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Manila Bay project slammed during island cleanup

By Nathaniel R. Melican
Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 19, 2012

“This is ours. Let’s save and protect it.

Saying her constituents and environmental groups had worked hard to establish the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar on Thursday called on the two cities to stop a reclamation project in Manila Bay.

Villar, who led thousands of youth volunteers in an advanced Earth Day cleanup and mangrove planting activity on an island that formed part of the eco-park, cited the transformation of the island in just over a year.

“You would have never seen the sand. (It was all) just garbage here, mostly discarded slippers and sandals, plastics, and styrofoam,” Villar said, pointing to the sandy shores of Freedom Island.

Villar, who runs a real estate empire together with her husband, Sen. Manny Villar, while promoting environmental causes through a foundation, earlier filed a petition at the Supreme Court questioning the 635-hectare project to be undertaken by the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

The project envisions an upscale commercial, recreational and residential hub rising next to the eco-park, which Villar said would not only spoil the sanctuary but also impede the natural flow of the rivers and cause flooding in Las Piñas and neighboring areas.

“This will be a hard battle. Those who want the reclamation will surely fight for it. But we’re prepared for that,” she said.

The former lawmaker was joined by student volunteers from various Las Piñas high schools in Thursday’s cleanup, part of a series of activities leading to Earth Day on April 22.

Every Friday, the local high schools take turns sending students to Freedom Island to clean up the area, according to Villar.

“In exchange for the service, the students can learn how to ride a kayak or sailboat (at the eco-park). We aim to build a work-and-play atmosphere with the volunteers,” she added, stressing what’s at stake if the reclamation project pushes through.