Press Release
April 14, 2016

Villar concerned over PRA's inaction to clean up protected area

Sen. Cynthia Villar said it is alarming that the agency that should be taking an active role in cleaning one of the world's most important wetlands is stalling initiatives to protect the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).

During the hearing of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises presided by Villar, the senator asked Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) officials why they are not taking initiatives to clean up LPPCHEA and blocking efforts to clean it.

Villar said in February this year, she coordinated with the Department on Environment and Natural Resources- National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) Dir. Lourdes Wagan, for PRA to allow the entry of a vermicomposting facility to be used to recycle the garden waste of LPPCHEA into organic fertilizer.

"The facility is my donation, it will not require a permanent improvement in the area and it will not cost PRA anything. We just want to clean LPPCHEA for the people and the birds to enjoy. I do not understand why they are resisting it," Villar said.

Villar pointed out that PRA, being the title holder over the proclaimed critical habitat, is a government-owned and controlled corporation that is mandated under Republic Act 9003 or the National Solid Waste Act, to practice proper waste disposal and recycling.

The Supreme Court has also issued a continuing mandamus for the clean-up of Manila Bay, she added.

Through the years, students and residents of Las Pinas and Paranaque conduct weekly clean-up activities at LPPCHEA. Villar also holds monthly clean-up and tree-planting activities in the area in partnership with different organizations.

Sen. Ralph Recto who also attended the hearing, said the vermiculture facility that will temporarily occupy 240 square meters of the area, should be allowed given that it is a worthwhile environmental project.

Sen. Bam Aquino also suggested to Atty. Reynaldo Robles, PRA director, to work in partnership with DENR and the Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) in the establishment of the composting facility.

"Actually, Senator, we wanted to support this project...We've been telling management to give us a legal cover to be able to approve this because it is something that we wanted to support," Robles said.

Roberto Muldong, PRA Chairman, and Joselito Gonzales, PRA Assistant Manager for Land Development and Construction Management and Technical Services, also attended the hearing.

Villar also said PRA is being overprotective of LPPCHEA because they fear that if they "let anybody touch it, they cannot proceed with the reclamation."

LPPCHEA is among the six Ramsar-listed sites in the Philippines along with the Tubbataha Reef in Sulu, the Underground River in Palawan, the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur, the Naujan Lake in Oriental Mindoro, and the Olango Island in Cebu. It is the only site situated in an urban setting.

It has 36 hectares of mangrove forest, the thickest and most diverse among the remaining mangrove areas in Manila Bay. It is also known to host 82 species of wild birds, including the Philippine Ducks, Chinese Egret and the Black-Winged Stilts.

Villar said she is in consultation with Finance Committee Chair Sen. Loren Legarda to review the charter of PRA to ensure that reclamation projects are in line with public interest and environmental considerations.

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