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Villar questions before SC new reclamation project

By Benjamin B. Pulta
03/17/2012 [ tribune.net.ph ]

A petition for “kalikasan” has been filed by a former Las Piñas lawmaker before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning a major land reclamation project in southern Metro Manila and Cavite.

Former Las Pinas City Rep. Cynthia Villar, supported by written petitions of 315,849 residents of Las Piñas City, questioned the project being undertaken along the Bacoor-Las Piñas-Parañaque coastline of the Manila Bay.

Named respondents in the petition are Alltech Contractors Inc. (Alltech), Philippine Reclamation Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau and City Government of Las Piñas.

The petition seeks the issuance of an ex-parte Temporary Environmental Protection Order to contractors from carrying out the reclamation project pending resolution by the SC.

Villar claimed the project will result in the destruction of wildlife habitat in the area and expose the residents of the cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque and the municipality of Bacoor and their properties to great risk of flooding.

The reclamation involves the reclamation of 635.14 hectares of submerged land located along the contiguous coast of the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas and Municipality of Bacoor. The effects of the reclamation project on the affected areas were subjected to a study conducted by a hydrological services consultant engaged by Villar. In a worse case, Tricore Solutions Inc. (Tricore) predicted that the implementation of the project will result in the inundation of numerous barangays in Bacoor, Las Piñas and Parañaque under more than five meters of floodwater. In its report, Tricore, taking into consideration five factors, namely, tides, storm surge and waves, climate change, rainfall and reclamation, forecast that Alltech’s reclamation project, coupled with rainfall of 450 mm, strong winds with a sustained speed of almost 200 kph, a maximum high tide of 1.44 meters and a one-meter rise above Mean Sea Level as brought about by climate change, will totally submerge under 0.15 meters to 5.12 meters of floodwater 37 barangays in the municipality of Bacoor, 17 barangays in Las Piñas City and 11 barangays in Parañaque City.

Villar claimed the project will also wreak havoc on a critical habitat and ecotourism area consisting of over 175.307 hectares of land located in the cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque. This wildlife habitat is home to more than 195 species of birds. Some of the most endangered species in the world can be found in the said habitat. Foremost of these endangered species are the Philippine Duck and the Chinese Egret. There are also rare species of the birds that can regularly be seen in the said areas, such as the Osprey, the Pied Avocet and the Siberian Rubythroat. It is also a swamp habitat to eight species of mangroves and is the most dense among the surviving mangrove areas along Manila Bay.

The proposed reclamation will result in the habitat being cut off, isolated and segregated from Manila Bay. The mangroves found therein would eventually perish due to lack of saltwater, leading to the breakdown of the ecosystem. More than 5,000 birds will lose their home and, in all probability, eventually die.

It was also noted in the petition that the project proponent was able to skirt tedious and rigorous environmental impact assessment processes by claiming that its project is but a “continuation” of an on-going and existing project. Based on documents attached to the petition, Alltech represented in its application for an Environmental Clearance Certificate that its Parañaque and Las Piñas Coastal Bay Project is just a “continuation” of the “Manila Bay Land Reclamation Project” earlier proposed by the Public Estates Authority, now Public Reclamation Authority, and the Amari Coastal Bay Development Corp. This earlier project involved no less than the infamous PEA-Amari contract voided by the SC upon a taxpayer-citizen petition filed by Atty. Frank Chavez (Chavez vs PEA-Amari). In this petition, Chavez acts as counsel for Villar.
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