Last November 24, six days before Urban Poor Day, Cavite-based urban poor groups protested for an immediate end to the government’s infrastructure projects in Cavite that would potentially further worsen the social conditions of the urban poor and fisherfolk.
Specifically, the demonstrations called to Secretary Mark Villar for a halt on Cavite infrastructure projects — including expressways along Cavite and the LRT 1 extension project — amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, disaster caused by recent typhoons, and “government criminal neglect.”
Members of multisectoral provincial alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite were among those who flocked to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) main office.
DPWH denied the protesters’ request to have a dialogue, but accepted their position paper after the protests.
“These projects are an assault to social justice and humanity as they aim to attract big and foreign profit-seekers, while uprooting the masses, who are already displaced by calamities. Thousands are evicted to give way to these projects,” said BAYAN Cavite spokesperson Manny Asuncion.
Asuncion exclaimed that the current infrastructure and development plans should be scrapped in favor of a new people-centered endeavor..
“A halt on DPWH’s infrastructure projects will not only provide a respite for displaced households, but an opportunity to forward a new people-centered infrastructure and development plan. One thing is clear, however. As neoliberal development aggression and disaster capitalism continues under the current administration, the people would eventually demand and effect a halt on this regime soon,” Asuncion explained.
Meanwhile, fisherfolk and residents from coastal communities of Cavite led by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas – Cavite (PAMALAKAYA-Cavite) went to the Philippines Reclamation Authority (PRA) office to call for a halt on reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
According to PAMALAKAYA-Cavite, some of the biggest Manila Bay reclamation projects are planned to be built on the waters of Cavite. They added that should the projects push through, the fisherfolk of the province in 95 coastal barangays with a total population of 335,000 will be left with a miniscule area for their livelihood of fishing.
The fisherfolk group also expressed grave concerns about the impending demolitions and displacement of coastal communities as the reclamation projects drew closer.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA Cavite spokesperson Myrna Candinato said that the fisherfolk sector is among the poorest in the country and have carried the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent typhoons.
“Even [more] alarming is the continuous decline of the fishing industry due to the low demand for fish products, and the worsening condition of our seas that is not conducive for aquatic life to thrive. And now, the fisherfolk of Cavite is facing yet another threat to their community and livelihood – the proposed reclamation projects in Manila Bay,” Candinato added
Pabayang Ate Lani?
The following day, residents from various barangays and sectors staged a protest in front of the Bacoor City Hall to protest against the ongoing evictions in Bacoor City.
Last November 19, the office of Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla received and accepted a letter from the residents who were requesting a dialogue between them and the local government. However, in lieu of a proper dialogue, the residents ended up protesting as no one from the local government responded to the request, according to BAYAN-Cavite.
Paula Ramos of Anakbayan Bacoor slammed Mayor Mercado-Revilla for the local government’s failure to respond to the resident’s request.
“Ano po ba talaga ang plano ninyo para sa amin, lalo na sa kabataan?… Pinapakita ng pangyayaring ito kung ano talaga ang mukha ng #AlagangAteLani sa kanyang nasasakupan,” Ramos said.
BAYAN Cavite’s press release detailed that protesters stated that evictions are part of the “neoliberal development aggression” which included reclamation, “riverside development,” and road widening and expansion efforts. Plans involving the commercialization,gentrification, and “beautification” of certain areas in order to attract business and tourists were also cited.
The protesters also promised to assert their calls and to continue protesting until they are confronted “face to face.”
Aries Soledad of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Maralita sa Cavite explained that residents are being exploited through means such as relocation by land grabbers and developers.
“Maraming anyo ang demolisyon at pagpapalayas sa Bacoor. Ginagamit na dahilan ang relocation ng mga nasunugan. Pinapaaalis ang mga nakatira sa tinatatakang ‘danger zone’. Kaliwa’t kanan ang mga land grabber at developer. At meron pang mga pekeng homeowners association na binebenta ang laban ng maralita para sa karapatan sa lupang pinirikan,” Soledad said
Soledad added that infrastructure projects have become part of the government’s initiative to attract foreign and large businesses.
Meanwhile, Asuncion stressed that even the Philippine Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP) is alarmed by the ongoing demolitions and evictions amid the pandemic.
“Ang PCUP na ahensya ng g[o]byerno ay nanawagan na sa pambansa at lokal na mga pamahalaan na suspindihin ang mga demolisyon at ebiksyon sa gitna ng pandemya. Dagdag na pasakit lamang ito sa matindi nang pagdurusang tinitiis ng mamamayan sa gitna ng krisis at mga sakuna. Ang mga nawawalan ay sila pang inaagawam,” Asuncion explained.
Building bridges, chasing pavements
Among the projects that BAYAN Cavite and PAMALAKAYA Cavite are protesting against include the 320-hectare Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project and the 100-hectare Diamond Reclamation and Development Project. The Bacoor city government under Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla is the proponent of the two projects.
Despite strong opposition from coastal community residents and experts, as well as Sen. Cynthia Villar, through a representative in a public hearing, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) granted the Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) which was signed by Engr. William Cunado, DENR – Environmental Management Bureau OIC-Director, on March 5. This project was linked to a fire that broke-out last October.
The two groups also denounced the Cavite Reclamation Project proposed by the Cavite provincial government under Gov. Jonvic Remulla. The project would reclaim five islands totaling to 1,331 hectares in Kawit, Cavite City, Noveleta and Rosario.
Another project by the Cavite provincial government, in partnership with Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corporation and the China Communication Construction Corporation (CACC) is the 1,900-ha. Sangley International Airport. According to PAMALAKAYA Cavite, the project drew flak when CACC’s mother company, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), was exposed as being involved in China’s military expansionism in the West Philippine Sea through dredging, construction, and militarization of artificial islands.
Ed Valdez from Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon at Reklamasyon (KKKR) said that these projects were being sugar coated as being built to improve the lives of Caviteños, but are examples of development aggression from the government, foreign businesses and investors to amass the biggest capital possible.
“These projects would not only displace the residents of coastal communities, but it would also irreparably destroy Manila Bay which is a source of income for thousands of fisherfolk and a source of food and fish products for Cavite, Bulacan, Bataan, and Metro Manila,” Valdez added.
Meanwhile, the LRT-1 Extension Project, which is expected to establish ten new stations to reach Governors’ Drive at Dasmariñas is set to displace at least 1,100 households in Zapote and Talaba alone, according to BAYAN Cavite.
BAYAN Cavite adds that the expressways to be built along Cavite, including the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAEX), Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway (CTBEX), and Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX) extension will further increase the number of households displaced.
Other projects include The 20-hectare Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) city in Island Cove owned by the chinese Oriental Group, a 70-hectare. POGO hub proposed by Kawit mayor Angelo Emilio Aguinaldo, and the 60-hectare Philippine Navy dredging and expansion. [P]
Photo from BAYAN Cavite / Facebook