SC asked to stop San Miguel's Bulacan airport construction

Fisherfolk and civil society groups on Tuesday, December 15, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a writ of kalikasan against the construction of the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan, a project of Ramon Ang-led San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

In a 95-page petition, the groups asked the Court for a temporary environmental protection order to stop SMC subsidiary San Miguel Aerocity Incorporated (SMAI) from developing the land at the site and from constructing the airport.

They also sought the cancellation of the environmental compliance certificate issued to Silvertides Holdings Corporation, a contractor for the project.

"We have to keep on working together in the protection, rehabilitation, and conservation of Manila Bay, not only for its economic importance and contribution to national food security, and for its historical, cultural, and aesthetic value, but to make ecosystems and people resilient to the impacts of climate change," said Oceana vice president Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy protecting the constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.

Aside from Ramos, the petition was filed by fisherfolk from Bulakan, Bulacan, represented by Teodoro Bacon and Rodel Alvarez. They were joined by Archbishop Roger Martinez of the Archdiocese of San Jose del Monte and Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura chairperson Renato de la Cruz.

Laws 'violated'

The petitioners claimed that the airport project violated a number of laws including the Philippine Fisheries Code, the Clean Water Act, the Climate Change Act, and the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

They also argued that the airport site covers forest and communal fishing grounds – protected under Republic Act No. 4701 which identifies areas fronting Manila Bay as "withdrawn from sale or settlement."

"Manila Bay is an active and living bay. It plays host to several species of fishes, seashells, and corals, and even endangered migratory birds. These are affected by this airport and real estate development," said Ramos.

The controversial project was questioned by environmental groups, which said that 7 coastal sitios were directly hit by the construction of the airport. Some residents in the area had to accept compensation or housing from SMC for being kicked out of their homes.

The ambitious project also faces hazards such as storm surge, flooding, and liquefaction.

Despite the criticism, Congress recently approved a bill granting SMAI a franchise to construct and operate the planned P736-billion project.

The franchise bill is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, which would allow the 10-year construction after needed permits are acquired.

On Tuesday, SMC announced that construction is set to begin in the 1st quarter of 2021, as it awarded Boskalis Philippines a $1.73-billion (P83-billion) contract to develop the land. – Aika Rey/Rappler.com