By Benjamin B. Pulta
Posted on Thursday, 13 Septeber 2012
Published from: tribuneonline.org (http://www.tribuneonline.org/index.php/metro-section/item/4196-ornithologists-bird-strikes-no-reason-for-manila-bay-reclamation-project)
A multibillion-peso project to reclaim a portion of the Manila Bay in the southern part of Metro Manila has incurred the ire of ornithologists who said the project’s proponents were misleading the public in claiming that bird strikes on airplanes were a valid justification for the project.
Gina Mapua, vice president of Wild Bird Club (WBC), claimed the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the proponents of the reclamation project were using the issue of bird strikes on airplanes which she said happened in the Visayas and not at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) so that the project proponent, Alltech Contractors Inc. (Alltech) will be able to reclaim the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHE A).
“A recent bird strike on a plane landing in Tacloban has been made to appear as if it is in Metro Manila to raise enough of a ruckus and fear-mongering so a property developer could remove a thorn on its back — a critical habitat in Metro Manila reminiscent of the area’s original mangrove-lined coasts,” the WBC official said.
“The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines holds the safety of passengers in airplanes paramount, but there is not a shred of evidence that the Critical Habitat is in any way connected with any bird strikes in Metro Manila,” she added.
The WBC said the PRA and Alltech were using the issue of bird strikes as an excuse to allegedly circumvent Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1412 which provides that “any reclamation in the periphery of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area shall not impede the ecological function of the lagoon and its small islands’ mangroves, salt marshes and tidal areas as breeding, feeding and roosting place for marine and terrestrial wildlife.”
PP 1412 also ordered that relevant government departments must maintain a minimum 15 percent of the 1,500 total area of the Bay City (Boulevard 2000) project consisting of existing wildlife habitats and protect their characteristics as such.
“These provisions are making it difficult for the Philippine Reclamation Authority to go ahead with its proposed massive reclamation just behind the Critical Habitat,” she pointed out.
Ornithologist Arne Jensen, who worked as Bird Strike Advisor for the authorities in Copenhagen Airport, on the other hand, was doubtful whether transferring the bird sanctuary to another location will be an effective solution to episodes of bird strikes in airplanes.
Jensen said more than 150,000 birds fly in Manila Bay and if a sanctuary within the migratory path of birds suddenly disappears, he warned that the birds will just scatter even more to areas nearer to the airport where they may pose a danger.
“It takes elementary ecology to understand that the habitat is the way it is because of its proximity to the sea. It is also quite ludicrous to say that closing the sanctuary will remove the birds,” he explained. “In fact, closing the bird sanctuary will pose a great danger to people.”
“I don’t think even the greatest engineers can take these slow moving birds twice a year,” the scientist said.
Former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar asked the Supreme Court (SC) last Friday to stop the project along the coastline of Manila Bay for its catastrophic consequences like severe flooding and irreparable damage to the environment.
In her petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan, Villar submitted to the SC the signatures of 315,849 residents of the cities of Las Piñas, Parañaque and Bacoor — areas expected to bear the brunt of the consequences of the project.
She also submitted the findings of a hydrological services consultant she tapped in support of her petition.
The SC was asked to issue a temporary environment protection order that would stop concerned national government agencies from proceeding with the project that would cover 635 hectares of submerged land.
Villar claimed the project proponent, Alltech, was able to do away with the tedious and rigorous environmental impact assessment processes by claiming that its project is but a “continuation” of an ongoing and existing project.