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Philippine Court asked to stop reclamation of bird sanctuary

All Voices
May 28, 2011

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Katrina Heredera and Billy Javier Reyes

MANILA, PHILIPPINES- (UPDATE) Small scale fishermen along Manila Bay supported the fight of environmental groups against a government plan to reclaim more than 100 hectares of bird sanctuary and mangrove area for the ambitious business center project.

In a hastily called press conference at their main headquarters in Quezon City, the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) last week challenged the Supreme Court to declare the reclamation of a bird sanctuary in Manila Bay illegal and contrary to its ruling on bay rehabilitation and clean up.

“In pursuance of the Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay clean up, the high tribunal led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona should prohibit the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) from reclaiming 635 hectares of Manila Bay that will affect the 175 hectare zone reserve for homing and resting spot for dozens of bird species including the globally threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret,” said Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap.

Hicap told reporters the the prohibition of reclamation is the politically and legally correct way of implementing the Supreme Court decision on Manila Bay clean up, instead of using the landmark decision to effect the demolition of fishing livelihood and poor communities surrounding Manila Bay.

The Pamalakaya leader said the Chief Justice and 14 other justices of the high tribunal should come with a collective decision preventing the PRA and President Benigno Simeon Aquino III from pursuing the reclamation of the bird sanctuary located along the bay portion of Las Pinas and Paranaque cities.

“The court should instruct Malacanang and PRA to cease and desist from pushing a destructive plan in favor of a new business center that is triggered by the development slogan Public-Private Partnership (PPP),” stressed Hicap.

On December 2008, the Supreme Court issued a ruling directing all government agencies to work hard for the rehabilitation and clean up of Manila Bay and all water systems linked to the historic bay.

Last February, the high tribunal reaffirmed its decision via an 11-4 vote.

“The reclamation of the 175 hectare Las Pinas-Paranaque Coastal Lagoon will not only destroy the bird sanctuary, it will also destroy scores of marine life produced by mangroves in that part of Manila Bay. The project is only meant to please the PPP corporate clients of Malacanang at the expense of small fisherfolk, the endangered birds and the marine environment. The SC has no choice but to score a giant kill against the PPP inspired project,” said Pamalakaya.

The group said the high court should also order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reject the PRA application for environmental compliance certificate for the reclamation project and openly declare the undertaking as threat to people’s livelihood and environment.

“The high court should tell Secretary Ramon Paje of the DENR and his boss in Malacanang that the project merits wholesale rejection. The PRA proposed project to reclaim the sanctuary is nothing but a grand sell out of Philippine patrimony. We need investments for true-blue industrialization not for across-the-Manila Bay destruction,” Pamalakaya said.

In 2007, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 1412 declaring the coastal lagoon as the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical and Eco-tourism Area banning activities that would impede its ecologically vital role as a bird sanctuary.

But Rey Aguinaldo, a US-trained biologist who manages the coastal lagoon for DENR opposed the reclamation project citing its impact on the bird sanctuary area.

Ornithologists blamed reclamation for the rapid deterioration of the bird population in the coastal lagoon from a high of 28,000 birds in Manila Bay in the early 70s down to 5,000 birds at present.

Pamalakaya agreed saying the onslaught of corporate driven reclamation in Manila Bay paved way not only for the 90 percent reduction of bird population, but also to the gross destruction of marine resources in Manila Bay. The group said due to reclamation, fish catch in Manila Bay was reduced from a high of average 15 kilos per day to 1 to 3 kilos of fish catch a day.

“All reclamation activities should be stopped by Aquino or else Malacanang will be preparing the grand and ultimate massacre of people, the marine and bird species in Manila Bay,” the group said. #