Philippine Marine Scientists Oppose Dumaguete Reclamation
WE OPPOSE THE MASSIVE RECLAMATION PROJECT
The Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS), composed of more than 200 members from over 45 leading Philippine and overseas universities, government agencies, and non-government organizations, joins the collective voice of civil society in strongly objecting to the 174 hectare (approximately 7 km long) reclamation project in Dumaguete City pushed by the local government.
It will bury very large areas of productive coral reefs and seagrass beds (45-67 hectares or more), which will endanger the food security and livelihoods of more than 900 local fisherfolk and their families. Claims have been made that these ecosystems can be “rebuilt” elsewhere to mitigate the damage. However, they cannot be restored by simply relocating corals, creating artificial reefs, or replanting seagrass because scientifically sound and cost-effective ecosystem restoration technologies at such massive scales are still poorly developed.
It will directly or indirectly impact the rich biodiversity of the region. The waters of Dumaguete host at least 150 species of corals, 200 species of fish, including sharks and rays, nine species of seagrass, and 20 species of mangroves. Endangered, threatened, and/or protected species under international or Philippine laws also inhabit or use these waters, including giant clams and other marine invertebrates, whale sharks, marine turtles, and the blue whale – the largest animal on Earth.
Four marine protected areas (MPAs) that the city legally established from 2001 to 2014, which serve as spawning grounds for fish that live on coral reefs and seagrass beds, will simply cease to exist. This will weaken the interconnected network of MPAs in the region, including the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape. Under the Environmental Impact Assessment process, all MPAs – both national and local – should already be classified as an Environmentally Critical Areas. Converting the MPAs in Dumaguete into reclaimed land violates national laws and contradicts local and national government mandates to promote and sustain networks of MPAs as a means to conserve marine biodiversity and manage fisheries.
It will further result in irreversible negative impacts to the surrounding environment. The massive project will require enormous amounts of filling material sourced from the seafloor by dredging or from land by quarrying. High sediment suspension and dispersal by currents will very likely affect neighboring areas, including the nearby Tañon Strait Protected Seascape.
It will likely impede the natural flow of water from the rivers and streams of Mt. Talinis. This may worsen flooding in the coastal barangays of Dumaguete, home to approximately 38,000 residents.
We strongly urge the local government unit of Dumaguete City to reconsider this project seriously. We also urge the neighboring LGUs to voice out their concerns, as this reclamation project will also affect them. The damage to the environment will be enormous and irreversible. We call on the Philippine Reclamation Authority, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Interior and Local Government to treat this project with utmost scrutiny and to ensure that the people of Dumaguete City are duly consulted and informed at all times during the long and careful process of assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of this project, as required by Philippine laws.Adopted on the 24th July 2021, during the 16th National Symposium on Marine Science, Philippines. oOo