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NMIA a threat to Manila Bay ecosystem —Kalikasan PNE

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) on Thursday slammed the New Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan as multiple environmental threats to Manila Bay’s ecosystem.

The government has awarded the airport project to conglomerate San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) infrastructure unit.

In a statement, Kalikasan PNE threw its support behind the fisherfolk in Bulakan town who are calling for the government to revoke the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of Silvertides Holdings, the subcontractor of San Miguel Holdings for the airport’s land development.

“The ‘Aerotropolis’ reclamation project did not sufficiently assess the multiple risks of environmental destruction and disaster posed to the entire ecosystem of Manila Bay,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

The ECC for the Bulacan airport project currently covers just the land preparation, not the entire infrastructure, Dulce emphasized.

“No ECC must be issued to any aspect of the Aerotropolis until its cumulative risks posed to the entire ecosystem of Manila Bay alongside other reclamation projects is rigorously assessed. We thus demand the revocation of the Aerotropolis ECC because there is no way such shoddy work can effectively mitigate its threat of destruction to mangroves and fish conservation areas,” he said.

In a separate statement, San Miguel said that it has already done an initial impact assessment.

"And we are confident that this project will not be harmful but instead beneficial to all stakeholders," the company said.

"Needless to say, the NMIA will be built according to world-class standards. It will be a sustainable development, one that puts both the environment and the society at its core," it added.

On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) formally awarded San Miguel’s infrastructure unit San Miguel Holdings Corporation the contract to build and operate the P735-billion Bulacan airport project.

The company bagged the contract after the Swiss challenge concluded last month with no other parties challenging the original proponent for the project.

For Kalikasan PNE, however, the project’s ECC was “railroaded.”

It may very well be “the first glaring case of President Rodrigo Duterte’s hypocrisy over Manila Bay,” Dulce said, referring to the "Battle for Manila Bay" rehabilitation program initiated by the Duterte government that failed to address head-on the conflicting issue of land reclamation.

“Duterte’s Executive Order 74 s. 2019 supposedly reiterated the requirement of assessing any reclamation project’s cumulative impacts to Manila Bay before getting permits. EO 74 also required that reclamation projects should be compliant to a Reclamation Development Plan and other relevant master plans--plans that are at date non-existent,”  Dulce said.

“All these provisions have already been violated by the Aerotropolis. How can the government issue an ECC for the Aerotropolis despite this full disregard of our national policies?” he said.

San Miguel, however, said it is committed to providing the ideal relocation site and improving the livelihood of fisherfolk who will be affected by the airport's construction and in protecting and enhancing fishing areas and natural marine resources.

The company emphasized that it tapped numerous experts in airport design and construction—including those behind Singapore’s Changi Airport, France’s Charles de Gaulle Airport and the Atlanta Airport.

The group said that instead of being an instrument to the railroading of patently destructive infrastructure, the DENR should be working double-time in strengthening the protection instruments of Manila Bay.

“The northern part of Manila Bay to which Bulacan belongs to has already been declared a Key Biodiversity Area in the early part of the 2000s,” Dulce said.

“It is also a potential Important Bird Area, a potential Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance site, and a sardine conservation area. If Duterte is true to his word of wanting to rehabilitate Manila Bay, he should start by working on instrumentalizing these zonings instead of allowing runaway reclamation projects to get away with ‘ecocidal murder’,” he said. —VDS/BM, GMA News