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While acknowledging the August 2023 announcement by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend reclamation projects in Manila Bay, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Caritas Philippines Vice President, warns that “mere pronouncements are not enough. We need concrete action to protect our bay and the communities that depend on it.”

In a letter and joint position paper with Alyansa Tigil Mina sent to President Marcos through Speaker Martin Romualdez last January, the organizations called for the immediate issuance of an executive order formally suspending all reclamation and seabed quarrying activities nationwide. This suspension, they argue, is crucial until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) completes its comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of such projects.

Caritas Philippines and Alyansa Tigil Mina highlighted the ongoing damage in areas like Zambales, Bataan, and Cavite, where sand mining, river dredging, and seabed quarrying continue despite the Manila Bay suspension. These activities have caused:

  • Absent or inadequate consultations with affected communities. “People woke up to find dredging ships in their waters, with no prior warning or explanation,” Bishop Alminaza said.
  • Damage to fishing nets and livelihoods. “Dredging ships have repeatedly damaged fishing gear, leaving families unable to earn their living,” the Bishop stated.
  • Drastic decline in fish catches. “The extraction activities are decimating marine life,” Bishop Alminaza warned. “This not only affects the food security of coastal communities but also disrupts the delicate balance of the entire ecosystem.”

Beyond immediate impacts, Caritas Philippines is deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of coastal extraction on vulnerable coastlines. “These activities threaten the very resilience of our coasts, making them more susceptible to flooding, erosion, and the impacts of climate change,” Bishop Alminaza explained.

Bishop Alminaza reiterated their call for a multi-pronged approach:

  • A nationwide executive order formally suspending all reclamation and seabed quarrying activities.
  • Inclusion of people’s organizations, coastal communities, and civil society groups in the DENR assessment.
  • Accountability for government officials and private actors involved in environmental damage and human rights violations.
  • Transparency in all extractive projects impacting coastal and marine resources.
  • Prioritization of marine resource rehabilitation and compensation for affected communities.

Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator Jaybee Garganera also emphasizes the Rights of Nature, recognizing Manila Bay and other coastal ecosystems as living entities with inherent rights to exist and flourish. “We have a moral obligation to respect and protect these rights,” Garganera declared.

Bishop Alminaza concluded by urging the government and the public: “Let us not be fooled by empty promises. We need decisive action now. Together, let us protect our coastlines, uphold the rights of communities, and safeguard the future of our common home.”