Groups appeal to UN Special Rapporteur to investigate reclamation, Bulacan airport project

by Kalikasan - People's Network for the Environment

November 7, 2023

6 November 2023

Environmental and human rights groups expressed their concern over the controversial New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project to United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights Ian Fry, in line with his official visit to the Philippines this week.

In a letter submitted last November 1, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) argued that the reclamation projects in Manila Bay threaten to “[worsen] the effects of climate change-related hazards such as flooding and rising sea levels.” The letter specifically focused on the impacts related to San Miguel Corporation’s airport project in Bulacan.

“The NMIA is one of the clearest examples here in our country of projects violating human rights, while worsening the impacts of climate change,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE. “Through our correspondence, we hope to have UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry comment on the NMIA, and urge the Marcos Jr. administration to finally act on this disastrous project.”

Kalikasan PNE cited the issues of community displacement, lack of compensation, environmental destruction, and lack of transparency that have been documented in relation to the NMIA project since its inception. The group also noted violations of political rights such as the harassment of fisherfolk organizer Aries Soledad and the abduction of youth advocates Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, all of whom were opposed to the NMIA and other reclamation projects in the Manila Bay area. The letter also highlighted the project’s contribution to global warming, pointing out the NMIA’s projected annual traffic of 100 million passengers “poses a significant climate impact due to the greenhouse gas emissions of the aviation sector.”

“Despite the verbal announcement of Marcos Jr. declaring the suspension of reclamation projects in Manila Bay, communities have reported that projects are still underway, while some, including the NMIA, appear to have been exempted from the suspension order altogether,” said Bonifacio.

Among Kalikasan PNE’s requests is a statement from the UN Special Rapporteur calling for a moratorium on the project, as well as an investigation into the reported environmental and human rights violations.

Philippine UPR Watch, a body of civil society organizations following the Universal Periodic Review process of the Philippines in the UN Human Rights Council, also urged the Special Rapporteur to look into the issue of reclamation in Manila Bay and beyond.

“Reclamation projects in the Philippines have long drawn the ire of communities, civil society groups, and the academe due to the potential and ongoing human rights and environmental violations,” said Clemente Bautista, spokesperson of Philippine UPR Watch. “While he is here in the Philippines, we hope that the Special Rapporteur will take the time to engage with the communities affected by reclamation, and see for himself the impacts of reclamation on our people.”

UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry and his team are visiting the Philippines from November 6 to 15.

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John Carlo Magallon, Communications Officer, Kalikasan PNE

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of their organization nor of the CPDG.