MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada expressed his support for the controversial Manila Bay reclamation, amid the clamor among environmental and heritage advocacy groups to stop the project.
Inquirer.net reports the former Philippine president as saying that the reclamation – which will lay the foundation for a major entertainment hub called “solar city” – will “provide jobs and income for the city.”
Estrada says efforts to stop the project are “moot and academic,” because “the project has already been approved by the city council before I assumed office.”
His predecessor, Alfredo Lim, had signed a contract with Manila GoldCoast Corporation to reclaim 288 hectares between the Philippine Navy Headquarters and Manila Bay Yacht Club. This foundation for the “solar city” is 10 times the size of Rockwell PowerPlant Mall in Makati and twice that of Rizal Park in Manila, according to urban designer and heritage advocate Paulo Alcazaren.
The contract was signed despite Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 declaring Manila Bay as a protected area.
Various citizens have protested against the planned reclamation.
The Save Our Sunset (SOS) Manila Bay Coalition held a press conference in January this year, citing aggravated flooding, the skirting of existing laws and lack of public consultation as their reasons for opposing the project.
In February, thousands of people staged a synchronized sunset-viewing along Manila Bay as protest. That same month, Department of Tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez told Rappler he does not support the reclamation. He said his department was not consulted about the project, adding that reclamation is the wrong strategy for boosting tourism in the city.
“Manila is due for redevelopment but it does not mean that we alter it forever in this way. We sustain it as the broad, breezy boulevard that we Filipinos love. Anything that destroys that worries me very much,” said Jimenez.
A petition with more than 6,000 signatures is posted on Change.org. It was submitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on March 12.
Carlos Celdran, whom Estrada appointed Manila’s tourism consultant, told Rappler, “I don’t quite support the project but I won’t let the mayor’s decision get in the way of my functions within his tourism bureau.”
Though Celdran was present at the synchronized sunset-viewing protest in February, he now says, “I’ll be watching the protests from the sidelines on this one. I’m sure it will be an interesting show.”
Ivan Henares, president of Heritage Conservation Society and a member of the coalition protesting the project, says two courses of action remain.
President Aquino has yet to sign the project and the DENR has not issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), a requirement for greenlighting the project.
Citizens clamoring to stop the reclamation can appeal to the President or to the DENR, citing the aforementioned laws related to the issue. – Rappler.com