Villar to file MR on SC go-signal for bay reclamation

The Philippine Star
Villar to file MR on SC go-signal for bay reclamation
Sen. Cynthia Villar
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar yesterday said she will file a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) before the Supreme Court (SC) over its go-signal to reclaim the Manila Bay areas in Las Piñas and Parañaque as she urged the High Court to take a “different and fresh appreciation” of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) rules.

She has been asserting that any reclamation project in the areas would impede the flow of the six rivers exiting in Manila Bay, which would cause massive flooding.

These rivers are Imus River in Imus City; Bacoor River and Molino River in Bacoor City; Zapote River between Bacoor and Las Piñas cities; Las Pinas River in Las Piñas City and Parañaque River in Parañaque City.

The damage to Imus River led to the filing of a case by Antonio Oposa, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Environmental Law, which resulted in the issuance of Mandamus of Manila Bay by the SC.

Marking the first year of the UN Decade for Ecological Restoration, the senator called on the court to revisit its ruling which favored Alltech Contractors’ proposed projects to develop hectares of land in Las Piñas and Parañaque, both along the coastline of Manila Bay, which has been given up and declared illegal and the ECC expired.

“This and the declaration by Congress of the existence of a climate crisis and the two reports of the Nobel laureate group Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have long since rendered any decisions of the DENR made in 2012 irrelevant,” stressed Villar.

The senator said the SC can also take judicial notice of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act or RA 11038 which was passed in 2018.

“This legislated the now renamed Las Piñas Parañaque Wetland Park into a protected area,” said Villar, noting that this was included in the Ramsar Convention list of Wetlands of International Importance in 2013.

The legislated protected area, Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland, is entitled to a buffer zone in Manila Bay which cannot be reclaimed.

She related that the DENR is also determining the extent of buffer zone needed for the conservation of the protected wetland park.

“The DENR’s procedures on EIA should take into consideration all these 94 newly established Protected Areas,” said Villar, chair of the Senate environmental committee.

“We have long imagined that the ecological services like the flood drainage mechanisms and the filtering capacity of the soil will be there forever. But without proper care and paying the costs of that care, these services will dissipate. The EIA system must account for this degeneration,” she added.

The SC recently affirmed a Court of Appeals (CA) decision denying the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan filed by Villar and 315,000 petitioners to stop reclamation that is beside the said international important wetland.

According to Villar, the SC issued the decision eight years after the CA junked her petition to stop any reclamation project in the area.

She likewise emphasized that the DENR’s decision to allow the reclamation has long since been overtaken by multiple studies, many scientific and valuation findings, most of which were not in the case file.

“Worse, any environmental decision taken in an application for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) only has a 5-year validity, considering the changes in the surrounding environment and new scientific findings that may happen,” Villar said.

She also pointed out that the ECC of Alltech has long since expired and the failure to start the project was not caused by this case.

She added that if the SC believes the DENR currently has sufficient technical capacity to make a determination in this case of all the factors that need to be taken into account, then why is our environment still on the decline.

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