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MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Monday, August 7, that the government has suspended all Manila Bay reclamation projects – except for one – while the environment department conducts its cumulative impact assessment.
“Napasuspinde lahat. Under review ang lahat ng reclamation,” said Marcos in a situation briefing on the Bulacan flooding.
“‘Yung isa lang ang natuloy dahil na-review na. Maraming problema. Marami kaming nakita na ‘di masyadong magandang patakbo.”
(We’ve suspended everything. All reclamation projects are under review. There is only one that will continue because it was already reviewed. There are a lot of problems. We saw many projects that are not being managed, operated properly.)
It is not clear which project was exempted from suspension as Marcos did not specify. Rappler has reached out to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for clarification but it has not responded as of writing.
Who was exempted?
Which reclamation project was compliant?
On Monday, August 7, a paid “fact box” ad about the Gatchalian family’s Manila Waterfront Reclamation Project published in the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer said the project has complied with the requirements of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the DENR.
Prior to this, the US Embassy expressed concern over the 318-hectare mixed-use development project’s environmental impact, and the ties of one of the project’s contractors to an allegedly blacklisted Chinese company. The project was approved in 2017 when former Philippine president Joseph Estrada was the Manila mayor.
Waterfront Manila Premier Development Incorporated said in its paid ad that it obtained a Notice to Mobilize and Notice to Commence Actual Reclamation Work last November 29, 2021. It said it also secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR.
In a recent public forum, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian admitted his father, William, was behind the project, but he insisted that it was able to get all the permits and clearances. The senator also said he was not involved in the project.
The Gatchalians supported Marcos in the 2022 elections. Sherwin was part of the Marcos-Duterte senatorial ticket and is part of the majority in the Senate. Sherwin’s brother, Rex, is the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“It went through a thorough process. PRA and the DENR issued permits. They have gone through the process. It would be unfair if they question it now. Let’s respect the process,” Senator Gatchalian was quoted as having said.
DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga last week said there has never been an assessment that took into account all projects and their overall impact on the ecosystem of Manila Bay.
While the DENR is crafting a recommendation to the government on the next steps to take, Loyzaga emphasized they were careful to stay within the law and to mind the overlapping existing legislations. There is no update yet whether the department has released its recommendation, and if this was the basis of Marcos’ statement about the suspended reclamation projects.
Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) challenged Marcos to scrap the ECCs issued to Manila Bay reclamation projects.
“Para maging konkreto ang pahayag ni Pangulong Marcos, dapat agarang repasuhin ng DENR ang 21 environmental compliance certificates ng mga reklamasyon sa Manila Bay,” said Ronnel Arambulo, Pamalakaya’s vice chairperson, in a statement on Wednesday, August 9.
(To fully realize the statement of President Marcos, the DENR should cancel the 21 environmental compliance certificates of the reclamation projects in Manila Bay.)
The group also raised the matter of holding the companies involved accountable. Pamalakaya cited the case of displaced families in Cavite.
“Dapat makabalik ang mahigit 300 pamilyang mangingisda na sapilitang pinalikas sa Bacoor City sa Cavite dahil sa reklamasyon,” Arambulo said. Destroyed mangroves, critical to fisheries production and coastal communities, should be rehabilitated.
The government should also declare Manila Bay a reclamation-free zone, the group said.
The environment secretary said last Friday, August 4, that the reclamation projects impede the government’s duty to preserve Manila Bay and to uphold their mandate under the Supreme Court’s writ of continuing mandamus issued in 2008. – Rappler.com