ENVIRONMENTAL group Oceana Philippines is working with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on policy issuance enjoining the local government units (LGUs) to strictly follow environmental laws.
This way the campaign to protect the environment, particularly the country’s marine resources, will reach local officials at the grassroots level.
“Oceana is trying to work on policies like making sure LGUs that are approving or implementing coastal development projects are fully compliant with environmental laws,” said Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio, Legal and Policy director of Oceana Philippines, noting the planned reclamation projects in Cebu.
She said the group is worried about the reclamation projects that are sprouting all over Cebu, which may pose risks to the province’s rich reserve of marine resources.
“We should veer away from these hard solutions and look into more nature-based solutions. In fact, this was the direction advised to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. I think we have to change the paradigm,” said Osorio.
Osorio said Oceana is against any dump-and-fill projects in the country because of its threat to marine life and the negative impact it will have on the livelihoods that depend on it.
“It doesn’t take into account the (marine) resources. What they only focus on is the additional land area. Maybe for the short term, we can benefit (from this), but in the long term we will lose the productivity of the marine resources,” she added.
Osorio knows of four big reclamation projects in Cebu, two of which are across each other which may narrow the Mactan Channel.
Gordon Alan Joseph, chairman of the Infrastructure Development and Power Sub-Committees of the Regional Development (RDC) Council 7, earlier recommended careful studies of these reclamation projects.
While joint venture reclamation projects do not require RDC approval unless required by the Philippine Retirement Authority, Joseph hopes “that these projects have sound financial, social and environmental studies to justify the projects.”
Besides working with the DILG, Oceana Philippines is also supporting the bill that seeks the creation of “coastal greenbelts” to protect vulnerable shoreline communities and marine resources.
“One policy reform we are eyeing is the Coastal Greenbelt Bill because we recognize that coastal greenbelts are important, especially for resiliency against climate change and safeguards against these kinds of coastal projects. These are the kind of reforms we want, so we can continue to protect our remaining mangroves and other marine resources,” said Osorio.
In October 2019, Sen. Nancy Binay filed Senate Bill (SB) 1082 or an “Act Establishing the National Coastal Greenbelt Action Plan” to reduce the impacts of cyclones in the coastal communities of the country with an environmentally friendly and cost-effective initiative.
The bill defines “coastal greenbelts” as strips of natural or planted coastal vegetation, stretching at least 100 meters in width from the sea towards land, primarily of mangrove and beach forest species, which are designed to prevent coastal erosion and mitigate the adverse impacts of natural coastal hazards on human lives and property.
According to a study made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, more than 50 percent of Philippine municipalities are coastal while all major cities lie in coastal areas.
Under SB 1082, the Climate Change Commission “shall identify and convene all national agencies responsible for foreshore management, mangrove and beach forest protection and utilization, coastal land and sea-use planning, coastal tourism development, social welfare of coastal communities, and other relevant mandates, to prepare an integrated National Coastal Greenbelt Action Plan (NCGAP).
The NCGAP shall also contain the operational plan for the removal of illegal structures such as breakwaters, permanent residential/commercial structures, and the like in the identified priority coastal greenbelts. (KOC)