- Global Witness’ new report reveals how a new mega-airport north of Manila displaced hundreds of residents after a coercive consultation process in which armed soldiers were sent door-to-door, leaving community members describing feeling “terrified”
- According to local communities, around 700 families stood to be evicted from their homes with about half reportedly receiving no compensation
- The New Manila International Airport project threatens Manila Bay’s diverse coastal ecosystems which are vital to prevent worsening climate change, as well as threatening to decimate marine biodiversity and migratory bird populations
- The Dutch company Royal Boskalis Westminster NV signed a contract worth €1.5bn with a Philippines conglomerate to construct the first phase of the project, with insurance granted by the Dutch state via export credit agency Atradius Dutch State Business
- Boskalis will end up profiting from a project which dodged environmental and social due diligence, failed to fully heed the warnings of the environmental and social impact assessments, and appears to rely on original planning permission which did not mention an airport
- Strong EU and national laws are needed to prevent European companies from profiting from projects which have entailed human rights abuses and environmental destruction
Brussels, Thursday February 2nd – Two major Dutch companies are involved in the development of a mega-airport in the Philippines which has displaced hundreds of families after armed soldiers went door-to-door leaving community members describing feeling “terrified” into leaving, according to a new Global Witness report released today.
The New Manila International Airport, currently under construction by Filipino conglomerate San Miguel Corporation was given a green light by the Philippine government in 2019, despite allegations by local communities of a coercive consultation process and questionable environmental impact assessments that downplayed the ecological significance of Manila Bay.
In 2018, the Dutch dredging giant Royal Boskalis Westminster NV signed a contract worth €1.5 billion to construct the first phase of the of the airport - a project seven times the size of New York’s Central Park. Boskalis secured insurance for the project from the Dutch state via export credit agency Atradius Dutch State Business in May 2022.
Around 700 families have reportedly been displaced from their homes in the region of Bulacan, north of Manila, amidst a significant military presence in the area. The investigation reveals that armed military personnel reportedly visited residents' homes as part of a consultation process ahead of construction of the airport, alongside representatives of San Miguel Corporation. Community members described to Global Witness feeling pressured to take the compensation offers and feelings of fear following threats made by soldiers.
arrived every day, intimidating our community. They threatened us that if we
continue to refuse to leave, something [bad] might happen. That terrified my
parents and our fellow [neighbours]” - Teody Bacon, a local fisherman from
Around half of those displaced have received no compensation, residents have alleged. Many residents were forced to destroy their own homes and sign an agreement which prohibits them from criticising the project and prevents them from requesting additional compensation.
The residents’ fears are well founded. Over the past decade, 270 land and environmental defenders were murdered in the Philippines - the worst country in Asia for recorded killings. Of these murders, 45% are reportedly linked to state authorities, with the armed forces implicated in the majority of state-linked killings against people that had disputed land rights or environmental harms. 
Nature under threat
Manila bay is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot, yet the airport development is set to destroy protected ecosystems in the area.
The construction encroaches upon a recommended 'strict protection zone' identified by the Philippine and Dutch states. A joint study concludes that the airport “will permanently damage the natural habitats at the site” and recommends finding an alternative location for the project. 
The airport’s climate impacts will also permanently hurt the surrounding ecosystem. The aviation sector is a major and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the New Manila Bay International Airport is designed to cater for approximately 100 million passengers by the project’s end – making it one of the world’s busiest.
Strong EU law needed to prevent corporate abuse
Boskalis is profiting from a project which dodged environmental and social diligence, failed to heed the warnings of the environmental and social impact assessments, and benefited from implicit military threats to the community that was being displaced highlights the urgent need for new rules to prevent corporate abuse.
The airport is also being constructed off the back of planning permission which did not refer to an airport – mentioning only an unspecified “land development.” This lack of transparency prevented communities from being able to assess the impacts of the project – as well as contest any harms. 
Rachel Cox, Senior Land and Environmental Defenders campaigner at Global Witness said: “The New Manila International Airport is being railroaded through without having consulted properly with the communities it is displacing amid threats from armed soldiers. Impact assessments that showed it would be a disaster for local communities and the delicate ecosystems in Manila Bay have been ignored, and its original planning application didn’t even mention an airport. It is an outrage that a European company like Boskalis is able to profit from it.”
Global Witness’ report highlights the urgent need for stronger rules to prevent European companies from profiting from human rights abuses and environmental destruction.
On February 9th, EU parliamentarians can help to prevent corporate complicity in abuses like those documented at the New Manila International Airport project. MEPs in the EU Parliament’s environment committee will vote on whether to companies with operations in the EU should be obliged to consult with local communities before ground is broken on projects, and in an ongoing way during the project’s lifetime. 
Aurelie Skrobik, EU corporate accountability campaigner at Global Witness said “Two Dutch companies are raking in huge profits while building the New Manila Bay Airport. This comes at the expense of displaced local communities and irreplaceable biodiversity hotspots. The EU has a once-in-a generation chance to stamp out this corporate abuse by obliging companies to respect the communities and the environment affected by their activities.”
Global Witness does not allege that Boskalis or Atradius were responsible for any shortcomings in the consultation process or environmental impact assessments or that these companies were involved in displacements and relocations, setting compensation or obtaining any permissions to degrade the natural habitat at Manila Bay which were all managed by local partners and government.
Atradius told Global Witness that any shortcomings in consultations and impact assessments conducted by local partners has been mitigated by subsequent reviews which have led to the imposition of international standards, including OECD guidelines and introduction of conditions in this regard into finance agreements.
San Miguel told Global Witness that it had complied with all relevant national and international social and environmental standards at Manila Bay and that the presence of soldiers had been directed by the local government.