11 August 2023, London – Global Witness and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment welcome news that all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, the Philippines are suspended, pending a government review of their environmental and social impacts.

The announcement by Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga at the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) follows reports last week that the US embassy raised concerns over major land development projects in the Manila Bay, including potential Penvironmental impacts.

Manila Bay is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot, hosting diverse coastal ecosystems which are vital to prevent worsening climate change, as well as being a renowned migratory route for bird populations.

Environmental groups call for Philippines President Marcos to issue a written order which covers all development projects in Manila Bay, including the controversial New Manila International Airport which has been linked to a pattern of failures and damaging consequences for communities and the local environment. 

Published in February 2023, Global Witness’s report Runaway Risk found that since the airport project was given the green light in September 2019, it has already displaced hundreds of families, destroyed climate-critical habitats and devastated wildlife.

Rachel Cox, Campaign Lead, Land and Environmental Defenders Campaign at Global Witness, said: “This is welcome news from the Marcos government, however, it is vital that the recent suspension on reclamation projects by the Philippine government includes all ongoing development activities in Manila Bay where there are clear negative social and environmental impacts. This must include the New Manila International Airport, a US $15 billion mega development project that has been widely criticised by local communities and fisherfolk affected by the ongoing construction, and who will suffer the long-term impacts of the project.

Jon Bonifacio, National Coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said: “In support of residents and affected communities, we are calling on the Marcos government to issue a written order and give a backbone to the announcement. It is vital that they provide some clarity over which projects are suspended and that any assessments of project impacts involve dialogues with affected communities, civil society and experts in the field of environmental and social governance.”

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.

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 the Global Witness report.