Manila Bay reclamation to destroy environment – Villar

SENATOR Cynthia Villar warned against the implementation of more reclamation projects in Manila Bay, saying it will adversely affect communities and the livelihood of fishermen. She appealed to companies that plan to reclaim land near the bay to look at the environmental impact of their projects, not at the profit they will make.

Villar, who has been vocal against reclamation plans along Manila Bay, said the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) has approved a National Reclamation Plan that proposes to reclaim 26,000 hectares of Manila Bay. Among the proposed reclamation projects are the P50.2-billion, 660 hectare “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 occupy land twice the size of Rizal Park.

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 a flood control system. But Villar warned that the planned reclamation of the bay will also destroy the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), the Ramsar-listed Wetland of International Importance located South of Manila Bay.

“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,” she said in a statement.

The senator’s statement came out a week after The Manila Times columnist Dodo Dulay discussed the Pasay City-SM reclamation deal, which is said to resurrect the notorious Public Estates Authority (PEA)-Amari deal, with the Pasay City government as the major player and main proponent instead of the PRA. Under the deal, SM Prime will undertake and finance the reclamation of 360 hectares of Manila Bay, and in exchange, the company will get 49 percent or 176.4 hectares of the reclaimed land, while Pasay City will have the remaining 51 percent or 183.6 hectares.

Meanwhile, the Parañaque City government under Mayor Edwin Olivarez is also reviving the $13-billion Manila Bay International Airport project. Under the plan, the proposed airport will make use of 157 hectares of Freedom Island.

“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 Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite,” Villar noted.

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 in 2012 before the Supreme Court, along with the majority of Las Piñas residents.

“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.

The senator also reminded private companies of the SC ruling in 2002 which struck down the PEA-Amari deal as unconstitutional. The ruling stated that private companies cannot own reclaimed lands. - Jefferson Antiporda