By Ma. Kristine Buenafe
Nestled along the Philippine coastline, Tayabas Bay stands as a crucial support for coastal communities, deeply ingrained in local life. It is a vital natural resource, a thriving ecosystem that sustains the livelihoods of fisherfolk. This bay isn't just a geographic entity; it's a source of sustenance, an economic cornerstone, and a protector of ecological balance.
“Tayabas Bay is the lifeblood of the small, local fishing community along this coastline,” shared by Sherwin Rosales, a “Bantay-Dagat” representative from the municipality of Sariaya, Quezon, during the “Sagip Kapaligiran” the Kasama ng Kalikasan radio program.
Fishing is the main livelihood of the communities around Tayabas Bay, making them dedicated advocates for the preservation of this vital natural resource that has sustained them over the years. Tayabas Bay holds immense significance for both the fisherfolk and the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (MFARMC).
There has been increased concern about the potential destruction of Tayabas Bay through seabed quarrying and offshore mining and the subsequent repercussions.
Through the European Union’s Governance in Justice (GOJUST) programme, Tanggol Kalikasan, Inc. (TK), a non-governmental organization involved in public interest environmental advocacy in the Philippines, was provided a grant to strengthen the community’s voice and capacity of fisherfolk, youth, and battle against mining projects in Tayabas Bay, Quezon and Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan.
Last 22-25 August 2023 at the Nawawalang Paraiso Resort & Hotel in Tayabas, Quezon, TK conducted two Environmental Paralegal Training cum Legal Cliniquing attended by 100 fisherfolk, youth, women, and personnel and officials from the Municipal Agriculture and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources of various municipalities and city in Quezon.
“If seabed quarrying is carried out in rich seas like Tayabas Bay, what will happen to nature and the livelihoods of those who depend on it?” Jay Lim, TK Project Officer asks this question to the participants, as they begin the program.
They covered discussions on Tayabas Bay's resources, issues, and government plans. TK lawyers also explored Paralegal and Metalegal Strategies and reviewed environmental laws such as the Fisheries Code, Philippine Mining Act, and Clean Water Act. The participants also engaged in simulation exercises related to affidavit writing, documentation, investigation, and evidence gathering.
In the course of the legal clinic, participants sought legal advice regarding the issues and challenges faced by their individual communities. A notable aspect of the legal clinic was their concern about the recent application for an exploration permit in Padre Burgos, Quezon.
After hearing the concerns of the fishermen from Padre Burgos and the suggestion of Mr. Edy de Mesa, the president of the Integrated Fishery and Aquatic Resources Management Council (IFARMC) of Agdangan, which was affirmed by the participants, they decided on a resolution/petition. The participants drafted and signed a resolution opposing the application for Exploration Permit in the municipal waters of Padre Burgos, Quezon.
“We strongly oppose any application for any kind of activity that could harm Tayabas Bay, such as mining and quarrying, even if it’s still in the exploration stage,” said part of the petition that was signed during the training.
The said united action is a concrete manifestation of the commitment of the participants to protect their local natural water resources and their strong determination to face the concerns regarding environmental protection.