By Melvin Gascon
Environment groups have joined forces to protest the planned reclamation of about 29,600 hectares of Manila Bay, which, they said, would cause the destruction of wide swathes of mangrove forests and upset the marine ecosystem there.
People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s Niche), a newly-formed alliance of environmental advocates, has launched a campaign to oppose various government projects under the government’s massive infrastructure program, including the proposed P700-billion airport project in Bulacan province.
According to the group, the “Aerotropolis airport project” is an unsolicited venture by San Miguel Corporation, which was approved by the Philippine government in March. The project would reclaim some 2,500 hectares of mangrove forests on Manila Bay — roughly the size of 124 basketball courts.
The group said residents in Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town, site of the proposed Aerotropolis project, reported that construction work has begun with stretches of mangrove forest being cut down last month.
“The fact that the cutting of the mangroves was already happening despite the lack of the necessary area and environmental clearances makes it more shocking that such an environmentally-destructive project of this scale can proceed with impunity,” the group said in a statement.
Environmental scientist and University of the Philippines professor Devralin Lagos, cited a study they conducted which revealed that residents of Bulacan were not consulted or informed of the possible impacts of the proposed airport project.
She expressed concern on the possible displacement of coastal residents, its impact on their livelihood, and on Manila Bay’s overall marine productivity.
“It’s ironic that while government claims it wants to preserve and protect a mangrove eco-park, they are also putting up an airport and bury the whole mangrove area,” she said.
No government plans have been presented for the relocation of residents who will be displaced, Lagos said.
Bishop Roger Martinez, convener of Alyansa ng Mamamayan para sa Pagtatanggol ng Kabuhayan, Paninirahan, at Kalikasan sa Manila Bay (Akap Ka Manila Bay), said residents in Bulacan where the project is to be built, are worried this would soon cause massive flooding.
Reclamation on Manila Bay is feared to diminish the 146 fish species found there, including sardines which is the country’s third most consumed fish after milkfish and tilapia, according to Narod Eco, geologist of the environment group Save Our Shores.
“Our studies show that once these reclamation projects on Manila Bay will push through, any storm surge similar to that produced by Yolanda in 2013 will destroy everything up to as far as 3 km inland,” he said. MG