropriate action by Marina.

The NCWC is the operating arm of the National Coast Watch System which is in turn run by the National Coast Watch Council. It is chaired by the Executive Secretary and is composed of various government agencies.



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