Villar confident in Duterte vow to protect Manila Bay

SENATOR Cynthia Villar on Monday expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte remains true to his commitment to rehabilitate and protect Manila Bay.

Villar said this was evident in Duterte’s repeated announcement expressing his stance against the bay’s reclamation.

The chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources noted that in various times during his public address briefing the people on the state of the country under quarantine, the President gave the assurance that he will not allow the reclamation of Manila Bay even in the face of the urgent need to fund the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Villar also noted that the President has advised private individuals lobbying for these reclamation projects to wait for the next presidency.

“Going into the new normal, there are a lot of things that will have to cease to exist but I am glad the policies that will help us achieve our goals for the preservation of our biodiversity, especially the protection and the rehabilitation of Manila Bay will continue,” Villar said.

On January 27, 2019, the “Battle for Manila Bay” was launched to reinforce the Supreme Court continuing mandamus issued on December 2008, which directs 13 agencies and private entities to clean up, rehabilitate, preserve, restore, and maintain the waters of Manila Bay to a level that is fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact-recreation.

Also on the basis of the continuing mandamus, Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 16 creating the Manila Bay Task Force on February 19, 2019.

Even before her election as senator, Villar has been in the forefront of the fight against Manila Bay reclamation. In 2012, together with more than 315,000 residents of Las Pinas, Paranaque and Cavite, she petitioned for a Writ of Kalikasan to block the reclamation of the Las Pinas-Paranaque Wetland Park, a Ramsar-listed Wetland of International Importance.

Villar said reclamation of Manila Bay will exacerbate flooding in nearby areas and will destroy the source of fish supply of NCR and parts of Cavite and Central Luzon. It will also affect the livelihood of over 300,000 fisher folk.

“After successfully protecting the wetland from the threat of reclamation, we are now highlighting its natural biodiversity and creating awareness on the park’s importance as a sanctuary of migratory birds and haven of flora and fauna,” Villar said.

Villar also envisions making the 175-hectare critical habitat the premiere learning environment for urban wetlands in the Philippines and a model of sustainable eco-tourism. Towards this end, the senator developed the park and built the Wetland Center, Visitors’ Center, bird hides, boardwalk and view towers.

As her contribution to improve water quality in the areas of Manila Bay with the highest coliform levels, aside from the holding of regular coastal clean-ups, Villar initiated a project to stop open defecation at Baseco Compound in Manila. Together with the Department of Health, she worked to provide toilet facilities to residents.