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STATEMENT: Include habitat protection in COVID-19 response, repeal franchise for San Miguel Airport project

THE CENTER for Environmental Concerns – Philippines strongly opposes the franchise approval and demands the Senate to repeal House Bill 5707. During the pandemic, the government should focus on activities and projects for the recovery of communities especially of the poorest sectors in society, the fisherfolk. The approval of the franchise goes against the very idea of a ‘better normal’ which is demanded by the Filipino people.

Coinciding with the World Habitat Day, the Senate is set to approve the franchise of San Miguel Aerocity to construct and operate a 2000-hectare airport city project in Bulacan, ironically posing tremendous impacts on the critical habitats in Manila Bay. Habitat protection should be included in the COVID-19 response and projects which destroy habitats should be stopped.

Scientists have associated the loss of habitats for the emergence and spread of COVID-19. In the middle of the public health crisis when travel and tourism are heavily restricted, public funds should rather be allocated for genuinely restoring vital habitats and ecosystems.

The project lacks clearance from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to firm that it is harmless to the marine habitat and fisheries in Manila Bay. The bay is said to be a spawning ground of important fish species, such as the recently discovered Sardinella pacifica.

The lands of Bambang and Taliptip, Bulacan which are encompassed by the site are historically classified as mangrove forests. In 2018 alone, the airport project cut off 600 mangrove trees in the area.

The construction will destroy the intact coastal wetlands in Bulacan, potentially displacing largely 200,000 birds.

Apart from the abovementioned environmental repercussions, the project also led to the displacement of at least 700 families and fisherfolk in Taliptip and Obando. By Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director, Center For Environmental Concerns

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