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Bulacan Airport’s Timetable To Suffer Setback

Dec 18, 2020, 5:08 PM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz



The recent filing in the Supreme Court by a marine conservation group of a 95-page petition for a Writ of Kalikasan against San Miguel Aerocity, Inc.’s (a subsidiary of San Miguel Corp.) P734-billion airport project will push back the timetable for its construction and completion.

They are also seeking the cancellation of the environmental clearance certificate issued to Silvertides Holding Corp., contractor for the project.

Gone would President Duterte’s chance of seeing partial construction during the remainder of his term in July 2022.

Adverse Effects To Marine Life

Oceana Philippines, headed by vice president Gloria Estenzo Ramos, and fishermen Rodel Alvarez and Teodoro Bacon of Bulakan town (in Bulacan province) with labor group Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultural (AMA) and San Jose del Monte Archbishop Roger Martinez filed the petition to stop the airport project citing multiple dangers of building the 2,500- hectare airport city such as the project’s adverse effects on Manila Bay’s biological diversity (as it is the habitat for marine life like sardines and crustaceans and shrimps, which makes it a lucrative fishing ground for residents).

AMA chairman Renato dela Cruz said the airport will trample 18 species of marine animals if it pushes through.

Migratory Birds

Mike Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, said thousands of birds also often flock to the bay as part of its migration route.

He said his group has worked with environment officials for bird sightings, pointed out that around 25,000 birds visit daily Barangay Bambang, by the airport site.

The presence of planes in the area could also increase the number of bird strikes, or accidents where birds collide with airplane engines.

And Forests, Too

The petitioners claimed that the airport project violated several laws including the Philippine Fisheries Code, the Clean Water Act, the Climate Change Act, and the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

They also argued that the airport site covers forest and communal fishing grounds – protected under Republic Act 4701 which identifies areas fronting Manila Bay as “withdrawn from sale or settlement.”

“Manila Bay is an active and living bay. It plays host to several species of fishes, seashells, and corals, and even endangered migratory birds. These are affected by this airport and real estate development,” said Ramos.

The ambitious project also poses hazards such as storm surge, flooding, and liquefaction.

To Decongest NAIA

Despite this criticism, Congress recently granted it a franchise to construct and operate the planned project and the franchise bill is now pending signature of President Duterte, allowing the 10-year construction after needed permits are acquired.

SMC earlier said the construction is set for the first quarter of 2021 as it awarded Boskalis Philippines a $1.73- billion (P83-billion) contract to develop the land, according to a Rappler story.

SMC’s airport project, which is envisioned to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, features four parallel runways and a world-class terminal, among others to accommodate up to 100 million passengers annually.

No Copy Yet

SMC president and COO Ramon Ang said he will answer the petition once he gets a copy of it. But he said they have already taken steps like mangrove propagation to ensure that the project will be built sustainably.

The company programmed planting 200,000 mangroves in the province and around Central Luzon, which already began last July.

“We have also commissioned a foreign firm to conduct a comprehensive and independent study of all possible environment impacts, to ensure these will be taken into consideration and addressed in the development stage,” said Ang in a statement.

Petitioners Questioned

SMC also questioned petitioners, Alvarez and Bacon, who claimed being unaware of their involvement in the case.

SMC said Bacon received financial help from it for a new home, with access to water and electricity.

But Oceana, in a media briefing, showed a recent video of the two fishermen attesting that they were against the SMC airport project.

In the video Bacon said: “Kaya kami nasama sa kaso na ‘to, gusto naming ipaglaban din ‘yung aming hanapbuhay na naapektuhan ng proyekto na ‘yan. Sabi nila noong una, pwede pa kami maghanapbuhay dun. Ngayon pinagbabawalan na kami.”

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