April 6, 2013 11:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Manila Bay-based groups on Saturday announced they would invoke the 1971 Convention on the Protection of Wetlands to stop the national and local governments from pursuing the controversial Las Pinas-Paranaque reclamation project.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the city governments of Las Pinas and Paranaque are the proponents of the project.
The groups opposing it are the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM), Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SMBM), Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay) and Anakpawis party list.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis party list vice chairman Fernando Hicap said the inclusion of Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance should oblige the government to cease and desist from pushing the reclamation of the more than 600- hectare bird sanctuary south of Manila.
“The 1971 International Convention is clear. As a signatory to the covenant, the Philippine government should not lead the destruction of the last bird sanctuary in Metro Manila. Therefore, this reclamation project that would commence with the grand massacre of the critical habitat area should be permanently thrown to the dustbin of history,” said Hicap.
The site of the controversial reclamation project in Manila Bay is the sixth Philippine site designated as ‘Wetlands of International Importance’, and which was included on the list on March 15.
The others on the list are: Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park in Sulu (listed on December 11, 1999); Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (listed on December 11, 1999); Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro (listed on December 11, 1999); Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu (listed on January 7, 1994); and Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan (listed on June 30, 2012).
The Philippine government, which joined the Ramsar Convention in 1994, is compelled to undertake wetland conservation considerations in its national land-use planning,” and commit to implement and promote “the wise use of wetlands in their territory, thus any activity that would run contrary to wetland preservation like reclamation is strongly prohibited under the convention, Hicap said.
He added: “We have made a issue clear. It is now the task of the Philippine government to drop the reclamation project and follow the Ramsar convention truthfully.”
The Convention on Wetlands—signed in Ramsar, Iran on 1971— is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “wise use” or sustainable use of all of the wetlands in their territories
Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the reclamation project in Las Pinas-Paranaque which will be soon the site of Las Vegas type casino and entertainment center will displace tens of thousands of small fisherfolk and urban poor dwellers, and “will usher another era of catastrophic floods in 37 barangays in Bacoor, 11 barangays in Paranaque and 17 barangays in Las Pinas with floods with a depth of as much as 5.12 meters or equivalent to two-storey building.”
France said the reclamation project in Las Pinas and Paranaque is just one of over 30 reclamation projects to be undertaken by the PRA along Manila Bay. He said the Manila government under Mayor Alfredo Lim plans to reclaim another 148 hectares of coastal areas near the Manila Yacht Club along Roxas Boulevard—a project also opposed by a big coalition of sectoral groups. A total of 5,000 hectares of coastal areas in Navotas is also being planned for reclamation.
The PRA is also targeting not less than 13,000 hectares for reclamation in the areas covered by the coastal towns in Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan. The PRA also has reclamation plans in Tacloban City in Leyte, Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, Leganes in Iloilo, Kalibo in Aklan, Cordova, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay in Cebu, said the Manila Bay-based groups.