DENR issues Environmental Compliance Certificate for Bulacan airport project
This 2019 file photo shows Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan, Bulacan.
Philstar.com/EC Toledo IV

DENR issues Environmental Compliance Certificate for Bulacan airport project

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - June 24, 2021 - 4:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Aerocity Inc. has obtained an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the proposed international airport in Bulacan, which, according to environmental groups and experts, will pose harm to Manila Bay's ecosystem and communities.

The environment department’s Environmental Management Bureau Central Luzon issued the ECC for the proposed New Manila International Airport on June 1. A copy of the document was made available to Philstar.com only on June 24.

The certificate is one of the requirements for the proponent of the P740-billion airport project to proceed.

“With the issuance of this ECC, you are expected to implement the measures presented in the Environmental Impact Statement Study (EIS), intended to protect and mitigate the project’s adverse impacts on community health, welfare and the environment,” EMB Central Luzon Director Wilson Trajeco said.

“Environmental considerations shall be incorporated in all phases and aspects of the project. You may proceed with the implementation after securing all the necessary permits from other pertinent government agencies,” he added.

Spanning 2,565 hectares, the airport project will be built over Barangays Bambang and Taliptip in Bulakan town, former home to patches of mangroves since cut down and coastal villagers since displaced.

"Adjacent areas for land and marine access" to the project and portion of the airport city are also covered by the ECC. Among the other components of the project covered by the certificate include leasable areas for industrial, logistics and commercial purposes and settlement areas for the proposed airport city.

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According to the certificate, the San Miguel Aerocity Inc. should implement measures to address flooding within the coverage area. Scientists have said the site where the airport is planned to be built and neighboring low-lying areas in Bulacan are prone to flooding.

The site is also susceptible to strong ground shaking and liquefaction during earthquakes and is at risk from storm surge.

In March, San Miguel Corporation said it has “laid out an extensive flood mitigation plan that includes planting close to 200,000 mangroves along the Bulacan coastlines, and cleaning, dredging, and widening of key Bulacan tributaries belonging to the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System.”

"The proponent shall allocate sufficient area for open space requirements pursuant to existing rules and regulations governing land development, which requires the said area to be non-buildable and allocated for evacuation/staging area and greenbelt as part of climate change contingency measures," the conditions of the ECC read.

The proponent must also plant and maintain at least 5,000 mangrove propagules in areas identified by the local government.

The clearing of mangroves in the area began in 2018, according to villagers and groups opposing the project. Reports of the cutting of mangroves in Sitio Kinse, one of the villages of Taliptip, surfaced on social media early in May.

The ECC stated that no cutting of trees should be undertaken without first securing permit from the DENR.

"Any cutting of trees implemented without the required permit will render this certificate canceled or suspended," the certificate read.

The proponent also needs to construct wastewater treatment facilities to treat wastewater generated by the airport, address noise emission from airplanes, monitor the quality and integrity of the soil, maintain a Materials Recovery Facility, and submit a “Biodiversity Off-Set Management Plan.”

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Environmental compliance?

Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment questioned how the project was granted clearance without a "definitive" consultation with affected stakeholders.

"There’s already more than enough evidence to shut down the project, and instead, the government is so eager to bypass crucial consultations to pursue these projects. This haste is highly suspicious as if it were a part of a grand scheme to bow to the whims of business interests," Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator, said in a June 4 statement.

Aside from flooding risks and other geohazards, experts and environmental groups stressed the area where the airport will be built serves as a roosting site for migratory birds, and a productive nursery and feeding ground for marine species.

Kalikasan also raised alarm over reports of fisherfolk being denied access to communal fishing grounds.

A former resident interviewed by Philstar.com who spoke on the condition of anonymity said in late May that fishers were no longer allowed to fish in the area bought by the project proponent. Previously, they were permitted to fish in Taliptip until the construction of the massive airport city begins.

Early this year, the Supreme Court junked the plea of Bulacan fisherment and civil society groups to stop the reclamation of Manila Bay, and protect marine species and ecosystems threatened by the construction of a sprawling airport complex. — with report from BusinessWorld/Arjay L. Balinbin

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