Fisherfolk refuse to leave homes for airport project

Fisherfolk communities in Bulacan are refusing to leave their homes to pave the way for the construction of the P735-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project, international advocacy group Oceana said.

Some staff of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the company that won the NMIA project,  have  begun telling communities in the area to self-dismantle their homes.

NMIA is a 2,500-hectare reclamation project to be constructed in the coastal town of Bulakan in Bulacan province. 

It involves the construction, operation, and maintenance of an airport with four parallel runways and an 8.4-kilometer toll road connecting the airport to the North Luzon Expressway.

However, Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said SMC has not yet secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the actual construction of the airport, while an ECC for the same area was issued to Silvertides Holdings but only for the construction of access road and administration building.

When asked about this, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said ECC “was issued a long time ago for the land development” of the project, but he also said a separate environmental permit is needed for the “structure” of the airport which SMC has not yet secured.

Oceana said that a certain Teody Bacon, 45 and a fisherman in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan, recently reported to civil society groups that uniformed personnel went to Sitio Kinse to inform him and the other residents that a place has been found where the residents can relocate.

Bacon shared that people who identified themselves as coming from SMC have been going to their community since 2019 to tell them to leave but they stood their ground because Manila Bay is their home and the source of their livelihood.

Oceana expressed alarm on the stories of fisherfolk residents in Taliptip suffering even more during the pandemic.

Ramos also said that the construction of an airport with mixed development including reclamation, which impacts fisheries, wildbirds, livelihoods and mangroves, are considered environmentally critical projects and in an environmentally critical area at that.

“This requires full adherence to the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment System Act, the Fisheries Code as amended, among other laws, which means  full disclosure of the project, programmatic impact assessment of project as an airport and public participation. It is not clear if Silvertides was able to secure an ECC for their extraction of  the reported 205 million cubic meters of filling materials to be used for the project,” Ramos said.

Ramos said the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Region III has refused to issue a copy of the environmental impact assessment to affected residents and to Oceana, which is an important document for the stakeholders to understand the full environmental impacts of the project.

“The stakeholders including non-government organizations and peoples organizations have the right to participate in decision making in addition to the people's rights to a balanced and healthful ecology protected by the State,” said Ramos.