MASSIVE land-reclamation projects continue to threaten the destruction of coastal ecosystems in the country under the Duterte administration.
This was according to the environmental group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), which listed at least 15 development projects in coastal areas that will require land reclamation.
Land reclamation, also called dump-and-fill, often leads to the destruction of mangrove forests, seagrass beds and corals, where they still exist.
Kalikasan-PNE, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, alleged that at least 38,000 hectares of reclamation projects are still underway despite President Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he does not want reclamation.
“We need definitive action and not just another empty Cabinet banter against runaway reclamation expansion across the Philippines,” Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE, said in a news statement.
“In the Bulacan Aerotropolis project alone, a long stretch of mangroves were already cut, possibly without environmental clearance. What more with the rest of at least 19,000 hectares of reclamation projects nationwide currently in the pipeline?” Dulce stated.
Last week the group joined environmental scientists in a rapid appraisal of the site for the 2,500-hectare Aerotropolis project owned by San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
The survey revealed the numerous Indian mangrove trees that the residents reported to have been cut down by SMC personnel almost a month ago.
The exact number of trees that were cut down is yet to be determined.
Kalikasan-PNE noted that the proposed airport and metropolitan complex in Barangay Taliptip, Bulakan town, Bulacan province, likely overlaps with the 25-hectare Bulakan Mangrove Eco-Park established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the area.
“Taliptip’s mangroves are part of the remaining mangrove corridor in Northern Manila Bay that could potentially be listed as part of the Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Migratory birds come here to feed and breed. Thousands of families are dependent on the bay for their food, livelihood and resiliency. With what we’re seeing here, the birds’ habitat, the people’s source of livelihood and protection from storm surges are being turned into just another concrete jungle for the profit of the very few,” Dulce said.
Wetlands that are part of the “Ramsar list” are considered internationally significant in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. Governments acceding to the 1971 Ramsar Convention, which provides for the international conservation and promotion of the sustainable use of wetlands, are required to enact and implement measures for the protection of the wetlands found in each respective country that are among those included in the global list of important wetlands.
The Philippines itself is a signatory to the Ramsar treaty. Among the Philippines’s wetlands that are in the Ramsar list include the 14,836-hectare Agusan Marsh in Mindanao, 14,568-hectare Naujan Lake National Park in Mindoro and the 175-hectare Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).
The LPPCHEA itself is among those other ecologically critical coastal areas that are being threatened by reclamation in Manila Bay. Other affected coasts include that of northern Bataan, Pampanga, the rest of Metro Manila and northern Cavite.
Kalikasan-PNE noted that the Duterte administration entered into a partnership with the Dutch government earlier this year to develop the Manila Bay Sustainable Development master plan supposedly to provide an ecologically sustainable while economically viable development framework for the bay.
“Why are reclamation projects being awarded deals when the supposed master plan that will govern it is still nonexistent? Do these projects even have feasibility studies and environmental-impact statements that will justify the clearing of mangroves and coast-filling already undertaken by the reclamation companies?” Dulce asked.
A moratorium on land reclamation, he added, must be imposed unless a scientifically robust, environmentally friendly and democratically consulted bay-development plan is developed or put in place.