Broad anti-reclamation coalition warns Duterte against legacy of destroying Manila Bay

As franchise for aerotropolis nears to “lapse into law”
Broad anti-reclamation coalition warns Duterte against legacy of destroying Manila Bay

Manila, Philippines – A broad coalition of fisherfolk and people’s organizations, and advocates have warned President Rodrigo Duterte against leaving a legacy of seriously destroying Manila Bay if he allows the bill approving the franchise for the San Miguel Aerocity, Inc. to operate the proposed aerotropolis or New Manila International Airport (NMIA) to be enacted by lapsing into law. It was transmitted to the Office of the President on November 18. The Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon at Reklamasyon (KKKR) said that the 2,500-hectare aerotropolis project has already displaced around 700 fisherfolk families in Brgy. Taliptip in Bulakan town and even destroyed at least 600 mangrove trees that serves as habitat for many species of fish and marine life. The affected fisherfolk families have resisted the project until they were subjected to military harassment since forces were deployed at the end of the year to June to coerce them leave the site.

“Ramon Ang’s aerotropolis project is anti-poor, undemocratic, unscientific and anti-environment. It was clear that it was railroaded and a sincere and comprehensive public consultation was not carried out, primarily with the affected stakeholders,” Reggie Vallejos, Professor of Development Studies of University of the Philippines – Manila campus and KKKR Co-convenor said in a press statement.

He recalled that the project was submitted as an “unsolicited proposal” in February 2017 by Ramon Ang, a top oligarch in the country. He controls the top two conglomerates in the country in 2018, the San Miguel Corp. and subsidiaries, and the Top Frontier Investment Holdings, Inc. and subsidiaries, that generated revenues reaching P1.71 trillion. He listed the apparent speedy approval of the project with the following instances:

• February 2017 – submission of the “unsolicited proposal” for the aerotropolis project;
• April 2018 – the project was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (NEDA board) in April 2018;
• December 2018 – the board approved the concession agreement;
• February 4, 2019 – a firm Silvertides Holdings, Inc. announced to the affected fisherfolk and residents a reclamation project covering 2,375 hectares;
• April 2019 – the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced a “swiss challenge” for the project;
• July 2019 – the DENR Region III issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for a “land development” project for the Silvertides;
• August 2019 – after four months, the DOTr issued the notice of award to San Miguel Corp.;
• End of December 2019 to January 2020 – forces of the military were deployed at the affected community;
• August 2020 – a franchise bill for the San Miguel Aerocity, Inc. was filed at the House of Representatives;
• September 2020 – a senate counterpart bill was filed;
• September 7 – the House of Representatives approved the franchise bill;
• September 12 – the senate approved its version of the bill;
• September 16 – the bicameral conference approved the franchise bill;
• November 18 – the franchise bill was transmitted to the Office of the President.

“The mere track the project took, roughly 45 months, predominantly bureaucratic, defies common sense, when the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) carried out a comprehensive feasibility study from 2011 to 2014 to determine the appropriate location of the additional airport for Metro Manila. This also reeked of marginalizing the affected fisherfolk community and disregarding the obvious destruction to the Manila Bay marine environment the project would cause,” Vallejos slammed.

Moreover, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), also part of the KKKR, seriously warned the Duterte regime against enacting the franchise bill as it will be crisis generator, commencing from the displacement of the fisherfolk communities and other residents in the general area within Bulacan town. Pamalakaya National Chairperson and former representative for the Anakpawis Party-list Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap said that the project will serve as a “model of displacing fisherfolk communities” in Manila Bay, especially in the nearby Navotas City, where small fisherfolk are already facing the detrimental impact of the dredging operations also involving a subsidiary firm of San Miguel Corp. A bigger reclamation project is being pushed by Ramon Ang, the 63-kilometer and 16,559-hectare coastal expressway from Bataan to Navotas City. The project is also connected to the aerotropolis project.

“By the mere proposals of the oligarch Ramon Ang and collusion by the Duterte regime, we could easily see that they have no regard for the broadly demanded rehabilitation of the Manila Bay. They are agents of marine environment destruction and displacement of the already marginalized fisherfolk sector. Facing this anti-people and anti-environment projects, we urge the people to took on the task of defending Manila Bay, the fishing and socio-economic rights of poor communities, and the natural marine environment,” he ended. ###

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