Press Release
June 9, 2016

Manila Bay Airport project will cause massive flooding, detrimental to the environment and livelihood of 300,000 poor fishermen - Villar

Sen. Cynthia Villar appeal to the incoming administration not to pursue the proposed reclamation of Manila Bay as a site for a new international airport.

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). To stop this plan, she filed a petition for Writ of Kalikasan on March 16, 2012 before the Supreme Court along with majority of Las Pinas residents.

Villar lamented that the airport project was being resurrected after San Miguel Corporation's proposal to build a new airport in Manila Bay did not push through during the Aquino administration.

A newspaper report said re-elected Paranaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez has urged President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to push through with the proposed $13-billion international airport in Manila Bay. Under the plan, the proposed airport will make use of 157 hectares of Freedom Island. Villar pointed out that contrary to the claim of Olivarez, 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.

"I appeal to President-elect Duterte to look beyond the claim of decongesting existing airports and realize that the planned reclamation will cause flooding as high as 8 meters in Paranaque, Las Pinas and Cavite. It will also deprive 300,000 fishermen of their livelihood," Villar said.

"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.

The five other Philippine sites in the list are: the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan; the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park in Sulu; the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary; the Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro; and the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu.

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.

It is also home and known breeding area of the Philippine Ducks, Chinese Egret and Black-Winged Stilts vulnerable species as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources along with 82 other wild bird species coming from as far as China, Japan and Siberia. About 1,000 of the Black-Winged Stilts of only 100,000 existing in the whole world can be found in the area.

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," Villar said.

In his column, Atty. Dodo Dulay said "the increased population and commercial activity will definitely put more environmental stress on Manila Bay, making it almost impossible to clean up its heavily polluted waters."

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 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 could be improved to loosen passenger traffic in NAIA.

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