Sunday, February 16, 2020

Duterte may allow Manila Bay reclamation 'if connected to government projects'

President Rodrigo Duterte ultimately rejected the private sector's Manila Bay reclamation projects on Saturday night, citing their potential environmental effects. However, Duterte said he would only allow government projects to undertake reclamation in Manila Bay.

The president had previously said in January that he was not ready to allow any proposed reclamation projects over concerns that the environment might be affected. This pronouncement came during the President's speech as the Sangley Airport Development Project in Cavite City was inaugurated.

“There is one important thing that I’d like to make it clear now, not during my time. I will only allow maybe plans of whatever reclamation if it’s in connection with the government projects,” Duterte said.

"I will not allow massive reclamation for the private sector. Not now. Because if you approve one, you approve all. Ganoon yun eh."

(That’s how it is.) According to a February 18 Rappler report citing data from the Philippine Reclamation Authority, there are 19 Manila Bay reclamation projects in various stages of implementation, with 12 still in the application stage.

Of the 19, at least 17 involve either a local government unit or a government agency. 'It will choke Manila'

The chief executive also told interested parties to wait until the next presidency if they want to carry out similar projects in the bay. "It will choke Manila. The entire Manila City would be environmentally at peril. So pag-aralan niyo mabuti yan in the next administration whoever gets to be the President of this country," Duterte said.

"Manila is an old city and it will decay if you add so many things in front of Manila Bay. So ayaw ko."

(Study it very well. I don't want to.)

As of December 2019, four reclamation projects in Manila Bay have been approved, according to Philippine Reclamation Authority general manager Joselito Gonzales. 'Dubious projects'

Militant groups have long been resisting a number of the reclamation projects, saying these were counterproductive to genuine rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

Fisherfolk federation Pamalakaya in November filed official complaints with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources against three such projects in Manila Bay, calling for investigation of the effects these projects would have on the marine environment and on  fisherfolk communities along with the publication of the Environment Impact Statements (EIS) of the projects.

An EIS is a document that project proponents prepare and submit to the Environmental Management Bureau, the agency that issues ECCs. The federation also called the project dubious “as no information is disclosed to the public and no public consultation nor announcement was conducted.”

“Moreover, in case it is a government project, no signage of project details are installed, and if it is a private activity, there was also no signage for a building permit,” they said.

"Pangunahing epekto nito ay ang pagwasak ng ecosystem o ang normal na daloy ng pangingisdaan ng ating bansa at kapag ang isang lugar ay nireclaim o tinambakan, hindi na maibabalik sa dating anyo o sa dating pangigisdaan ang mga tinambakan na mga pangingisdaan sa ating bansa," Pamalakaya Chair Fernando Hicap said during a rally. In a press statement in January, Anakpawis Party-list leader Ariel Casilao urged lawmakers to pass House Bill 257 Declaring Manila Bay as “Reclamation-Free” Zone, saying, “DENR’s claim is so narrow that it could only cite positive indicators on the bay within the city of Manila when legally it involves a coastline of 190 kilometers and near 200,000 hectares, from Bataan province in the north to Cavite in the South and they did so cited (sic) on their very own Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program."