A protest of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Mendiola on June 5, 2023 protesting against the reclamation activities in Manila Bay.

A protest of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Mendiola on June 5, 2023 against the reclamation activities in Manila Bay. Photo Courtesy of Pamalakaya Twitter Account.

MANILA, Philippines — The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), a progressive fisherfolk alliance, countered on Wednesday the statements of Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) calling their concerns on reclamations in Manila Bay as expression of ‘unhappiness’.

In response to Yulo-Loyzaga’s statement accusing Pamalakaya’s protests to revoke permits on environmental reclamations in Manila Bay as just an expression of the fishers’ ‘unhappiness’, the group cleared that this was not just an expression of being ‘unhappy’ but it was a matter of life and death for the fishers and their families.

“We are dismayed with environment secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga’s response to our appeal to revoke environmental permits of existing reclamation projects across the country, particularly in Manila Bay.” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya National Chairperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Last November 2022, the Senate deliberation on the proposed P23.23-billion budget of DENR for 2023 reported that there were a total of 187 reclamation projects all over the country. Of which Pamalakaya recorded 30 reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

According to the fishers’ group statement, 21 of the projects have already acquired Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC) from DENR.

Hicap said that the Pamalakaya’s opposition to reclamation was grounded in coastal experiences and scientific evidence.

“Our opposition to reclamation is grounded in the concrete experiences of coastal community displacement and the destruction of our livelihoods, all driven by profit-oriented and destructive projects. This is not just an expression of being ‘unhappy’–it is a matter of life and death for us.” Hicap added.

Hicap added that Yulo-Loyzaga appeared oblivious to the pivotal implications that the reclamations hold for fishers and coastal communities. He emphasized, “It is deeply concerning that she dismisses these legitimate concerns as mere unhappiness.”

“We maintain that existing reclamation projects, regardless of the status, must be canceled. It would only take an administrative order signed by no less than Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga herself, and of course, a strong political will, to revoke the environmental permits of approved reclamation projects,” Hicap concluded.

The group reminded Yulo-Loyzaga that just because approved reclamation projects went through legal steps does not mean they are also moral and just. Pamalakaya said that most of the projects did not undertake democratic consultations among fishing communities and experts.