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Bulacan Aerotropolis threatens fishing livelihoods, Philippines


A proposal for a massive airport and airport city complex, an ‘aerotropolis’, in Bulakan, Bulacan province, Manila Bay was reviewed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in February 2017.[1] In April 2018 the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the Philippines approved the Bulacan Airport proposal. Fisherfolk and residents in Bulakan town called on the local government to study thoroughly the possible impacts on their livelihoods, particularly in the town of Taliptip. The project would be built on their fishponds, under threat of being ruined with soil piled on top of them.

The Chair of Barangay Agriculture and Fisheries said they would fight for their rights and continue to oppose construction of the aerotropolis in their area. Residents also expressed concerns over land reclamation blocking the flow of water from mountains leading to flooding in Bulakan and neighbouring communities [1]. A 16th April 2018 a video shows a few seconds of a protest march against Bulacan Aerotroplis, with a banner reading AEROTROPOLIS NAKAMAMATAY! HUWAG PAYAGAN! (translated into English - AEROTROPOLIS – DEADLY! DO NOT ALLOW!) [3].

A video by UCAN, the Union of Catholic Asian News inverviews residents of the village of Taliptip and seven other areas at risk of being affected by the project. At least 700 families face displacement. They make their living from selling their fishing catch in a nearby town and from making fishing nets. Their income is low but life is good and they do not want to leave. A woman who has lived in Taliptip for 43 years worried for the future of her children and grandchildren.

They were not informed about the airport plans and had been told they will be relocated, but not where, or how they might make an alternative livelihood. Local communities resisting loss of their homes and incomes for the airport project are being supported by environmental and church group [4].

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (KPNE), writes that the Bulacan aerotropolis plan is being pursued aggressively and was kept hidden from Taliptip  residents until news broke of President Duterte's approval of the project. The seas surrounding Taliptip support the livelihoods of about 5,000 fisherfolk and salt-makers, who face being displaced for the project [5]. A fisherman from Sitio Kinse, an island community in the midst of the mangroves along the shoreline said: "So long as the sea is here, there is hope … What will we fish if all this were turned into cement?" Fisherfolk take care of mangroves, a vital habitat for many bird species including egrets, terns, kingfishers and swallows, along with shellfish living among its roots. At the beginning of May there was a 'massive mangrove cutting spree' in Taliptap, reportedly undertaken by SMC, possibly without the required environmental clearance and thought to be connected with Bulacan Aerotropolis [6].

National fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya opposes the new airport. Chairperson Fernanado Hicap said the project will cause environmental disaster in Manila Bay; destruction of marine ecosystems would threaten the livelihoods of more than 20,000 fisherfolk in Bulacan and neighbouring towns. Hicap also lambasted the broader Build, Build, Build (BBB) infrastructure development programme that the new airport is part of, for selling coastal waters and public lands to large developers and foreign investors. Constructing an airport in Manila Bay would require extensive land reclamation works, creating new land from the sea and wreaking destruction on fishing grounds.[7] Land reclamation for the Bulacan airport project is likely to impact not just on the town of Balakan but on the neighbouring towns of Hagonoy and Paombong and the city of Malolos.[8]

Environmental groups joined forces to protest Bulacan Aerotropolis. A study conducted by University of the Philippines professor Devralin Lagos cited a study which revealed that residents of Bulacan were not consulted or informed about the possible impacts of the project. People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems (People’s Niche) launched a campaign to oppose massive infrastructure projects including the airport project.[9]

On 14th August AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) called for donations of food relief, medicines and construction materials for repairing houses for the fishing community of Taliptip. AGHAM estimated that 64 families had lost their belongings in heavy rains and high waves, linked to removal of about the mangrove trees which they said paves the way for an aerial survey for the 2,500 hectare Aerotropolis.[10]

On 19th August 2108 it was reported that more than 653 mangrove trees along the coastal area earmarked for Bulacan Aerotropolis had been cut, the top of the trees removed. The Bulacan director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that the mangrove trees had been pruned without permits for local authorities but that the evidence did not point to the project as the reason for the damage.[11]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Bulacan Aerotropolis threatens fishing livelihoods, Philippines
State or province:Bulacan
Location of conflict:Taliptip
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

