The new Philippine International Airport is being constructed in Bulacan, 35 kilometers north of the capital city of Manila. This airport project is a part of the flagship infrastructure program, Build build build, under President Duterte’s administration.
With a price tag of $14.5 billion, it is hailed as one of the most expensive airport projects in 2021 by Airport Technology, together with another Philippine airport project in Cavite – the Sangley Point International Airport, costing $10.3 billion (Nilson, 2022).
The Philippines’ Department of Transportation awarded the project to San Miguel Corporation (SMC), one of the Philippines’ most prominent corporations, in August 2019 to build and operate the Bulacan Airport.
The new facility aims to decongest Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila’s main airport for national and international travelers.
Manila Bulletin reports that San Miguel Corporation has hired an architectural firm known for incorporating sustainable features and environmental planning into its projects to design the master plan of the airport and the airport city, a separate development. The aim is to correct the shortcomings in other urban centers in the country.
SMC President Ramon Ang hopes to have better urban planning for the airport city. He explains:
“First, access will not be a problem. We want to avoid traffic jams, the result of poor transportation and limited road networks leading into and out of the airport city,”
“Second, we want to improve on open spaces, to have more of them, perhaps make them interconnect. Parks, wider pedestrian areas, dedicated bicycle paths–these are just some of the things we want to include in the master plan.”
“We also want to enhance the natural environment while minimizing our impact on them,”
“Most importantly, we will incorporate design and engineering measures to mitigate environmental risks.”
GMA, in their article, “San Miguel to build solar farm to power Bulacan airport,” reports that to help power the airport, SMC announced plans to construct a 200-megawatt solar farm.
According to Ang, “The battery storage will be a viable solution to balancing electricity loads and storing unstable energy supply coming from the sun and other renewable sources of energy which we are looking to utilize for the airport.”
Environmental concerns about the Airport’s construction
CNN’s article “SMC to develop mangrove industry in Bulacan to address flooding, boost livelihood” reports that in 2020, a marine conservation group, Oceana, together with the town’s fishermen and a labor group, filed a case against the developer SMC, citing environmental damages when SMC pushed through with the project.
The petition enumerated numerous dangers of building the 2,500-hectare airport city, particularly its adverse effect on Manila Bay’s biological diversity.
- “The bay serves as a habitat for marine life, especially for sardines,” said Jun Viterbo, the group’s Oceana’s defense counsel.”
- The bay is also a lucrative fishing spot for residents, used by thousands of migratory birds, and home to 18 species of marine animals, which could be badly affected by the development.
SMC responded to the issues in the petition and vowed to take action on it, which included planting 200,000 mangroves along Bulacan’s coastlines.
Philstar’s article, “DENR issues Environmental Compliance Certificate for Bulacan airport project,” presented that SMC obtained an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on June 1, 2021, one of the requirements for the project to proceed.
With the issuance of the certificate, the developer SMC is expected to implement all the requirements and steps to protect and mitigate the project’s adverse impacts on the community health, welfare, and the environment and incorporate these steps throughout the project phases.
According to the Philistar article, SMC released a statement in March that it “laid out an extensive flood mitigation plan that includes planting close to 200,000 mangroves along the Bulacan coastlines, cleaning, dredging, and widening of key Bulacan tributaries”.
In early 2021, the Supreme Court junked the case of the marine conservation group and Bulacan fishers to stop the reclamation of Manila Bay and protect the ecosystems threatened by the airport’s construction.
The Amnesty 2019 post, “Philippines country most at risk from climate crisis,” identifies the Philippines as the most at risk from the climate crisis. Its coastal and low-lying areas are vulnerable to rising sea levels, and rising temperatures damage its coral reefs and aquatic life. The country is visited by 20 typhoons each year; some are supertyphoons.
Infrastructure development sometimes entails environmental trade-offs. Infrastructure is needed to modernize society and open up more industries and businesses that will provide jobs and opportunities to people to improve their economic situation, which is crucial in developing countries.
In the case of the Philippines’ new airport development, authorities can implement their environmental policies and hold infrastructure developers accountable for the ecological damage from their projects.
The infrastructure developers must be required to take the necessary steps to minimize environmental degradation throughout the project’s life and during its operations while delivering essential infrastructure to boost the economy.
Nilson, P. (2022, February 18). The most expensive airport projects in 2021. Airport Technology. Retrieved from https://www.airport-technology.com/features/the-most-expensive-airport-projects-in-2021/
Abadilla, E. (2021, May 12). SMC taps top urban planner Palafox for airport, PAREX jobs. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved from https://mb.com.ph/2021/05/12/smc-taps-top-urban-planner-palafox-for-airport-parex-jobs/
Cabuenas, J. (2020, November 18). San Miguel to build solar farm to power Bulacan airport. GMA News. Retrieved from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/764619/san-miguel-to-build-solar-farm-to-power-bulacan-airport/story/
Philippines country most at risk from climate crisis. (2021, October 29). Amnesty International UK. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org.uk/philippines-country-most-risk-climate-crisis#