By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official assured lawmakers Friday that the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands, will be protected from reclamation attempts.
During a hearing of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, Juan Miguel Cuna, officer-in-charge of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, said environmental considerations were taken up when the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the reclamation project was issued.
He said one of the conditions set by the DENR prior to the project’s implementation is for its proponents to seek the approval of the Manila Bay Critical Habitat Management Council and the Biodiversity Management Bureau.
“If they do not fulfill the condition… they can be penalized for that and the ECC can be canceled or suspended eventually,” Cuna told Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the committee, during the hearing.
Cuna agreed with Villar that the reclamation project should be suspended if it will damage the wetland.
“That is what we want to hear from you. I cannot understand that they will be penalized only and the project will not be suspended because it is not a matter of correcting things that they have done. It is a matter of survival of the critical habitat,” Villar said.
Cuna said he will choose to protect the critical habitat over the reclamation project.
The LPPCHEA has been identified as one of the areas that will be affected by the planned reclamation in Manila Bay of proponent cities Las Piñas and Parañaque and contractor Altech Inc.
The 175-hectare habitat is a protected area under Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1412 and 1412-A. It is listed as one of the world’s most important wetlands in the world in the Ramsar List along with the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu and the underground river in Palawan.
LPPCHEA boasts of a mangrove forest, a lagoon, a beach and collection of endemic trees. It serves as a sanctuary for dozens of bird species, including migratory birds from as far as Siberia. It is also a resting area for the Philippine duck and Chinese egret.
“Our DENR should be consistent, you are there to protect the environment. You are not there to make financial gains,” Villar said.