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SC issues writ of kalikasan vs Manila Bay reclamation project

SC issues writ of kalikasan vs Manila Bay reclamation project
MARK D. MERUEÑAS, April 11, 2012 3:27pm

The Supreme Court has issued a "writ of kalikasan" against a Manila Bay reclamation project that is feared to cause catastrophic flooding comparable to those brought about by typhoons "Ondoy" that hit Metro Manila, and "Sendong" that ravaged parts of northern Mindanao.

However, the justices on Tuesday clarified that what they issued was a writ and not a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO), which was also requested by petitioner Cynthia Villar, the wife of Senator Manny Villar.

The SC said that with only a writ and without a TEPO, the government and contractor AllTech Contractors Inc. (AllTech) could still push through with the project.

Moreover, the SC said the issuance of the writ was merely "procedural" on all Kalikasan cases filed before the high court.

In her petition seeking the issuance of a writ of kalikasan (writ of nature), Villar said the government and AllTech project would cause "irreparable" damage and would have an impact on more or less 1.5 million residents in Las Piñas and Parañaque Cities, as well as Bacoor town in Cavite.

Mrs. Villar claimed she has gotten the support of some 315,000 residents of Las Piñas for her SC petition.

Her petition also claimed that the project – which aims to convert the area into a commercial-residential-industrial district – would block the natural flow of the Las Pinas, Parañaque, and Zapote Rivers.

"Coupled with heavy rainfall, storm surge, and other factors brought about by a major typhoon, this will cause immense flooding in the areas and surroundings of the said rivers," she said.

"Such project is not only replete with procedural shortcomings, worse, it is clearly damaging to the environment... and would place [affected residents] at great risk of losing their lives and properties to catastrophic flooding," the petitioner said.

Mrs. Villar originally asked the high court to issue a TEPO and a writ of kalikasan within three days from the filing of the petition last March.

A former Las Piñas congresswoman, Mrs. Villar cited a study conducted by the private firm Tricore Solutions Inc. (Tricore), predicting that if the project pushes through, days of heavy rain might cause five-meter deep floods in 65 barangays.

Apart from AllTech, also named respondents were:

- the Philippine Reclamation Authority,
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources,
- Environmental Management Bureau, and
- the Las Piñas city government.

Mrs. Villar claimed that the Las Piñas government has already entered into an agreement with AllTech for the reclamation and development of the 381.26 hectares of land within the Las Piñas coastal area.

Parañaque has also entered into a similar agreement with AllTech, she added.

Moreover, Mrs. Villar said the reclamation project would cut off from Manila Bay the Las Pinas-Parañaque Critical Habitat, home to over 195 bird species and over eight mangrove varieties.

She said this will lead to the "breakdown of bio diverse ecosystem and consequent demise of its thriving wildlife."

Mrs. Villar said the project implementation should ultimately be declared null and void for violating the residents' Constitutional right to a "balanced and healthful ecology" and the Philippine International Treaty of Obligations on Inter-tidal Wetlands.

She said the project should be scrapped just like its predecessor – the coastal project between the Public Estates Authority and Amari Costal Bay Devt. Corp (PEA-Amari), which the Supreme Court voided in 2003. — LBG, GMA News