CA junks petition vs P14-B reclamation project

(Original story here)

By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 4, 2013 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the bid of former Las Piñas City representative Cynthia Villar to stop the implementation of the P14-billion reclamation project in Manila Bay.

In a 48-page decision released yesterday, the Third Division of the appellate court dismissed the petition for lack of merit.

It said the petitioner failed to prove her allegation that the reclamation project would result in massive environmental damage.

“No credible, competent, and reliable evidence had been presented to support the allegation that the proposed coastal by project would cause environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the lives, health or properties of the residents of Parañaque and Las Piñas,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr.

The CA ruled that Villar failed to present evidence that would show a “causal link” between the project and the “catastrophic environmental damage feared (by the petitioner).”

Associate Justices Rebecca de Guia-Salvador and Samuel Gaerlan concurred with the decision.

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In her petition filed in March last year, Villar sought issuance of a writ of kalikasan and temporary environmental protection order enjoining national government agencies from proceeding with the project covering 635.14 hectares in submerged land.

She submitted to the high tribunal signatures of 315,849 Las Piñas residents opposing the project and findings of a hydrological services consultant she tapped in support of her petition.

The former lawmaker argued that the project would cause massive flooding in 65 coastal barangays since it will impede natural flow of water to the bay.

Villar warned that the project would destroy one of Metro Manila’s last nature reserves and bird sanctuaries – the Las Piñas-Parañaque Coastal Lagoon or the 175-hectare of Salt marshes, tidal areas and three mangrove-clad islands that serve as home for dozens of bird species – including the globally threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret.

Environmentalists had called it “last coastal frontier in Metro Manila.”

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007 issued Executive Order 1412 declaring the coastal lagoon as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area and banning activities that would hinder its ecologically vital role as a bird sanctuary.

But the CA ruled that the “apprehensions” of Villar “had been disproven by objective, expert and scientific studies of reputable entities with vast international experience.”

“The credibility, reliability, and objectivity of the scientific studies presented by respondent AllTech and the totality of the evidence presented leave very little occasion to ponder that the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology hangs in the balance because of the reclamation project,” the court added.

CA ruling hit

Meanwhile, groups described yesterday the CA decision allowing the reclamation project as a “passport for destruction.”

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party-list, Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay (KKK-Manila Bay), Save Freedom Island Movement (SFIM) and Sagip Manila Bay Movement (SBMM) slammed the appeals court ruling.

“The CA ignored the collective and legitimate interest of the Filipino people in favor of large-scale reclamation giants. This is an affront to national interest involving people’s livelihood, environmental protection and security from deluge like flooding and human disaster,” said Fernando Hicap, chairperson of Pamalakaya and vice chairperson of Anakpawis party-list.

Hicap said the CA decision was issued amid the groups’ demand for a writ of kalikasan

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