More Reclamation in Manila Bay Opposed; Villar Lists Ill Effects to People

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More reclamation in Manila Bay opposed

LAS PINAS CITY (PhilAmPress) – Senator Cynthia Villar has appealed to the companies who have expressed interest in reclaiming Manila Bay to reconsider their action given the adverse effects the reclamation would bring to the communities and the livelihood of more than 300,000 fishermen in the area.

“At first glance, development in Manila Bay looks like a lucrative business venture but I appeal to companies interested in these reclamation projects to also consider the effects on the residents and fishermen depending on the bay for livelihood,” Villar said.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) has approved a National Reclamation Plan which proposes to reclaim 26,000 hectares of Manila Bay.

Among the proposed reclamation projects are the P50.2-billion (660 hectares) “Future City” sought by SM Prime Holdings Inc. that will house government offices as well as commercial and residential buildings, and the 148-hectare entertainment hub “Solar City” by the Manila Gold Coast Corporation said to be twice the size of the Rizal Park in Manila.

The San Miguel Group and San Jose Builders are also proposing a P338.8 billion public-private partnership project to reclaim part of Manila Bay to build an expressway, a commercial area, a coastal sea barrier and flood control system.

Mayor Edwin Olivarez of Paranaque City is also reviving the $13-billion Manila Bay international airport project. Under the plan, the proposed airport will make use of 157 hectares of the Freedom Island.

Villar, a known advocate of environmental protection, said reclamation of Manila Bay will destroy the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), the Ramsar-listed Wetland of International Importance located South of Manila Bay.

“Instead of reclaiming Manila Bay, we should all support its restoration and rehabilitation and avoid massive flooding, which experts say could go up to eight meters in Paranaque, Las Pinas and Cavite,” she added.

Villar said these adverse effects on the environment and on the safety of residents are the reasons why she filed a petition for Writ of Kalikasan on March 16, 2012 before the Supreme Court along with majority of Las Pinas residents.

Villar pointed out that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), proposed the Sangley Point in Cavite and beyond as a viable site of the airport and not Manila Bay in Paranaque.

The lady senator also cited the 2002 ruling of the Supreme Court, which struck down the Public Estates Authority (PEA)-Amari deal as unconstitutional. The ruling stated that private companies cannot own reclaimed lands.

“Attracting tourists and investors should not be proposed at the expense of the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of citizens for a safe and secure environment to live in,” she added.

LPPCHEA is a declared critical habitat and a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1412 and 1412-A in 2007. It is the first critical habitat to be declared in the country. Covering around 175 hectares of wetland ecosystem, LPPCHEA consists of two islands — Freedom Island and Long Island.

In March 2013, it was also listed as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention because of the critical role it plays in the survival of threatened and restricted-range bird species. It is the only wetland in Metro Manila and in an urban setting.

LPPCHEA’s 35-hectare mangrove forest is the thickest and most diverse within Manila Bay. There are at present 11 mangrove species growing in the area. It is the spawning ground of fishes in Manila Bay which gives livelihood to 300,000 poor fishermen and related livelihood.

The Philippines, being one of the signatories to the Ramsar Convention, is mandated to protect the habitat.

“The reclamation of Manila Bay is dangerous as it can also be seen as a violation of Supreme Court’s continuing mandamus since 2008 directing the government to clean up Manila Bay. Reclamation, which will increase commercial activity, will pollute the water,” Villar said.

Villar also pointed out that Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines prohibits the cutting of mangrove trees.

Villar clarified that she is not opposed to the construction of a new international airport but stressed that the plan must be guided by the tenet that the life of the people is paramount over any growth and development.

In fact, Villar believes a new and modern airport in Sangley Point and beyond would decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and improve its image as one of the world’s worst airports. She said the airport in Clark, Pampanga could be improved to loosen passenger traffic in NAIA.