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Lawmakers support probe of reclamation project in Manila Bay

March 1, 2011

MANILA, Feb. 29 — A measure seeking a congressional inquiry into the proposed reclamation project in Manila Bay, which is considered as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary, has gained support from lawmakers.

Rep. Raymond Palatino (Party-list, Kabataan) filed House Resolution 2070 directing the House Committee on Natural Resources, Aquaculture and Fisheries resources to look into the legality and propriety of an environmental compliance certificate granted to the Paranaque and Las Piñas Coastal Bay project.

Palatino said the project, spearheaded by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), continued to threaten the existence of the coastal ecosystem and communities in the Las Piñas–Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) despite that the area was considered a critical habitat and ecotourism area.

Palatino said the 175-hectare wetland along the Manila Bay consisted of mangroves, salt marshes and multifarious biodiversity that served as home or resting area for 80 different species of birds, including the Black-crowned Night Herons, Kentish Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Siberian Ruby Throats, including the globally threatened Philippine duck, Chinese egret and the rare Pied Avocet.

Palatino said the proposed reclamation and development project, is a P14-billion joint venture of the PRA and Cyber Bay Corp., which involves 635 hectares of upscale private residential, commercial and tourism estate and it is beside the protected mangroves, lagoons and ponds designated as the LPPCHEA.

Palatino said the area was proclaimed as a critical habitat and ecotourism area under Proclamation No. 1412 signed in 2007 establishing the area as the LPPCHEA.

The Save Freedom Island Movement, an environmental group, said the project formed part of the controversial and resurrected Philippine Estates Authority-Amari deal that the Supreme Court had already voided with finality in November 2003 due to issues of patrimony, social injustice, environmental crimes and unconstitutionality.

Local government officials and environmentalists also fear that the reclamation project might result in floodings in nearby cities as the lagoon serves as an outlet for major waterways and ensures that water during heavy downpours make its way to the sea quickly and not flood the streets.

Palatino said the DENR issued ECC to Paranaque and Las Pinas to pursue its proposed project that involves land reclamation and horizontal land development such as major and primary roads, bridges and supporting infrastructures for utilities such as drainage systems and wastewater abatement facilities, power, telecommunications, water supply and the like.

Earlier, Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan De Oro City) and Maximo Rodriguez (Party-list, Abante Mindanao) had filed House Resolution 1558 declaring the coastal lagoon as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area and banning activities that would impede its ecologically vital role as bird sanctuary. (PNA) DCT/RMA/PR/utb