Protect VIP, a coalition of communities, sectors, and advocates of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) on Friday welcomed the decision of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to suspend reclamation projects ongoing in the Manila Bay area, albeit with the exception of one.
At the same time, advocates raised the alarm on the reclamation involved in the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and power plants mostly centered in Batangas, one of the five provinces surrounding the Verde Island Passage, while expressing hope that the suspension was motivated by a genuine desire on the part of the government to exercise its mandate to protect the environment and not solely because of geopolitical concerns raised by the United States.
“We of course welcome the move of the government to protect, albeit belatedly, the environment of Manila Bay. It is only a matter of curiosity for us if the motivation is environmental or geopolitical. If it is the former, then the President should also order the DENR to review the status of gas terminals around the VIP that involve land reclamation, displacement of fisherfolks and surrounding communities, and destruction of marine habitats. It is only then that we can be convinced that both the government and DENR are sincere on its new stance on reclamation,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP Convenor.
Verde Island Passage is the center of marine shorefish biodiversity in the world, but is at risk of hosting over 20 gas facilities - projects which host communities and advocates are opposing due to their impact on the environment, fisheries, and the local economy.
“The ongoing reclamation projects in VIP for the construction of fossil gas projects result in turbid waters and make seagrasses, coral reefs, and marine fauna vulnerable to stressors. Putting up these gas terminals and power plants are destructive as the dumping and filling of land disturb the existing coastal habitats in VIP. On top of this, the expansion of fossil gas projects increases carbon emissions that can alter the pH level of the seas resulting in potential ocean acidification,” added Gariguez.
“Manila Bay and the Verde Island Passage are both important ecological hotspots and fishing grounds. Reclamation and destructive development in these areas will disrupt the marine and coastal ecosystems they house and cause exacerbated vulnerabilities to coastal communities. Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga already said that the projects in Manila Bay came in even before this administration’s term and they are now making time to take stock of how these projects will actually impact the environment. The same courtesy must be given by the DENR to the VIP,” said Gariguez.