Environment group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment raised questions over a possible conflict of interest in San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) recent P1-billion partnership with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as this can serve as ‘soft payment’ to fast track various reclamation projects of SMC in Manila Bay. “San Miguel’s P1-billion rehab is highly suspicious because it comes alongside its push for its Aerotropolis and Expressway-Dike reclamation projects across Northern Manila Bay. We fear that it might serve as ‘greenwashing’ to cover up for these destructive projects, at best, or grease money for the railroading of reclamation at worst,” Leon Dulce, National Coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang has signed last March 4 a five-year agreement with DENR for a comprehensive dredging and clean-up program for the 59.25 kilometer Tullahan River. On the other hand, SMC is also in the process of developing a 2,500-hectare Aerotropolis in Bulacan province worth P700 Billion. It also has a pending public-private partnership proposal, the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control and Coastal Defense and Expressway Project, an expressway-dike which covers a whopping 18,000 hectares across the northern part of Manila Bay. Kalikasan PNE said Silvertines, SMC’s contractor company for land acquisition, is suspectedly responsible for clearing at least 657 mangrove trees in Bulakan municipality without securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and special tree cutting permit. The company recently claimed it will leave the existing 24.5-hectare mangrove eco-park in Bulakan undisturbed amid the construction of the Aerotropolis. “It’s easy to claim that the Aerotropolis will not affect mangrove parks and forests in Manila Bay but studies show otherwise. An ecosystem valuation case study in Manila Bay revealed how a land reclamation project complete with ecosystem conservation, buffering, and rehabilitation efforts could only generate only up to 49 percent of the area’s original ecosystem services,” explained Dulce. “If SMC is really sincere in contributing to the rehabilitation of Manila Bay, they should start by desisting their reclamation projects in Bulacan.

Any rehabilitation efforts will be futile if reclamation projects causing massive ecosystem destruction will still push through. SMC’s P1-billion is chump change compared to the degree of environment destruction, loss of livelihood, and disaster risks that the Aerotropolis and the Expressway-Dike will cause in communities along Manila Bay” Dulce ended.#