MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) should go after factories polluting Manila Bay instead of small fishermen and the urban poor, a militant fisherfolk group said yesterday.
In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said Environment Secretary Lito Atienza should stop blaming the urban poor for the sorry state of the bay.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Atienza should stop protecting big business and probe the companies polluting the bay and its tributaries.
“He is putting the blame on small and ordinary people and exonerating the real masterminds behind the destruction of the bay,” Hicap said.
The militant group said 60 percent of the pollutants entering Manila Bay goes through the Pasig River, and 80 percent comes from industries and commercial establishments located along the country’s major river system in the National Capital Region.
Another 15 percent of the pollution that gets into Manila Bay comes from the Pampanga River which, the group said, is colonized by big and small polluting factories.
“The government is blaming overfishing as a major factor in the degradation of Manila Bay. That is a flimsy and ridiculous excuse. The massive privatization and conversion of public lands and coastal communities along the bay since the Marcos dictatorship up to the present administration is the principal reason Manila Bay is in the intensive care unit, and suffering from environmental comatose,” Pamalakaya said.
The militant group said around 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay had been reclaimed for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.
In December, the Supreme Court ordered government agencies, including the DENR and MMDA, to clean up the bay.
Pamalakaya questioned Atienza’s “aggressive use of a Supreme Court ruling on the Manila Bay cleanup to carry out the massive demolition of fishpens and communities in Bacoor, Cavite, and other parts of the National Capital Region.”
“Secretary Atienza wants to get rid of us to allow the transnational takeover of Manila Bay and the two immediate bodies of water connected to the bay—Laguna Lake and Pasig River. For the environment secretary, what is important is the interest of big business groups doing profitable ventures and business escapades along Manila Bay,” he said.
Hicap also dismissed the P100-billion fund which Atienza said was needed by the DENR to clean up the bay, calling it “the biggest money-making scheme of the 21st century. –Alcuin Papa, Philippine Daily Inquirer