WE agree with the environmentalist groups gathered under the S.O.S. Manila Bay: Save our Sunset! No to Reclamation of Manila Bay and the Save Freedom Island movements. They oppose the San Miguel Corporation proposal to build a $10-billion international airport to replace NAIA on land to be reclaimed at a place straddling Paranaque and Las Piñas near the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. We join them in their opposition and ask our readers to join us in this crusade.
Many high-powered groups have already voiced their willingness to support and invest in the project. This is expected because the proponent is no less than the SMC conglomerate.
The proposed airport, according to San Miguel press releases. is to be a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project. It would be located on 1,600 hectares of land to be reclaimed specifically for the project.
The airport would have an international and domestic passenger handling capacity of 75 million passengers per year, which can be upgraded to be able to handle more than 100 million a year.
There will be separate passenger terminal facilities for full-service and low-cost airlines. The terminals will have up to 164 contact gates serviced by protected passenger boarding bridges and walkways.
The proposed new airport would be able to do all the international and domestic operations now being done at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)—and even more.
In the proposed location in Manila Bay the airport would be only 11 minutes away from the Makati Central Business District via a new Airport expressway rail service.
The proposed Airport Expressway would be 15-kilometers long. It would provide quick access to Fort Bonifacio, Ortigas and Eastwood as well as an alternative route to Makati.
It is a perfect thing for the benefit of the owners of Philippine Airlines, in which SMC has a 49 percent stake. SMC acquired this share of PAL ownership from tycoon Lucio Tan, whose group owns 51 percent of PAL.
Damage to Manila Bay and Metro Manila
There is an insurmountable problem.
The SMC airport project will inflict irreparable damage on the ecology of Manila Bay and, therefore, of the whole Metro Manila. It will worsen flooding in Parañaque and Las Piñas as well in Bacoor, Cavite. And this will have multiplier effects.
The reclamation will destroy Manila Bay and Freedom Island.
In contrast to the urban chaos and environmentally degradation of most of Metro Manila, the cities of Las Piñas and Paranaque are together the home of a sanctuary for local and migratory birds. These are Freedom Island and Long Island, which are known together as Freedom Islands.
This is a 175-hectare haven on the western side of the Cavite-Manila Coastal Road. It is a natural shield against typhoons. Its lagoon functions as an outlet for major waterways in the two cities. Local fisherfolk families such as the tahong (mussel) gatherers depend on the purity of this area for their livelihood. Its rich ecosystem gives life and sustenance to human beings, birds and marine life.
This place is the only remaining coastal area for mangroves, salt marshes and fantastic biodiversity throughout Metro Manila. It is an avian refuge for 80 different species including the Black-crowned Night Herons, Kentish plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Siberian Ruby Throats, the endangered Chinese Egret, Philippine duck and the rare Pied Avocet. For this reason, it was declared as a critical habitat in 2007 by Proclamation No. 1412.
This will be affected negatively by the proposed SMC airport. Not only will the reclamation destroy the ecosystem of Manila Bay and this area of Paranaque-Las Piñas.
Once the airport is built and in operation, the bird sanctuary will be subjected to constant technological attack.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has plans for a new international airport at Sangley Point in Cavite. Sangley is definitely a better venue for a new airport to replace NAIA.