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UN Special Procedures urged to investigate Bulacan reclamation, airport project

Philippine UPR Watch

Press Release
September 24, 202

Groups hit Philippine gov’t, San Miguel, and Dutch businesses

UN Special Procedures urged to investigate Bulacan reclamation, airport project

Geneva, Switzerland – Environmental defenders have urged United Special Procedures mandate holders to investigate the negative environmental and social impacts of the USD 15-billion reclamation and airport “aerotropolis’ project in the Philippine province of Bulacan.

Environmental organizations led by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan), Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), National Federation of Small-Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines (PAMALAKAYA), and the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) submitted letters of allegation to several Special Rapporteurs to report that the aerotropolis project has been causing massive environmental destruction and pollution, biodiversity loss, decreasing marine productivity and is responsible for many human rights violations. The organizations are part of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch (Philippine UPR Watch), whose members are lobbying at the 54th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The aerotropolis project will house the New Manila International Airport, an undertaking of Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Corporation. The reclamation for the aerotropolis project involves a collaboration of two Dutch companies: dredging giant Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Boskalis), which inked a €1.5 billion contract with SMC, which, in turn, is underwritten by the Dutch state through the export credit agency, Atradius Dutch State Business (Atradius DSB).

“We have lodged our concerns about this colossal reclamation project as it has led to the displacement of coastal communities, the loss of their livelihood, deforestation of their mangrove forest, and numerous cases of harassment from police and military agents. Complaints include the displacement of hundreds of families, the destruction of habitats crucial for climate mitigation, a devastating impact on local wildlife, and the possible creation of toxic wastes. Recently, two of our colleagues who were active in organizing fisherfolk families affected by the reclamation projects became victims of abduction and illegal detention,” said Clemente Bautista of KALIKASAN.

On September 2, 2023, the two young anti-reclamation activists, Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, were abducted in Orion, Bataan, and illegally detained by soldiers of the 70th Infantry Battalion and operatives of the Philippine National Police Special Action Forces. After 17 days of detention, they were presented to the media by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), where they surprised everyone with a declaration that they had been held against their will by the military.

“It’s urgent that the UN HRC continue its monitoring of the dire human rights situation in the Philippines. We urge the UN Special Rapporteurs to look into the violations of economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly the right of the Filipino people to a clean, toxin-free, healthy, and sustainable environment, as well as to ensure that the government protects the rights and welfare of environmental defenders,” added Bautista.

For ten straight years, the Philippines has been identified as the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental defenders by the international research NGO, Global Witness. Under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Kalikasan documented 14 killings of land and environmental defenders.#

Read the Letter of Allegation addressed to Dr. Marcos Orellana, Special Rapporteur on Toxics. The letter was also sent to the other Special Rapporteurs.


Clemente Bautista Jr.

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