By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop the reclamation plan in Bacoor City, Cavite due to its threats to the protected area and the communities along the coast of Manila Bay.
Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, told the DENR to recall the environment compliance certificate (ECC) it issued to the 320-hectare Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project.
“The reclamation project will potentially cause irreparable damage to the Las Pinas-Parañaque Wetland Park. The project will be building on the buffer zone of this protected area and will destroy the landscape in which the wetland now thrives,” Villar said.
The senator said that under Republic Act 11038,the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act, which she sponsored, the 175-hectare wetland park was a declared protected area.
It was also recognized as one of the seven areas in the country listed as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention “because of its critical role in the survival of threatened, restricted-range, and congregatory bird species,” she said.
Villar also warned about “massive flooding” as she recalled the Department of Public Works and Highways saying that reclamation in this part of Manila Bay will cause flooding as high as eight meters in Las Piñas City.
She added that if the reclamation project pushes through, the flood-control projects in Bacoor and Imus worth P1.47 billion will be wasted.
Villar said flooding was one of the grounds that she, along with 315,000 residents of Las Piñas City, Parañaque City, and Cavite, cited when they petitioned for Writ of Kalikasan against the planned reclamation of Manila Bay in 2012.
In 2017, the DENR cancelled the ECC issued to a similar reclamation plan in Parañaque and Las Piñas coastal bay for its potential harm to the environment.
Villar said the DENR’s approval of the Bacoor reclamation project also contradicts the government’s P1.3-billion Manila Bay rehabilitation project.
In January, 2019, the “Battle for Manila Bay” was launched to reinforce the Supreme Court’s December, 2008, mandamus directing 13 agencies and private entities to clean up, rehabilitate, preserve, restore, and maintain the waters of Manila Bay to a level that is fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact-recreation.
This was the basis of the creation of the Manila Bay Task Force the following month.
“If we allow reclamation to proceed in Manila Bay, what happens now to our rehabilitation efforts? Our government has already poured precious resources into this campaign and many have already sacrificed to comply. Are we now losing the battle for Manila Bay?” Villar asked.
The DENR recently granted the ECC to the Bacoor Reclamation and Development Project, after Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla, the project’s main proponent, satisfied the requirements of the DENR’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) Review Committee.
With the ECC, the proponents are given the go-signal to start dredging activity, filling the project area with reclamation materials and construction of road networks and drainage system.
“With the issuance of the ECC, you are expected to fully implement the measures presented in the EIS intended to protect and mitigate the project’s predicted adverse impact on community health, welfare, and the environment. Environmental considerations shall be incorporated in all phases and aspects of the project,” the ECC stated.
Militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) also opposed the project, fearing that more than 700 fishing and coastal families will be ejected from their houses to give way to the project.
President Duterte has been consistent in his stance against any reclamation projects at the Manila Bay.