Netherlands asked to probe Dutch corporate abuse in Bulacan airport project

Environmental groups held a rally in front of the The Netherlands Embassy in Makati last Friday, March 22, to demand accountability for two Dutch company’s involvement in the San Miguel Corporation’s P735-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project on Manila Bay.

Environmental organizations and science advocates joined representatives of the group Defend Manila Bay from Cavite, Bulacan and Metro Manila coastal and fishing communities to protest what they call as an environmentally destructive reclamation project.

The protesters said that the NMIA project gained approval through intimidation of communities.

“Dutch company Boskalis Westminster NV stands to profit from the Philippines mega-airport, even as it is devastating the lives of our local fishing and coastal communities and our marine and coastal environment as well,” Jonila Castro, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment’s Advocacy Officer for Reclamation and Water, said.

Castro, also a member of Defend Manila Bay, is one of two young environmentalists who revealed their abduction by the Philippine Army and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed conflict in September last year.

READ: Environmentalists reveal abduction by military

Defend Manila Bay said the Dutch dredging giant Boskalios signed a €1.5 billion contract to construct the first phase of the NMIA in 2018, a project that is about the size of Makati City itself.

Boskalis is also extracting materials from the coastlines of Cavite province for back-fill material for the land reclamation process required to build the mega airport located in the territory of Bulacan province across the bay.

“Boskalis is profiting from a project that bypassed environmental and social scrutiny, ignored warnings from impact assessments, and, worst, used military intimidation to coerce ‘consent’ from affected communities. If this is not grave corporate abuse, then what is?” Bulacan community organizer Jhed Tamano asked.

Tamano is Castro’s co-survivor in the military’s abduction and fake-surrender fiasco.

“Soldiers had arrived every day, intimidating the community in Taliptip, Bulacan, threatening the residents that something bad might happen to them if they continued to refuse to leave. They did this until most of the 700 families in the coastal communities there were forced to leave their homes and agree to unjust compensation offers,” Tamano revealed.  

READ: Saving Taliptip

‘Chilling norm’

Environmental Defenders Congress leader and Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders convenor Lia Torres said Castro and Tamano’s abduction is one of the many attacks suffered by environment defenders under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

“Jhed and Jonila’s abduction by soldiers is a becoming chilling norm under Marcos Jr.’s reign, emblematic of the militarization targeting communities opposing environmental devastation,” Torres said.

“Under the Marcos Jr. administration, 21 abduction incidents involving state forces targeting 38 individuals occurred, with 14 cases involving defenders. Twenty-one remain missing,” Torres added.  

In February 2023, an investigative report by London-based Global Witness revealed that residents of Taliptip, Bulacan, disclosed that SMC sought approval for an unspecified “land development” rather than the massive airport project.

“This blatant lack of transparency robbed communities of their right to assess the project’s impacts and challenge any resulting harms,” Castro said.

A plethora of birds roosting over makeshift structures put up by fisherfolk. (Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE)

Kalikasan further revealed that in addition to the displacement of communities from Bulacan, communities across the Manila Bay in Cavite province have also reported loss of livelihood and destruction of the environment.

The group said dredging operations by Boskalis cause dwindling fish catch and increasing cases of hunger by fishing families.

Dutch credit company also accountable

READ: Groups press call to save Manila Bay from reclamation projects

The protest rally also demanded accountability from the Dutch export credit agency Atradius Dutch State Business that provided at least 1.5 billion euros in export credit insurance to Boskalis for the NMIA project.

Boskalis obtained insurance for the project from the Dutch state through Atradius DSB in May 2022, it said.

“Despite opposition from local communities and civil society groups in both the Netherlands and the Philippines, the application was approved in 2022 by Atradius DSB and Dutch state secretary for finance Marnix van Rij,” Castro said.

The move contradicts the Netherlands’ government’s own environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals, she added.  