A mega-airport is planned, with six parallel runways and initial capacity for 100 million passengers annually, more than triple the capacity of the existing main Manila airport, Ninoy Aquino International Airport. With a budget of P735.63 billion (US$14.2 billion) Bulacan Airport is the country's most expensive transport project to date, by far the most costly of eight infrastructure projects approved as part of the Build, Build, Build (BBB) programme on 25th April by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.[12]

San Miguel Corp (SMC), the Philippines' biggest company by revenue - a conglomerate with interests spanning infrastructure, real estate, mining, petroleum, power and food & beverages - is set to build, operate and maintain Bulacan airport and aerotropolis.[13] The plan spans 2,500 hectares, comprising 1,168 hectares allocated for the airport and 1,332 hectares for an adjoining 'airport city'.[14]

SMC's unsolicited proposal to build Bulacan Airport, revealed after scrutiny by the Department of Transportation in November 2017, featured additional SMC projects, in the form of the obligatory surface transportation network that is inherent to the aerotropolis development model.[1] An SMC-built expressway linking the airport to the North Luzon Expressway is planned, which would in turn link to SMC-backed Metro Rail Transit Line-7. By the time NEDA approved the Bulacan airport proposal in April 2018 the expressway project specified a revenue stream for SMC, an 8.4 kilometre airport toll road.[15]

The Bulacan Airport proposal will be reviewed by the NEDA Board and an inter-agency committee before it enters the Swiss Challenge stage whereby other firms can submit counter-offers which the original proponent has the option to match.[16]

Project area:2,500
Level of Investment:14,200,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:700 families
Start of the conflict:16/04/2018
Company names or state enterprises:San Miguel Corporation (SM) from Philippines
Relevant government actors:Government of Philippines
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) -
Pamalakaya (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organization in the Philippines) -
AGHAM Advocates of Science & Technology for the People -
People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems -
Barangay Agriculture and Fisheries

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Other Environmental impactsDestruction of mangroves in project area
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Malnutrition
Other Health impactsHealth problems caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of fishing and salt-making livelihoods


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Bulacan Aerotropolis is still at the proposal stage

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[7] Fisherfolk says no to Bulacan international airport, Pamalakaya-Piilipinas, 4 April 2018

[1] DOTr reviews San Miguel’s P700B Bulacan airport, Philippine Daily Enquirer, 17 February 2017

[2] Bulakenyos vs airport: Not joke to pile soil on our fishponds, Philippines New Agency, 16 April 2018

[4] Rough sailing for poor in Philippine town, ucanews, 13 May 2018

[5] Save Taliptip, Bulatlat, 20 May 2018

[6] Group slams land-reclamation projects under Duterte admin, 15 May 2018

[8] Fishers not opposed to new airport, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 April 2018

[9] Env’t groups lock arms to protest planned Bulacan airport, Melvin Gascon, 5 June 2018

[10] AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), 14 August 2018

[11] 600 mangroves damaged at proposed airport site, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 August 2018

[12] Bulacan airport, 7 other projects get NEDA Board approval, Rappler, 26 April 2018

[13] San Miguel to build $14 billion Manila airport project alone, Reuters, 4 May 2018

[14] Neda OKs ‘aerotropolis’ project,, 27 April 2018

[16] Bulacan airport concession terms under review, BusinessWorld, 27 June 2018

[15] Duterte wants assurances SMC can pull off Bulacan airport project, BusinessWorld, 29 April 2018

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Twitter - Save Taliptip #NoToSMCAerotropolis

Save Taliptip - Facebook page

Residents of Taliptip face displacement and loss of their fishing livelihoods for Bulacan Airport and new metropolis, May 2018

Protest march against Bulacan Aerotropolis

[3] Saksi: Protest march vs. planong pagtatayo ng paliparan sa Bulakan, Bulacan, GMA News, 16 April 2018

Other documents

Bulacan Airport plan Plan for Bulacan Airport and Airport City presented by the San Miguel Corporation

Mangroves cut down Stretches of mangroves had been cut down in the Bulacan Aerotropolis project area. Source: AGHAM

Fishing nets A Taliptip fisherman tends to his fishing nets. Source: Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update29/08/2018



Bulacan Airport plan

Plan for Bulacan Airport and Airport City presented by the San Miguel Corporation

Mangroves cut down

Stretches of mangroves had been cut down in the Bulacan Aerotropolis project area. Source: AGHAM

Fishing nets

A Taliptip fisherman tends to his fishing nets. Source: Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE