By Miko Morelos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
3:45 pm | Sunday, May 29th, 2011
Garbage beached onshore at the
Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area
MANILA, Philippines—The Las Piñas-Parañaque
Coastal Lagoon—eyed to be reclaimed by authorities—not
only serves as a stop for migratory birds but also supports
the lives of families in the area who turn to it for livelihood
The 175-hectare lagoon, which serves as home
to endangered Philippine ducks and a whistle-stop for Chinese
egrets, was declared a sanctuary area some four years ago
by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The present administration ought to recognize
it, according to a Parañaque city official and a former
Las Piñas representative.
“I hope [the government] will honor
the [executive order] that declared the area a sanctuary,”
said former Las Piñas Representative Cynthia Villar,
whose charity foundation has been spearheading the rehabilitation
of the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers.
“While I am not yet sure if [the reclamation
plan] is official, the lagoon is a protected area. There are
people who depend on it to earn their keep,” said Parañaque
city agriculture officer Fe Ferolino.
For the past years, the Parañaque
local government has been keeping close watch of their portion
of the lagoon with constant monitoring for illegal activities
and periodic planting of mangrove seedlings, according to
“Our objective is to preserve the area,
and the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources]
helps us by providing mangrove seedlings to be planted there,”
she said over the phone.
The national government, through the Philippine
Reclamation Authority, plans to reclaim 635 hectares in front
of the sanctuary, officially called the Las Piñas-Parañaque
Critical Habitat and Eco-tourism Area.
Environmentalists oppose the project, saying
the lagoon will be cut off from Manila Bay should its surroundings
be reclaimed. Mangroves would eventually die due to lack of
saltwater, which may lead to the breakdown of the ecosystem
Since a large part of the area fell under
the city’s jurisdiction, the local government has been
patrolling the sanctuary, with deputized environment monitors
on the lookout for people who might disturb the natural reserve,
The waters off the mangrove forests are much
clearer now than over a decade ago, Ferolino noted. She credited
the improvement to the lush plantation, which likewise has
been serving as a breeding ground for various types of fish.
The Parañaque city council passed
a resolution regulating fishing activities in the area, allowing
only city-accredited fisherfolk to cast their nets in the
For residents of Las Piñas, the lagoon
serves as an outlet for the city’s two major waterways
and ensures that any heavy downpour in the city make its way
to the sea quickly and not spilled to the streets, Villar
explained to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
If the reclamation project would push through
and obstruct the area where the Manila Bay and the rivers
meet, she feared it might result into flooding in Las Piñas.
“If the reclamation is done wrongly,
we fear it will affect the natural flow of the rivers and
water might spill to the city streets during rains,”
Villar pointed to the perennial flooding
problem of Malabon and Navotas as the basis of her worries.
Both cities are among Metro Manila’s flood-prone areas,
particularly the locations where reclamation projects were
The city’s coffers could earn a lot
from the project, Villar conceded, but “if it would
make Las Piñas a flood-prone area, the cost of that
could surmount any earnings the city would make.”
Should any development push through at the
lagoon, Ferolino wants to see the sanctuary turned into a
“Tourism could further generate jobs
for our residents there. They can put up sari-sari stores
and sell trinkets, while spreading awareness on the importance
of the reserve,” Ferolino said. “If you ask me,
that’s what I dream the sanctuary ought to be.”
Villar, on the other hand, acknowledged the
benefit the Las Piñas residents could derive from the
project, but a nagging concern for her is the direct impact
of potential flooding to the locals’ quality of life.
“If we impede the natural flow of water,
we might have on our hands a flooding problem, and that’s
much harder to solve,” she said. “No one wants
that. If you ask me, having the lagoon reclaimed is a plan
that must be reconsidered.”
Sure, the development is a sign of progress
in the area but any improvement must be carefully weighed
because “[developments] sometimes destroy areas such
as the reserve,” Villar said.
Villar said, “In any progress, people
must not suffer from development. Some developments are detrimental.”