Manila Bay wetlands in trouble

The NMIA project has also sparked significant controversy for its destruction of vital wetlands hosting diverse wildlife, including endangered migratory birds, the protesters said.

“Manila Bay is an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot, and the airport development is set to destroy protected ecosystems in the area,” Jerwin Baure, a marine scientist of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said.

The construction also encroaches upon a recommended ‘strict protection zone’ identified by a joint study of the Philippine and Dutch states, the scientist said.

“The construction will cause irreversible harm to the natural habitats in the area. As Manila Bay is a productive fishing ground, many fishers will lose their livelihoods. With mangroves being cut down, we also lose their ecosystem function of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change,” Baure said.

“It’s puzzling that Dutch companies are involved in this harmful reclamation project, given their collaboration with Philippine authorities on the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) from 2018 to 2020, which received hundreds of millions of pesos worth of funding from the Dutch government, he added.

The protesters said they urge The Netherlands government to investigate corporate abuses by the Dutch companies and to ask the Philippine government to halt the airport project.

Human rights lawyer and Karapatan legal counsel Atty. Maria Sol Taule speaks at a rally in The Netherlands against rights abuses committed against environmentalists opposing Manila Bay reclamation projects. (Supplied photo)

Dutch and Filipino environmentalists also held a parallel protest rally in Papendrecht, The Netherlands, Boskalis WMV’s headquarters.

They said the two rallies are the first of a series of globally coordinated actions against reclamation projects on Manila Bay.

READ: Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

Last year, President Marcos ordered the suspension of all but one of the projects but environmental groups decried that reclamation have nonetheless continued. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups press call to save Manila Bay from reclamation projects

Various groups held a rally along Roxas Boulevard in Manila on Wednesday, October 18, demanding a complete stop to ongoing reclamation projects on Manila Bay.

Led by environmental group Kalikasan, the rallyists that included fisherfolks Pamalakaya, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Bayan Muna and various church-based organizations and formations formed a human chain with the famous Manila Bay sunset as background.

Themed “Save Our Sunset, Save Manila Bay,” the event called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to implement his verbal promise of halting reclamation projects by issuing an executive order.

The rally participants said reclamation is still ongoing despite Marcos’ order to stop the projects and conduct an investigation.

Marcos Jr. announced last August that his government has suspended all but one of reclamation projects to allow the (DENR) to conduct a cumulative impact assessment.

READ: Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

The President’s order followed massive and prolonged flooding in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces after successive typhoons in July and August that dumped floodwaters from upland areas in Central Luzon.

Kalikasan said the reclamation projects impede the waters from freely flowing out into the bay, endangering entire towns in the said provinces.

Anti-Manila Bay reclamation project activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo made their first public appearance in the event after their sensational release from their military abductors last September 19.

READ: Environmentalists reveal abduction by military

Castro and Tamayo called on their fellow protesters to continue their campaign for Manila Bay and to save the livelihood of tens of thousands of families living around it.

Rep. Lito Atienza, former Manila Mayor and environment secretary, meanwhile condemned the corruption he said is part of the 21 reclamation projects in the bay. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Learning from the young and brave

By Nuel M. Bacarra

In the morning of September 19, a press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was held to present two new trophies, young “surrenderers” to the public. But the presscon blew up in the face of NTF-ELCAC personnel when Jonila Castro bravely revealed that she and Jhed Reiyana Tamano were abducted by the military forces and were forced to surrender because of the threat to their lives.

The presscon was broadcast live on a local government unit public information office Facebook page as well as on SMNI, galvanized church, rights defenders and activist groups to troop to Plaridel, Bulacan to demand for their immediate release.

I joined them to cover the event. We arrived past lunchtime, finding several Bulacan State University students already protesting in front of the municipal hall, faced by a phalanx of police personnel. The students took off their footwear and placed these in between themselves and the police, symbolizing the two sandals left behind when Jonila and Jhed were abducted in Orion, Bataan on September 2.

