Ongoing coastal development programs of reclamation, rehabilitation, and master planning
pose various threats of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights violations to
fisherfolk and urban poor communities across the coasts of Manila Bay, a semi-enclosed
marine water body of economic, ecological, and cultural importance whose coasts and
watersheds are home to 23.21 million people. Of this, it is estimated that 11.24 million
people are threatened by displacement from reclamation and its disaster risks.
In this context, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), a
Filipino national environmental campaign center, through the support of the Fair Green and
Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action programs of Both ENDS, a Dutch
environmental justice non government organization, conducted a rapid action research to
assess the human rights and gender risks and impacts of land reclamation in Manila Bay.
This assessment aims to establish a qualitative baseline on the human rights compliance
and recognition of women’s issues and concerns by reclamation projects in Manila Bay, in
particular to favorably influence the analysis and subsequent action planning of the ongoing
process of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP).
Community member subjects in the five sites of investigation in the provinces of Bataan,
Bulacan, and Cavite, and the cities of Navotas and Manila perceived reclamation projects as
drivers of disaster risks that compounds present threats to their various rights, including their
right to information, right to self-determination, right to jobs, livelihoods, and social services,
and right to property, safety, and security, among others.
Research subjects identified the implementation of anti-people economic policies and
development projects driven by government corruption in collusion with corporate greed as
the root causes of the various risks that pose a threat to their rights to property, jobs,
livelihood, homes, ecological health, safety, and security, among others.
Analyzing the rights they identified, the study reveals that reclamation projects across all five
sites do not follow four internationally accepted human rights standards for business
enterprises: 1) they do not follow domestic laws on civil, political, socio-economic, and
environmental rights; 2) they do not have their own internal human rights policies; 3) they
have not done human rights due diligence to identify, address, and remediate potential and
actual violations of people’s rights; and 4) they do not have their own remedial mechanisms
or have track records of cooperating with State mechanisms for remediation.
It is further exposed that none of these reclamation projects recognized the greater risks
posed on women, and therefore has no particular interventions to address these risks. Reclamation proponents had nothing to offer to address the five levels of inequality experienced by women across Manila Bay in terms of material services, accessibility of jobs and livelihood, space for participation in governance, and equity in determining the utilization and management of the environment, natural resources, and economies of their local communities.
The rights-based, participatory, and action-oriented approach in the process of the research
and its generated knowledge on human rights and gender risks have also generated action
from the men and women of communities in the sites of investigation. They have engaged in
organizing their communities, building coalitions with various sectors of society, mobilizing for dialogues and protests, and leveraging governance mechanisms at various levels.
From this, the study concludes that Manila Bay’s reclamation program has zero baselines for
human rights compliance and gender mainstreaming. Both the State and private proponents of reclamation were found remiss in their duties and obligations to human rights especially of women. While international human rights standards are increasingly seen as great indicators for development activities that significantly redound to the actual needs and aspirations of local communities, these standards remain unrecognized and unaddressed by reclamation proponents.
This zero compliance to human rights and gender standards is seen as both an indictment of our current set of relevant rules and regulations, as well as of the level of enforcement of existing policies that help promote people’s various rights.
In particular, this zero baseline was also seen in the situational analysis of the MBSDMP. As
this plan will be seen as a blueprint until 2040, the lack of data on human rights and gender
is expected to result in development choices that will systematically entrench the marginalization of women and other vulnerable sectors in the context of a business-as-usual situation where land reclamation and even rehabilitation programs are threatening them with eviction, natural resource grabs, and loss of livelihoods.
As such, it is recommended that a more comprehensive human rights and gender risk and
impact assessment be required to all proponents of reclamation, rehabilitation, master planning, and other coastal development activities. Policy interventions such as executive orders up to national legislation are recommended to make government adopt this measure.
A moratorium on prospective reclamation projects in Manila Bay is recommended until such
policy interventions ae promulgated and enforced.
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