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Fishers to Laurel: Withdraw family business' reclamation project in Manila Bay

MANILA, Philippines — A group of fisherfolk has called on newly appointed Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel Jr. to “withdraw” a reclamation project that it said was being pushed in Manila Bay by his family business Frabelle Fishing Corporation.

In a statement on Monday, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) urged Laurel to cancel the project even as the fishing tycoon said he has “divested from his business interests.”

“We urge Agriculture Secretary Tiu-Laurel Jr. to withdraw Frabelle’s reclamation project in Manila Bay because of its adverse impacts to fishing communities and fishing waters,” the fisher group said.

“He might have personally divested from Frabelle Fishing Corp., but that doesn't mean that he has completely lost influence over his family-owned business,” the group added.

Since the project started in 2020, PAMALAKAYA said that fishers in the area have “experienced a significant loss of income.” The group estimates that at least 700 families have been displaced in Bacoor City due to the reclamation project, “while a thousand fishing households are still under the threat of displacement.”

Two officials of the Philippine Reclamation Authority were found "administratively liable for grave conduct" and suspended in June by the Office of Ombudsman for the approval of two overlapping projects in Cavite, which are handled by Frabelle Fishing Corp. and Diamond Export Corp.

Laurel previously refused to answer questions related to his company’s activities in his first press conference as Department of Agriculture secretary, saying that he is focusing “full-time” on leading the department.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered a suspension of all Manila Bay reclamation projects in July — a directive that PAMALAKAYA said continues to be snubbed based on reported sightings of dredging vessels conducting seabed quarrying in Cavite.