Scientist group condemns detention and harassment of fisherfolk in Bulacan, seeks probe by CHR and DENR

AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People vehemently condemns the detention and harassment of fisherfolk and youth in Malolos, Bulacan, and urges government agencies, in particular the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to investigate human rights violations related to the construction of San Miguel Corporation’s 2,500-hectare New Manila International Airport (Bulacan Aerotropolis).

According to AKAP KA Manila Bay, two armed men detained around forty fisherfolk, including six minors, from Sitio Balot, Brgy. Pamarawan, Malolos, Bulacan around noon on October 29 [1]. The fisherfolk were brought to the military detachment in Sitio Dapdap, Brgy. Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan. The armed men threatened to destroy the fisherfolk’s boats if they wouldn’t come to the military detachment. Due to this incident, the fisherfolk were not able to catch fish that day and were not even allowed to have lunch. Their photos were taken, and they were ordered to fetch water and chop firewood. They were eventually released by 5 pm on the same day.

AKAP KA Manila Bay added that an additional seven fisherfolk, including one minor, were detained after the release of those detained earlier. They were also brought to the military detachment in Sitio Dapdap and were forced to make a sign board saying “Bawal pumasok, proyekto ng gobyerno” (“No entry, government project”). According to the minor, they felt threatened because the military were loading magazines in front of them. They were eventually released by 8 pm that same day. Prior to their release, the military threatened to make them pay 40,000 pesos in fines if they ever got caught again.

Fisherfolk in the communities surrounding the proposed airport site have experienced decreased fish catch. Mangrove clearing destroys fish habitats. Ongoing dredging operations can also increase water turbidity, which in turn affects fish and other marine life. Scientists have warned countless times how the Aerotropolis can impact marine biodiversity, fisheries production, migratory bird populations, and coastal geological hazards. This on top of being physically barred from fishing by SMC personnel.

AGHAM stands in solidarity with the fisherfolk and coastal residents of Bulacan who face displacement, harassment, and loss of livelihood due to San Miguel Corporation’s Aerotropolis project. We call on the CHR to conduct investigations on human rights violations since the military’s deployment in December 2019. We call on DENR to probe possible violations of their Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and conduct a comprehensive review on the release of the ECC altogether. We urge the government to prioritize the protection of the environment and the marginalized sectors, especially now with the impending climate crisis. It is high time that government officials listen to science and the people. ###

References

[1] AKAP KA Manila Bay-Bulacan is a network of fisherfolk, church people, youth and representatives of the academe. This incident was cited in its press release on November 3, URL: https://www.facebook.com/617773201895317/posts/1554709134868381

Photo: AKAP KA Manila Bay

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