The globally important wetlands of Manila Bay is threatened with ecological collapse by the San Miguel Aerotropolis and other coastal reclamation projects covering at least 29,600 hectares being railroaded by the Duterte government.

This was the warning aired during the World Environment Day media forum held by convening groups of the People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s NICHE), an alliance working for the protection of coastal areas.

A foremost example is the P700-billion SMC Aerotropolis project, which covers a whopping 2,500 hectares of foreshore areas.

A recent scoping study by researchers of the AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People and the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines at the proposed site of the project in Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan last May 7 saw stretches of mangrove areas that had been cut last April 2018 by suspected SMC personnel.

Interviews and focus group discussions with village residents revealed that they were not consulted, much less informed, about the Aerotropolis, only to find out in the news that the National Economic Development Authority Board has already approved it and is already cutting down mangroves.

The fact that the cutting of the mangroves was already happening despite the lack of the necessary area and environmental clearances makes it more shocking that such an environmentally-destructive project of this scale can proceed with impunity.

Should the Aerotropolis continue with this misdemeanor in implementation, the mangrove forests along Taliptip and its adjacent environs that serve as the habitat of various valuable marine life would be decimated.

Migratory birds which depend upon the habitat and subsistence from the mangrove forests would also be driven away from the destruction and disruption associated with the project. Poor fisherfolk who also depend upon the mangroves and the open coasts for their livelihood will also be deprived of their source of income.

This pattern of destruction will be repeated in other proposed reclamation sites in Manila Bay. Save Our Shores geologists Arlene Tengonciang and Narod Eco discussed the three major risks posed by reclamation in the bay: amplified risks of liquefaction, flooding, storm surges, and other hazards; marine biodiversity and resource depletion; and runaway ‘urban sprawl’ that heightens the number of people exposed to extreme weather and climate events.

Corporations like San Miguel and government offices and officials in cahoots with them must be investigated and held accountable for these reclamation projects that have secured approval despite not having scientifically stringent environmental impact assessments and genuine consultations with the affected communities.

Reclamation will remain at large unless we institute a national policy on the sound, people-driven management of our coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. Until then, a moratorium on reclamation should be put in place. The convening organizations and individuals of People’s NICHE will persist in demanding these much-needed solutions.#