Upstairs, in front of the mayor’s office, I waited with fellow journalists, waiting for further developments. Jhed and Jonila were being kept at the mayor’s office as the local chief executive was deciding on her next move as the military did not want to surrender the two victims to her custody. Jhed and Jonila are Plaridel residents.

Minutes before three in the afternoon, I heard loud voices at the ground floor. I rushed downstairs and saw the police personnel dispersing the protesters. A protester was shouting “Huwag kayong manulak!” (Don’t push us!). I saw a young girl got hit by a policeman randomly punching the protesters. The youth pleading with the officers not to push was also hurt.

The police failed to disperse the protesters. Soon, they reasserted their place in front of the building’s main door and resumed their protest. This time, they faced the onlookers, some of them approaching and explaining what is happening at the mayor’s office. By then, Jonila’s parents have arrived with their lawyers and Makabayan bloc Representatives Arlene Brosas and Raoul Manuel to negotiate with the mayor.

I tried going back to where Jonila and Jhed were being kept to get more direct information but was no longer allowed by the police. We soon received information that the two would be brought to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) where the turnover of Jhed and Jonila to their families and supporters would take place. I asked to myself, “Why not turn them over now as family and lawyers are already there?” Then I thought, the mayor must be covering her behind because of the military’s objection to the victim’s release.

Minutes later, we saw Jonila and Jhed coming out of the building with their lawyers and family. We ran to our vehicles to join the convoy to Quezon City. As we approached the CHR headquarters after a mad dash from Bulacan, we saw activists lined up along Commonwealth Avenue who rushed into the compound as soon as our vehicles arrived.

We were allowed to take photos inside the conference room where the victims and their supporters were ushered in. We were asked thereafter to leave as the meeting would be closed door.

I made my way out of the building to take photos of the protesters. It was past six in the evening and I was really hungry at the time. A protester offered me a snack which I wolfed down as we waited for further developments.

After a while, we were told that Jhed and Jonila would be addressing the crowd.

The two thanked their supporters, saying their freedom is also because of the clamor for them to be surfaced. They said they knew people were looking for them and reiterated the correctness of what they are fighting for: a stop to the reclamation projects at Manila Bay.

The saga of Jhed and Jonila are far from over, however. The military and the NTF-ELCAC are doubling down on their canard that the two voluntarily surrendered. I think, though, the sandals left behind when the victims struggled during their abduction could not have been staged. And between two young girls and the NTF-ELCAC, who do we immediately see as liars?

That Tuesday had been the longest and most tiring day of coverage that I have had so far since I joined Kodao. I am a senior citizen with many bodily aches and pains associated with my age. I did not know I could still do it. But the significance of the events made me forget all these.

Jonila Castro and Jhed Reiyana Tamano, young as they are, showed us how to deal with state terrorism. They spoke the truth and turned the table around on their captors. Their courage is a shining example, showing the world how people’s rights are violated in the Philippines and how these are asserted and won. #

Orion 2 case to reach United Nations, abduction survivor vows

A fellow state abduction survivor vows to bring the case of the two surfaced Manila Bay activists to the attention of the international community at the ongoing 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dyan Gumanao, abducted by suspected police and military agents at the Port of Cebu last January, said the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano is another proof state agents are behind the “heinous abductions” of activists throughout the country.

 “We salute the fortitude of Jhed and Jonila who, despite the violence and abduction they suffered in the hands of the military, revealed the truth to the public,” Gumanao said.

This morning, Castro and Tamano revealed in a press conference organized by the military, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the local government unit (LGU) of Plaridel, Bulacan they were abducted and were coerced to sign an affidavit that they are rebel surrenderers.

The environmental activists, also known as the Orion 2, were abducted last September 2, in Orion, Bataan. The victims were held at the headquarters of the 70th Infantry Battalion in Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province where they said they were threatened and coerced by their abductors.

Gumanao said Castro and Tamano’s revelation is not an isolated incident as it also happened to her and her fellow activist and boyfriend Armand Dayoha last January.

