Approval of Bulacan airport franchise reflects failure of gov't to value fishers, environment — group

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Approval of Bulacan airport franchise reflects failure of gov't to value fishers, environment � group

MANILA, Philippines — The approval of a bill granting a conglomerate the franchise to operate an airport city complex in Bulacan province shows the government’s lack of value for fishing communities and marine biodiversity, an environmental group said Tuesday.

Voting 22-0, the Senate approved on third and final reading the bill granting San Miguel Corporation a franchise to build and operate the planned New Manila International Airport and an adjacent airport city.

The House of Representatives approved a counterpart bill on September 7.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment slammed the move Tuesday, saying the sprawling airport city complex threatens to affect the livelihood of some 129,000 families who rely on Manila Bay’s fisheries.

The area where the project will be built is a productive nursery and feeding ground because of the rich mangrove ecosystem in the area.

“Without an honest to goodness assessment of this project, the franchise approval reflects how the State does not value the importance of the soon-to-be displaced fisherfolk in the area and the far-reaching ecological and climate consequences down the wire,” Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator, said.

“The country is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Senate should instead be acting upon measures that will help uplift the livelihood of the vulnerable sectors, including farmers and fisherfolks, and other workers struggling with the effects of the pandemic,” he added.

NewsXFed by the waters

‘Project hastens climate emergency’

For the project proponent and the lawmakers, the airport complex in Bulacan will help provide more jobs to Filipinos and decongest the country’s primary airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

But for environmentalists and scientists, the planned airport city is vulnerable to flooding, sea-level rise, land subsidence and other geohazards.

SMC said it has tapped the firms behind Singapore’s Changi Airport and Frances’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, and it plans to dredge and increase the carrying capacity of rivers in and around the site of the airport.

“Even with the environmental interventions claimed, the upkeep to manage the complex risks is too costly. We face prospects of an irreversible increase in the quantity and severity of typhoons and other climate-related disasters,” Dulce said.

Dulce also said that the rush to approve the bill for the aerocity “without so much an ounce of scientific consideration” will hasten the climate emergency situation in Manila Bay.

“The approval of this bill runs counter to the pronouncement of President Duterte to combat climate change by implementing national and local strategies to mitigate the effects. More communities will slide below the poverty threshold,” he said.

Duterte, in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, urged signatories to the Paris accord to honor their pledges for climate action. Roy Cimatu, his environment secretary, said the Philippines is leaning toward declaring a climate emergency.

“President Duterte should start putting sense into his rhetorics on climate resiliency. If he really claims he is against these opportunists, then he can start by vetoing this bill that aims to only enrich these businesses, with little to no benefits for the affected fisherfolk,” Dulce said.

Photo essayHome is where the coast is

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