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SC asked to stop P14-B Manila Bay reclamation

By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star Updated March 17, 2012 12:00 AM

Former congresswoman Cynthia Villar, accompanied by residents of Las Piñas City, prepares to file a petition for a writ of kalikasan before the Supreme Court yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines - Former Las Piñas congresswoman Cynthia Villar asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to stop a P14-billion plan to reclaim land on the Manila Bay coastline covering the cities of Las Piñas, Parañaque and Bacoor.

In a 43-page petition filed by lawyer Frank Chavez, Villar sought the issuance of a writ of kalikasan and a temporary environmental protection order enjoining national government agencies from proceeding with the project, which would cover 635.14 hectares of submerged land.

She said the project by Alltech Contractors Inc. would cause floods of as deep as five meters in 65 coastal barangays and irreparably damage the Parañaque-Las Piñas coastal lagoon, which had been declared a critical habitat and ecotourism area in 2007.

Villar alleged that Alltech was able to skirt environmental impact assessment processes by claiming that its project is but a “continuation” of an ongoing and existing project.

She submitted documents showing that Alltech stated in its application for an environmental clearance certificate that its project was a continuation of the “Manila Bay Land Reclamation Project” earlier proposed by the Public Estates Authority, now the Public Reclamation Authority (PRA), and the Amari Coastal Bay Development Corp. The project involved the PEA-Amari contract earlier voided by the SC upon a petition filed by Chavez.

Apart from Alltech and PRA, also named respondents in the petition are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau and Las Piñas City government.  

Inundation

Villar submitted to the high tribunal signatures of 315,849 Las Piñas residents and the findings of a hydrological services consultant she tapped in support of her petition.

She cited a report of Tricore Solutions Inc., which predicted that the implementation of the project will result in the inundation of barangays in Bacoor, Las Piñas and Parañaque under more than five meters of floodwater since it will impede the natural flow of water to the bay.

Villar said Tricore forecast that “Alltech’s reclamation project, coupled with rainfall of 450 mm, strong winds with a sustained speed of almost 200 kilometers per hour, a maximum high tide of 1.44 meters and a one-meter rise above mean sea level as brought about by climate change, will totally submerge under 0.15 meter to 5.12 meters of floodwater 37 barangays in the municipality of Bacoor, 17 barangays in Las Piñas City, and 11 barangays in Parañaque City.”

Wildlife habitat faces ‘irreparable damage’

Villar cited as another ground the possible devastation and irreparable damage the project would cause the coastal lagoon, spanning 175 hectares of land in Las Piñas and Parañaque.

Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through Executive Order 1412 declaring the lagoon as a critical habitat and ecotourism area, banned activities that would impede its ecologically vital role as a bird sanctuary.

“This wildlife habitat is home to more than 195 species of birds. Some of the most endangered species in the world can be found in the said habitat. Foremost of these endangered species are the Philippine duck and the Chinese egret. There are likewise rare species of the birds that can regularly be seen in the said areas, such as the osprey, the pied avocet and the Siberian rubythroat. It is also a swamp habitat to eight species of mangroves and is the most dense among the surviving mangrove areas along Manila Bay,” Villar said.

She said the proposed reclamation “will result in the habitat being cut off, isolated and segregated from Manila Bay. The mangroves found therein would eventually perish due to lack of saltwater, leading to the breakdown of the ecosystem. More than 5,000 birds will lose their home and in all probability, eventually die.”