Fisherfolks, environmentalists, progressive groups like Kabataan Partylist, and concerned citizens in Dumaguete City, Province of Negros Oriental marked Labor Day on Sunday, May 1, 2022, with a fluvial protest demanding government protection of Dumaguete’s shoreline against the plan to build a 174-hectare “Smart City”.
In the official statement via Facebook Post of the advocacy group, NoTo174DumagueteIslands said that the fluvial protest is a reminder to fight for Dumaguete’s coastal waters as the reclamation will bury the marine resources under tons of debris and dredged sand.
“Today is May 1, International Workers Day. We honor the hard work of laborers who ply the seas and toil the land to bring food to our tables; the waste workers who help keep our streets and beaches clean; the pedicab drivers who take us to work or leisure; the restaurant and store workers who provide us services; the women workers who nurture their families, and other sectors. All contribute to making Dumaguete a livable city, and all would be adversely affected by the reclamation project,” the group said.
They also urged the people in Dumaguete City to vote wisely on May 9, 2022, by electing leaders that are committed to the protection of the environment. “Vote for the preservation of our resources, for the interests of our workers and local businesses, for the needs of local communities, and for our heritage,” they added.
The “Smart City” plan is a public-private partnership between the Local Government of Dumaguete City and E.M. Cuerpo Inc (EMCI) that has the intention to reclaim a huge amount of land to build shopping malls, condominiums, parks, residential buildings, and other structures.
Last September 2021, Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Remollo has deferred signing the agreement after the strong opposition by several sectors and following the passage of an ordinance by the Negros Oriental provincial board declaring all 46 marine protected areas (MPA), including the four barangays (Banilad Marine Sanctuary and Reservation, Bantayan Marine Reserve, Lo-oc Marine Sanctuary and Reservation Area, and Mangnao Marine Sanctuary and Reservation Area) in Dumaguete City.
However, the local community continues to express their disagreement with the proposed plan as Mayor Remollo said that the project may still be pursued. “This is without prejudice, however, to pursue the city’s application for pertinent permits with the PRA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources relative to the Smart City Project at the proper time,” he said.