Some people just don’t
know when to stop.
Development plans of the Philippine
that will obliterate the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical
Habitat & Ecotourism Area
And some people just don’t know a good
thing when they have it. And too bad they're in a government
agency tasked with protecting that one good thing!
Perhaps you don’t know this place called
LPPCHEA, or the Las Pinas Paranaque Coastal Lagoon. If you
drive through the Coastal Road going to Cavite from Roxas
Blvd. you would have noticed it. Or, if you've had the chance
to eat at the old Dampa, you must have seen a patch of green
frequented by hundreds, no, thousands of white birds during
the cold season. Or you may have bought fish from the "bagsakan."
You may have even inhaled the funky smell of rotting fish
and wondered why government has not done anything about it.
And if you're one of those people who think
this place must be covered up, then, please stop. This message
is for you. And it is from everyone else who cares about this
place. We hope you will join the increasing number of people
And, if you don't know anything about the
Coastal Lagoon, then this is a good time to get to know it,
because very soon, it may be wiped out of the coast of Manila
But not if YOU help us.
In 2007 the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines'
3-year database of bird sightings record proved that Coastal
Lagoon hosts more than 5,000 birds during migratory bird season
and more than 1% of the global population of Common Greenshank
and more than 10% of the global population of Black-winged
Stilts. Upon the recommendation of then DENR Secretary Angelo
Reyes, the President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo issued
Executive Order 1412 declaring the bird site as the Las Pinas-Paranaque
Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
But of course, it is not entirely out of
the goodness of politicians’ hearts that such environmentally
enlightened acts occur. In this case, it was a confluence
of science, advocacy and timing that brought this about. The
decision was timely, and also almost too late, as Metro Manila
had long been losing its natural spaces. The coast along Manila
Bay had already lost its natural capacity to clean itself
due to loss of mangrove stands to reclamation, fishponds and
The Coastal Lagoon is therefore important,
not only for birdwatchers, but to the rest of Metro Manila.
As a mangrove wetland, it provides a buffer from storm surges,
nurseries for fish and other coastal wildlife, and a permeable
surface to absorb and process toxins from both sea and land.
And in the past years, it has provided Metro Manilans a delightful
break from the incessant assault of concrete wastelands that
have become poor substitutes for an authentically uplifting
And may we also mention that if we cut the
sea's access to the islands that form the Coastal Lagoon,
we also destroy the very area that produces the food that
the birds eat. The invertebrates, shells and other mollusks
will disappear. When developers create another Mall of Asia
type of development in the area, we would be destroying a
very important "hotel and restaurant" stopover for
While our counterparts in other parts of
Asia take care to preserve such wetlands in places such as
Mai Po reserve and Hong Kong Wetland Park in Hong Kong, Guandu
nature park in Taiwan, Bang Poo in Thailand, our very own
DENR and EMB forget their very basic science and agree to
dumping over the sea that has created and maintains the habitat
in the first place.
If the area is "developed," that
is, dumped over and made into another impermeable space, we
would be losing the delicate balance that created this unique
habitat. We would be answerable to the nations that make up
the East Asian Migratory Flyway and undertake the annual Asian
Waterbird Census (AWC). The AWC is a yearly activity that
DENR itself undertakes, together with the WBCP and simultaneously
with nations in the flyway.
It is unfortunate the it is the DENR itself
that is undoing the good work that it had done through its
NCR office and its very own PAWB. Perhaps it would like to
be the laughingstock of the rest of Asia?
This is really possible, as in November 2009,
the Department of Tourism included the LPPCHEA as one of the
bird watching sites in a book, Birdwatching in the Philippines
Volume 1 that was promoted at the World Travel Mart in London
and launched at the British Bird Fair and the Taipei International
Birdwatching Fair in August and November 2010 respectively.
If the DENR Secretary and EMB, and now the
Philippine Reclamation Authority, now armed with an ECC approving
the reclamation will not be stopped, tourists will be regaled
with a very good view of parking lots and a casino. Not very
good for an ecotourism site, right?
As of date, the developers have tried to
reassure the WBCP that the birdwatching station will not be
touched, and the road they will build over the site will "enhance"
the birdwatching experience by providing a viewing area, but
they did not mention that obliterating the sea and the noise
generated by traffic will severely affect not only the birds,
but also the very habitat that nurtures the other flora and
fauna that make up the habitat.
Very clearly, they do not know what it is
that makes up a critical habitat, and they do not know that
the value of the area lies in its being untouched.
Lastly, it may interest the public to know
that the area is the site involved in the infamous Amari deal,
a dubious agreement that, when discovered, stalled the development
of the site, and allowed the area to become the wonderfully
hospitable natural habitat it is now.
Perhaps it was a sign that it is to the country's
best interest that any further development in the area be
stopped. And in a time when measures meant to protect the
environment are being overturned by the very institutions
mandated to uphold them, it is everyone's duty to put their
foot down and say NO TO RECLAMATION AROUND COASTAL LAGOON.