By Jelly F. Musico
Zambo Times Online News
February 10, 2014
The Senate committees on government corporations and public and environment and natural resources will jointly scrutinize the law that created Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).
The hearing will also tackle a privilege speech entitled “Reclaiming the People’s Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology” delivered by Sen. Cynthia Villar in October last year.
”I’m calling on my colleagues to rethink and revisit the powers of the Philippine Reclamation Authority which has the sole authority over reclamation projects,” Villar said.
As the world observed the “World Wetlands Day” last week, Villar renewed her call to protect the Las Piñas–Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) which was included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
“We should also stand up against any reclamation project on the area that will destroy our coastal environment, the most productive and biologically diverse landscapes known to man in an archipelagic country like the Philippines. This will do more harm than good,” said Villar.
She noted that for an international treaty organization to recognize LPPCHEA’s global importance to biodiversity proves the area is indeed a critical habitat.
“It needs special protection from threats, including reclamation. The recognition is a very prestigious distinction,” she stressed.
Aside from LLPCHEA, other Philippines sites in the Ramsar list are Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park in Sulu, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu and Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan.
The Philippines joined the Ramsar Convention in 1994. Signatories to join the Convention agree to "include wetland conservation considerations in their national land-use planning," and commit to implement and promote "the wise use of wetlands in their territory."
The lady senator faces an uphill battle in her legal fight to stop the proposed reclamation in Manila Bay.
She has filed a petition with the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals dismissed her appeal for the grant of a "writ of kalikasan" to avert reclamation project in the area.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, has insisted the reclamation will cause massive flooding on 65 coastal villages in the cities of Las Piñas, Paranaque and Bacoor in Cavite. .
She warned that if there will be another typhoon ‘Ondoy,’ flood water will go as deep as .15 meter up to 5.23 meter in 37 barangays in Bacoor, 17 barangays in Las Piñas and 11 barangays in Parañaque.
She said the proposed Manila Bay reclamation project will bring about catastrophic damages, which included damage to the bird sanctuary as well as to the mangrove forest and marine habitat.
LPPCHEA serves as a sanctuary to migratory bird species from as far as Siberia.
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said Metro Manila has 150 species of birds, 72 of which are found at LPPCHEA. It is the only bird sanctuary located in an urban setting. (PNA).