New Manila International Airport (Bulakan, Bulacan)

Two fishermen and civil society groups on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop San Miguel Aerocity Inc. (SMAI) from constructing the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan over environmental concerns.

Bulakan, Bulacan-based fishermen Teodoro Bacon and Rodel Alvarez, environmental group Oceana and three others asked the High Court to issue a writ of kalikasan directing the government and the developer to preserve, rehabilitate, or restore the environment in the areas covered by the P740-billion airport project.

In the meantime, they requested a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) to stop SMAI from constructing the airport. They want the TEPO to be eventually made permanent.

Apart from SMAI, respondents included the Environment and the Transportation Departments and contractor Silvertides Holdings Corporation.

The petitioners argued that the airport project would be built on land classified as forestland and permanent forestland and may endanger the Manila Bay ecosystem, consequently affecting the people who depend on it for their livelihood.

Furthermore, the construction, “which requires the destruction of mangrove forests and covering the bay, wetlands, fisheries and marine habitats with millions of cubic meters of filling materials,” violated and would continue to violate environmental laws, rules, and regulations.

They also said the airport project would “adversely affect the resident and migratory bird population” and would “increase risks for adverse climate impacts.” They added that the area would be prone to floods and earthquakes.

“Consequently, the people in the barangays of Taliptip and Bambang and the municipality of Bulakan will bear the brunt of environmental impacts of the Airport Project,” the petitioners said.

“As they are interconnected, these environmental impacts can affect other cities and municipalities of Bulacan such as Obando, and Hagonoy. Neighboring Metro Manila cities of Navotas, Valenzuela, and Malabon could also be affected. In any way we put it, it thus sets off a domino effect of devastation,” they said.

Sparing no effort

In response, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) President Ramon Ang said the company is “sparing no effort to ensure that the Bulacan airport project will be built properly and sustainably.”

He said they have started a multi-river system dredging initiative, starting with a P1-billion cleanup of the Tullahan-Tinajeros river system, to help address flooding in Bulacan. He added that the planting of 200,000 mangroves was underway.

Ang added that the corporation had also commissioned an independent study of all possible environmental impacts of the project.

As to the fishermen-petitioners, Ang said both Bacon and Alvarez said they had not been in contact with Oceana “for some time now.” “They are not even aware they are among the petitioners,” he said in a statement.

Ang said Bacon has also gone on record to thank SMC for giving him the means to build his family a new home.

He said SMC will address Oceana’s concerns when they receive a copy of the petition.

“The Philippine government, and we believe, the public, see and understand the urgent need for this major investment and development, at this crucial time in our history,” he said.

“Again, San Miguel Corporation will do its part to make this project, which will create over a million jobs, generate additional revenues for government at no cost to taxpayers, and open up a world of opportunities for our provinces and cities, a reality,” he added.

SMC announced Tuesday that the construction of the airport project would begin in the first quarter of 2021.  — DVM, GMA News