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destroy one of Metro Manila’s last nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. Salt marshes, tidal areas and three mangrove-clad islands comprising the 175-hectare zone serve as home or resting spot for dozens of bird species, including the globally threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret. In a sprawling metropolis of more than 12 million people that has seen decades of chaotic development, the area known as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Coastal Lagoon is vital because there are so few other bird habitats left, according to environmentalists. “It is the last coastal frontier in Metro Manila, the last of its kind,” said Rey Aguinaldo, a UStrained biologist who manages the coastal lagoons for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 1412 declaring the coastal lagoon as the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area and banning activities that would impede its ecologically vital role as a bird sanctuary. But now the government is planning to reclaim another 635 hectares in front of the sanctuary to create a new business center. Opponents of the planned P14-billion project fear that although most of the coastal lagoon would initially remain intact, the bird sanctuary would be left largely cut off from Manila Bay. “The critical habitat would be penned in, and eventually the mangroves would die because saltwater would not be able to circulate,” Aguinaldo pointed out. “The saltwater mud flats would also eventually dry up.” A highway linking the new business center with the rest of Metro Manila would also cut through the mangroves, while about 15 percent of one island would be removed for a drainage canal, according to the project’s design.