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Villar writ curbed airport

Villar’s allegations, the court said, have been disproved by the parties concerned.

Alvin Murcia

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A toothless Writ of Kalikasan against a reclamation program issued by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012 that favored former Las Piñas Rep. and now Sen. Cynthia Villar had caused the transfer of a big-ticket airport project from the City of Paranaque to the province of Bulacan.

Sensing delay caused by Villar’s SC plea, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang moved what he envisioned as a $10 billion airport for the government along the Cyberbay reclamation area in Paranaque to Bulakan, Bulacan, upping the ante with expressways and a proposed train system that would link what would be known as the New Manila International Airport to Metro Manila for faster travel time and easier accessibility.

Ang’s Cyberbay reclamation project, however, has now sat untouched for years since Villar was able to get the SC to issue a Writ of Kalikasan, which not a few viewed as a powerless summon in the absence of a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO).

A TEPO should have stopped the respondents in Villar’s case filed 20 March 2012, which sought to stop the reclamation project at the Las Piñas and Paranaque seaside locations.

Flooding as reason

With plenty of cash to fuel growth, Ang then relocated his Cyberbay project to Bulakan, Bulacan where his P735.6 billion aerotropolis will rise.

Construction of the new airport started last September following President Rodrigo Duterte’s green light in April last year.

On 26 April 2013, however, the Court of Appeals (CA) junked Villar’s contention that the reclamation project near Manila Bay would cause flooding to the Las Piñas-Paranaque-Bacoor corridor, where most of her family’s properties and big real estate projects are located.

Primary respondents in Villar’s petition before the SC are AllTech Contractors, Inc; the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Environmental Management Bureau (EMB); and the City of Las Piñas, the Villar family’s turf and was ironically led by the lawmaker’s brother, Vergel Aguilar.
Aguilar’s wife, Imelda, now sits as Las Piñas City mayor.

SC petition

After her petition was junked by the CA, Villar on 10 October 2013 then brought her legal battle to the SC anew, demanding that the P14 billion reclamation project, to be undertaken by AllTech, be stopped.

The project, however, has an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR. With an ECC and with the CA fully apprised of the legitimacy of the project, the appellate court also found “no credible, competent and reliable evidence presented (by the Villar camp) to support allegations that the proposed coastal bay project would cause environmental damage of such magnitude to prejudice the lives, health or properties of the residents of Paranaque and Las Piñas.”

Villar’s allegations, the court said, have been disproved by the parties concerned.

With Villar’s petition at the SC still pending, the city government of Las Piñas said: “We will wait for the SC decision with regard to the petition of Sen. Villar against the proposed reclamation project.”

Reclamation backed

The City of Paranaque, however, is supportive of reclamation programs.

“Paranaque is now booming. It has become an investment destination which spurs economic growth,” said Ding Soriano, the city administrator.

“Our reclamation in the area of Manila Bay and within the jurisdiction of the city is primarily the catalyst that motivated our investors to locate their businesses to our city,” he added.

“The projects are conformably with our existing laws and policies on reclamation and consistent with the interest of the city and our people,” Soriano further said. “Reclamation is part of its economic agenda for future growth.”

Paranaque has a coastal bay reclamation project for its 203.43-hectare property. It is side by side Las Piñas’ 431.71-hectare coastal development project. Both the Las Piñas and Paranaque projects are handled by AllTech.

Trend in cities

Pasay also has a 360-hectare reclamation project not far from the Las Piñas and Paranaque development programs. It is handled by the local government unit along with SM Prime Holdings Corp.

There are also two Manila-Cavite Coastal Road reclamation projects (north and south). The South sector is a consortium made up of the City of Manila and the Manila Goldcoast Development Corp., while the North sector is a project by the Asian Seas Resources and Realty Corp.

Navotas also has two, with separate projects for 577 hectares and 73 hectares, both handled by Argonbay Construction Company Inc.

There are also almost two dozen applications to reclaim more land along the Manila Bay coastline filed before the PRA, six of which have already secured approval and one being implemented.

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