In the midst of chaotic urbanization and rapid environmental depletion in the cities of Las Pinas and Paranaque lies a sanctuary for local and migratory birds, namely, Freedom Island and Long Island or collectively known as FREEDOM ISLANDS. But its name is a paradox of its whole story.
The 175 hectare haven stretches at the western side of the Cavite-Manila Coastal Road. It is a natural shield against typhoons and its lagoon functions as an outlet for major waterways in the two cities. Local fisherfolk families such as the magtatahong or mussels and shellfish gatherers also depend on it for their livelihood. Its rich ecosystem plays a vital role for men, birds and marine life.
It is the only remaining coastal periphery of mangroves, salt marshes and multifarious biodiversity in Metro Manila that serves as an avian refuge for 80 different species of birds 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. By this virtue, it was declared as a critical habitat in 2007 by Proclamation No: 1412.
But on the contrary, an impending devastation perpetuated by the national government itself through the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) awaits Freedom Islands. The Las Pinas –Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA) Project plan to reclaim 635 hectares of the shoreline in front of the sanctuary. According to the design of the P14 Billion ($ 324 Million) project, a highway linking the future business centers of Las Pinas and Paranaque with the rest of Metro Manila will cut through the mangroves and about 15 percent of the island will be removed to pave way for a drainage system.
Although the PRA argues that the rest of the island will remain intact for eco-tourism purposes, said infrastructures would pen in the critical habitat wherein saltwater could not circulate and eventually extinguish the mangrove trees. The disintegration of its ecosystem would not only displace birds and livelihoods but also threats big floods for the two cities.
Furthermore, the project forms part of the controversial Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP), the resurrected PEA-Amari deal that the Supreme Court has already voided with finality in November 11, 2003 because of issues of patrimony, social injustice, environmental crimes and unconstitutionality. Change of players’ names is somehow intended to mislead the issue. But it’s still the same old modus operandi of the government-corporate mafia.
The Philippine Estates Authority (PEA) was simply renamed as the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA); and the Amari Estates Co Ltd. was replaced by Italian-Thai Development Public Co. LTD (ITD-PCL) which are both owned and/or controlled by the wealthy and powerful Charanachitta family of Thailand. The MCRP Construction Corporation, which is the local counterpart of the ITD-PCL, is a subsidiary/ affiliate of the Cyber Bay Corporation. The latter has claims for reimbursement representing a total project development cost and total project-related receivables in the amount of P 10.2 billion with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). Such claims allow the MCRP / ITD-PCL to control the island for their private business purposes while local fisherfolks and the public are not allowed to enter the facility. Birdwatchers are allowed only into a certain extent in the area.
It is , therefore, a clear disrespect to the Philippine laws and the Supreme Court. It is also an issue of national patrimony aside from issues of livelihood displacement and further environmental disaster.
Our protest against the reclamation project affecting Freedom Islands is essential to our struggle for national patrimony and well-being of the people and the environment. Freedom Island is a symbolic depiction of the entire country. It must be truly freed from environmental exploitation, corporate greed and foreign interests.
SAVE FREEDOM ISLANDS! NO TO RECLAMATION PROJECT!
SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT… DEFEND OUR PATRIMONY!