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Where’s the suspension order for Manila Bay reclamation projects?

Iya Gozum

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Where’s the suspension order for Manila Bay reclamation projects?
‘What we can confirm at this point is that we have acted on the verbal declaration of the President,’ says DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga

It seems like the government needs a group chat to smoothen inconsistencies in the suspension of the Manila Bay reclamation projects.

For one, a suspension order has not yet been made public. Whether such really exists is another question altogether.

In a House hearing on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) proposed 2024 budget, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas asked for a copy of the suspension order. “‘Yung sinabi ng Pangulo na suspendido ang mga reclamation projects, ano po ‘yung naging klarong guidelines ukol sa utos na ito? Ano pong ginamit ninyo?”

(The President said all reclamation projects are suspended, what are the guidelines for this order? What did you use?)

DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga didn’t answer but instead reiterated that they are already conducting a cumulative impact assessment.

Brosas had to repeat her question. “I was asking for the order and the clear guidelines. Mayroon bang nilabas?” (Was there anything released?) The lawmaker said her office had been receiving reports that reclamation activities in Cavite are still ongoing.

To this Loyzaga replied: “We based it on the verbal declaration of the President on the need to suspend in order to assess the impact of all these projects.”

For the third time, Brosas pressed some more, asking again if the DENR has a suspension order at hand, or if they are relying only on the verbal announcement of the President.

There was a long pause before the environment secretary responded again.

“What we can confirm at this point is that we have acted on the verbal declaration of the President.” Loyzaga did not categorically say there is no suspension order.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Monday, August 7, that the government had already suspended all Manila Bay reclamation projects, save for one. Just a few days before that, Loyzaga was telling reporters in an event in Pasay City that the DENR is looking at the possibility of “maybe [halting] or [minimizing] activities” until they complete the assessment.

Three days after Marcos’ announcement, Loyzaga held a press briefing to clarify that all reclamation projects have been suspended, and that no project is exempted – contrary to what the President said.

Asked about the Philippine Reclamation Authority’s (PRA) lack of communication with the Office of the President regarding the suspension, Loyzaga waved the paper in front of her. “I have a copy of the suspension so I think that the PRA will also have a copy.”

“As soon as the President speaks, I think that will be in effect,” Loyzaga added.

The DENR and the PRA are also providing conflicting figures on the total number of reclamation projects.

In a CNN Philippines interview, PRA Assistant General Manager Joseph John Literal said there are only 13 reclamation projects in Manila Bay. The DENR, on the other hand, maintained that there are 22 projects, 15 in the National Capital Region and 7 in Calabarzon.

Reporters have been asking for a copy of the suspension order and a comprehensive list of suspended projects, but the DENR has yet to provide one. In the document obtained by Rappler from the PRA, there are 22 reclamation projects, but in another document obtained by another reporter, there are only 18.

What’s clear for now is that there’s an ongoing cumulative impact assessment and that the environment secretary is of the belief that reclamation and rehabilitation are contradictory. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.