The couple was rescued in another part of Cebu province after six days.

Gumanao is in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch delegation to the UNHRC session.

The Philippine UPR Watch earlier said they are calling on the UNHRC to investigate the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s human rights record that is “indistinguishable” from the sordid history of the Rodrigo Duterte government in terms of weaponization of laws and red-tagging of activists and critics.

Meanwhile, various groups demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Castro and Tamano.

Students of Bulacan State University (BSU) where both are alumnae, stormed Plaridel City Hall demanding their freedom.

The Environmental Defenders Congress also said it demands the release of the two victims following the startling revelation of the two environmental activists.

“The irreversible harm inflicted by reclamation projects on our marine environments is a stark reality, and it is precisely this grave concern that Jhed and Jonila were courageously fighting against,” the group said.

“In view of the public and categorical repudiation by activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano of the government narrative in the presence of NTF-ELCAC, the military, LGU officials and the media, there is no legal basis to hold them any second longer and they should be freed and if restrained illegally, can walk away from their custodians,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chairperson Atty. Edre Olalia said.

Earlier, human rights group Karapatan called on Plaridel Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje to ensure the safe release of the two victims to their families, lawyers of choice, human rights and church groups or their friends.

Kodao sources said the two are not charged with any criminal or civil complaint and are currently at Mayor Casaje’s office awaiting resolution of how they will be released.

The military is reportedly preventing attempts to have the victims released.

Sources also said Makabayan bloc officials are in Plaridel to help ensure the safe and immediate release of the victims.

Outside the municipal hall, the police are dispersing the BSU students and other activists gathered. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Nuel M. Bacarra)

Environmentalists reveal abduction by military

The two missing Manila Bay environmental activists today revealed they have been abducted by the military and did not voluntarily surrender as claimed by authorities.

CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO: Pahayag nina Jonila Castro at Jhed Tamano na sila ay dinukot at napilitang sumurender

In a press conference in Plaridel, Bulacan Tuesday, September19, Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano also said they were forced to sign the affidavit saying they were Communist surrenderers while inside a military camp and already in the custody of their abductors.

“Ang totoo po ay dinukot kami ng militar.  Napilitan din kami na sumurender dahil pinagbantaan ang buhay namin. Iyon po ang totoo,” Castro said. (The truth is, we were abducted by the military. We were forced to surrender because they threatened our lives. That is the truth.)

“Hindi rin naming ginusto na mapunta kami sa kustodiya ng mga militar. Hindi rin totoo ang laman ng affidavit dahil pinirmahan iyon sa loob ng kampo ng militar. Wala na kaming magagawa sa mga pagkakataon na iyon,” Castro said. (We also did not choose to find ourselves in the custody of the military. The contents of the affidavit the military ordered us to sign. We already had no choice at that time.)

The two were abducted last September 2 in Orion, Bataan and were missing for more than a week.

The military at first denied the two activists were in their custody but later said the two surrendered with the help of an intermediary.

A fact-finding mission by human rights, environmental and church groups however established that the two were abducted by four armed men who threatened bystanders with guns when they tried to give assistance to the victims.

“Ang gusto lang naming ipakita ngayong araw ang lantaang pasismo ng estado laban sa mga aktibistang ang tanging hangarin ay ipaglaban ang Manila Bay. May nangyayaring reclamation projects doon. Ang problema doon, ang mga mangingisdang mawawalan ng hanapbuhay,” Castro continued. (What we want to say today is the government’s bare fascism against activists who only wish to defend Manila Bay. There are reclamation projects there. The problem is that fisherfolk are losing their livelihood.)

There are 21 big time reclamation projects in Manila Bay, all but one President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself ordered stopped and investigated.

READ: Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

Marcos was forced to order the stoppage of the projects after prolonged flooding hit Central Luzon in the past weeks.

