Statement on the government’s decision to construct a mega vaccination hub in Nayong Pilipino

The Rights of Nature PH is concerned about the recent decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) to construct in Nayong Pilipino a mega vaccination hub funded by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr.’s International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI). The proposed facility if erected in one of the remaining green spaces in Parañaque is set to destroy the existing grassland ecosystem, mangrove and the beach forests that function as habitat, nutrient sink and filter to land-based pollutants aside from acting as buffer and natural defense against storm surges as many have seen after Typhoon Yolanda.

We find the decision unreasonable given that many open spaces like arenas, empty hotels and even malls are opening up to a vaccination center, so why construct a new one that would again destroy the few remaining ecosystems in cities like Paranaque? Replicating the idea behind existing city vaccination hubs like Makati Coliseum, Ospital ng Maynila, Ayala Malls Manila Bay, and such would be much more time efficient, cost effective, and accessible, and thus more apt in the nation’s interest to be COVID19-free.

A plan that would involve loss of green spaces and disruption of ecosystems is a plan that is doomed to fail. This apparent disregard for ecosystems and nature only confirms that even after a year in the pandemic, this administration has yet to understand COVID-19 and its zoonotic nature. Its misplaced priorities reflected how it failed to comprehend the interconnected strings of societal issues — overwhelmed health care system, low vaccination rate, failed education system, lost livelihoods, and deepened economic and social inequality — that have made the country a most favorable hotspot for the spread of the disease.

The location of Nayong Pilipino is an apt ecological buffer zone to protect the Las Piñas–Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), a Ramsar site declared for conservation under the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A projected environmental degradation in the area will strip off its natural barriers against hazards, making the already vulnerable reclaimed land of Parañaque even more prone to disasters.

Additionally, it is counterproductive to construct the proposed mega vaccination hub in an area that is inaccessible to individuals without a private car. Further, the likelihood of virus spread is high due to the proximity of the hub to a quarantine facility also located in Nayong Pilipino. Too far from being able to manage the pandemic, plummeting economy, and increasing higher rate of poverty, this administration does not have the luxury to undertake reckless decisions anymore.

We strongly urge the administration to re-evaluate its strategies and pay attention to the needs of its people. We call on the IATF to exhaust and reallocate resources towards inclusive, transdisciplinary, sustainable, and nature-based solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. We assert that the government explores every cost-effective and mass-oriented option and alternatives in their responses. We appeal to the local government of Parañaque to be critical of projects that are not in the best interest of its people in the long run. We also demand DENR to step up and carry out a mandate to protect the ecosystem and the people by conducting a thorough assessment of the environmental impact of the project.

Protecting nature is also protecting people that the government has vowed to serve. Time is running out and we challenge them to start acting like it now. NO TO CONSTRUCTION OF A VACCINATION CENTER IN NAYONG PILIPINO!