“Pero ang nangyayari, nagagamit ang mga militar para ipatigil ang mga pagkilos, para masupil ang mga kabataan, ang mga mangingisdang naroroon.  Iyon ang tunay na isyu dito,” Castro added, before being cut off by an off camera master of ceremony. (But what is happening is, the military is being used to suppress the resistance, the suppress the youth and the fisherfolk. That is the real issue here.)

Comments on the original video were calling for the press conference organizers to let the two victims speak.

The Plaridel Public Information Office Facebook Live video has immediately been taken down.

In a statement, human rights group Karapatan demanded the safe and immediate release of the two activists to their parents, lawyers, human rights workers, colleagues or friends.

“The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have no reason to hold Jhed and Jonila in their custody,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan added that Plaridel Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje should ensure that the victims are not returned to the military camp where they have been held. Casaje was present at the press conference.

Casaje has yet to respond to requests for a statement.

Tamano and Castro are Plaridel residents.

“The exposé of Jonila and Jhed, in their own words, of their abduction by the military speaks volumes for the many victims of abduction and enforced disappearance, the wave of attacks against activists and rights defenders under the current dispensation. Release Jhed and Jonila Now!”The exposé of Jonila and Jhed, in their own words, of their abduction by the military speaks volumes for the many victims of abduction and enforced disappearance, the wave of attacks against activists and rights defenders under the current dispensation. Release Jhed and Jonila Now!” Karapatan said.

“Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano have spoken the truth, despite the coerced situation that they are in – they have declared they were abducted by the military, that they did not surrender and they were held inside a military camp, under pressure and under duress, making all the claims of their ‘surrender’ all lies and hogwash,” Karapatan added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Panata ng Naiwang Panyapak

Ni Pia Montalban

Hindi na namin sila nasamahan

kahit amin nang nakasanayan

na hindi mag-iwanan

liban pahinga ang nananawagan.

Kasama nila kami sa mga pamayanan,

nakinig ng hinaing ng mga mamamayan,

nakilakbay sa mga mamamalakaya,

naging kaisa sa kanilang mga panawagan.

Subalit, nang gabing iyon, maulan

sa kalsada ng Manrique, iniwan

ng mga hiyaw na pumailanlang

sa pamayanan—ang aming paalamanan.

Tigalgal kaming mga naging piping saksi,

mga naiwang ulila sa may-ari at kapares,

mga walang buhay na bagay

pero punumpuno ng ingay.

Ituturo namin na may naganap na dahas,

na may naisakatuparang krimen.

Patunay na totoo ang pananakot at teror.

Kami ang nagpangalan sa mga biktima.

Kami na saksi ng sapilitang pagkawala,

nang marahas na hatakin

ng mga armadong lalaki

ang mga katawang may suot sa amin;

Na pinilit pang umakyat ng tarangkahan,

magmakaawa na masaklolohan;

magpumiglas sa tangkang pagpapatahimik,

magpakaladkad huwag lamang mabitbit.

Saksi kami sa kanilang mga bigat,

sa bawat hakbang nilang lapat,

sa bawat mithi nilang payak,

sa bawat pangarap nilang tiyak.

Hindi na namin sila nasamahan.

Hindi na namin sila nasamahan.

Susunduin na lamang namin ang hustisya,

hahanapin ang dalawang kasama.

= = = = = =

Sina Jhed Tamano at Jonila Castro.

Dinukot ng mga hindi pa nakikilalang kalalakihan sina Jhed Tamano at Jonila Castro, mga dating mag-aaral ng Bulacan State University noong ika-2 ng Setyembre, 2023. Sina Tamano at Castro ay mga organisador ng mga pamayanan sa Bataan at Bulacan na apektado ng sari-saring proyektong reklamasyon sa Manila Bay.

Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

Various groups said government’s suspension of Manila Bay reclamation activities must be total and demanded the order should apply as well to the one project being allowed to continue.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that while it sees the order as positive, the government should scrap all permits issued related to the projects.

“To make President Marcos’ statement concrete, the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) must review the 21 environmental compliance certificates of the reclamation in Manila Bay,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Ronnel Arambulo said.

Scientists of the group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People also demanded the suspension of the remaining project as it called for transparency on which projects were suspended.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced last Monday that his government has suspended all but one of reclamation projects to allow the (DENR) to conduct a cumulative impact assessment.

“All were suspended. The reclamation (projects) are all under review,” the president said in a briefing on the flooding in Bulacan last Monday.

“One however was not suspended because it already underwent a review. There are many problems. We saw many things that point to bad management,” he added.

The President did not name the remaining unsuspended project.

Marcos had recently been attending public consultations in Central Luzon following devastating floods in Pampanga and Bulacan provinces in previous weeks.

Residents and officials complained to the President that floodwaters now linger far longer than they used to.

Reclamation to blame?

Groups opposing reclamation projects said these impede waters from rivers draining into the 1,994-square-kilometer Manila Bay.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority said it received 25 reclamation proposals for Manila Bay as of 2022 and had approved six.

Kodao research found out that local government units are listed as co-developers in several projects, along with private companies.

The City of Manila has 1,342 hectares, Navotas City has 650 hectare, while Pasay City has 265 hectares in reclamation projects in partnership with such private companies as SM Prime, Goldcoast, JBROS Construction, Waterfront, Pasay Harbor City, and others.

Waterfront is owned by the Gatchalian family who are politically allied with the Marcoses.

(Pinoy Weekly photo)

Exacting accountability

DENR secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said individual projects were processed without taking into consideration all their cumulative impacts.

“This is actually critical for future use,” she said.

Yulo-Loyzaga added that the DENR is authorized to review or modify reclamation contracts.

“Until we get a very good sense of what scientifically is going to happen in this area and until we can get a good sense of how the rule of law can be followed in this area, we want to proceed with much caution,” she said.

The environment secretary also said the reclamation projects impede government’s duty to preserve Manila Bay and to uphold their mandate under the Supreme Court’s writ of continuing mandamus issued in 2008.

Pamalakaya said that the companies undertaking the reclamation projects must be held accountable and ordered to rehabilitate destroyed mangrove areas.

The group also demanded that the 300 families displaced by reclamation projects should be allowed to go back to their communities.

Manila Bay should be declared a reclamation-free zone, Pamalakaya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sa Lungsod ng Tao: Elehiyang Isinulat sa Dalampasigan

Ni Richard Gappi

Durugin ang bundok

sa kabilang isla.

Ang mga tipak,

ibiyahe sa barko


Ibudbod sa kilikili

ng Lungsod ng Tao

na nangitim

dahil sa libag ng siyudad.

Takpan, para pumuti.

Tawagin ang media,

bibisita at panauhin.





Tapikin ang inyong

sari-sarili sa balikat.

Mahal n’yo ang kalikasan.

Pinaganda at iningatan.

Habang ligaw na hangin

ang peste-de-gulpi

na umaali-aligid.

At bundat ang inyong

mga bulsa at bankakawnt.

Takam na takam;

Nagseselebreyt sa dakila

n’yong ambag sa kalikasan. #

–4:42PM, Martes, Oct. 26, 2021

Angono, Rizal

Angono 3/7 Poetry Society

Reclamation project tinututulan ng mga taga-Taliptip

Isang kilos-protesta ang isinagawa ng mga residente ng Sitio Taliptip sa Bulakan, Bulacan sa harapan ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 3 sa San Fernando, Pampanga.

Nanawagan sila sa ahensya na ipawalang-bisa ang Environmental Compliance Certificate ng Silvertides Holdings na siyang sub-contractor ng San Miguel Corporation para sa pagtatayo ng New Manila International Airport o Aerotropolis sa nasabing lugar.

Tinatayang nasa 1,000 pamilya ang mawawalan ng tirahan gayundin na ang hanapbuhay ay pangingisda. Masisira din ang mga bakawan at ilang yamang tubig sa nasabing isla.

Ang Bulacan Aerotropolis ay isa mga proyekto ng pamahalaang Duterte sa ilalim ng Build, Build, Build Program. Bibigyan ng Department of Transportation ang San Miguel Corporation para pamahalaan ang konstruksyon ng Aerotropolis. (Music: news background. Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Businessmen cashing in on Metro Manila Reclamation project–IBON

Research group IBON said that the Manila Bay reclamation project under the Build, Build, Build program is a profit-led infrastructure plan that will mainly benefit big business.

The group said that contrary to government claims, the project will displace nearby communities from their homes and livelihoods and destroy the environment.

The Manila Bay Reclamation project involves a series of infrastructure reclamation projects spanning the coasts of Bulacan, Manila, Pasay, and Cavite.

According to the Philippine Reclamation Authority, there are a total of 22 proposed projects for Manila Bay alone, four of which have been approved.

The project is under the “Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS)” by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

It aims to tap private sector investments to develop Manila Bay and supposedly usher economic growth.

IBON said that there are a number of corporations set to build and profit from these projects during the Manila Bay Reclamation.

The largest and most expensive of these are being carried out by the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) led by Ramon Ang.

The Php735-billion Bulacan International Airport or Aerotropolis will reclaim around 2,500 hectares of Manila Bay waters, and the Php400-billion Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control project will reclaim 11,200 hectares.

The Php72-billion Pasay Harbor Reclamation Project will be built by the Pasay Harbor City consortium made up of the Udenna Development Corp. (UDEVCO), Ulticon Builders, Inc., and China Harbour Engineering Company Limited.

The project will reclaim and develop 265 hectares for various tourist attractions, high-rise and low-rise condominiums, and a yacht pier.

IBON observed that long-time Duterte supporter and Davao businessman Dennis Uy has a stake in these reclamation projects through his company UDEVCO.

A top contributor to Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign, Uy’s companies have so far bagged under the administration the original proponent status for the Davao Monorail Project; the Department of Energy’s nod to develop the country’s first liquified natural gas terminal together with Chinese firm, CNOOC Gas and Power Group Co. Ltd; as well as the third telco slot under the Mislatel consortium.

Other big companies with projects lined up in Manila Bay include the Manila Solar City Project of the Manila Goldcoast Development Corp (MGDC), a subsidiary of the Wilson Tieng-led Solar Group of Companies, and the Sy Family with various reclamation projects in Pasay City.

Mostly urban poor communities stand to lose their homes and livelihoods to make way for reclamation projects, said IBON.  

The government announced its plan to relocate around 220,000 families living in Manila Bay to National Housing Authority (NHA) relocation units in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

But the plan for livelihood and services provision remains to be seen.  

Meanwhile, the livelihoods of 5,000 fisherfolk will be affected by SMC’s Aerotropolis.

According to national fisherfolk federation, Pamalakaya, 20,000 fisherfolk will be affected by the construction of the Navotas Boulevard Business Park, part of the reclamation project.

Moreover, documents from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) state that the projects will have ecological impacts in Manila Bay.

Throughout the construction of the various projects, contaminants from dredged sediments will be released, deplete dissolved oxygen, and destroy natural habitats of sardines and mangroves found in Manila Bay. 

Once finished, the projects will interfere with the natural tide flow of water in the area and erode the shoreline of nearby beaches. The erosion could cause flooding in nearby low-lying areas especially during a typhoon.

IBON said that with the data from the EMB, all the more, government should follow its own environmental impact assessment.

IBON also said that while Manila Bay should be rehabilitated, the government’s current plan serves the interest of a profit-minded few and will cause significant displacement and environmental damage.

The government should suspend the Manila Bay reclamation project and develop a rehabilitation plan that is environmentally sustainable and will improve the conditions and livelihoods of people living in Manila Bay, said the group. #