Manila Bay rehabilitation

Exempted from suspension, Pasay reclamation projects get green light from PRA

Iya Gozum

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Exempted from suspension, Pasay reclamation projects get green light from PRA

RECLAMATION. Workers fill a part of Manila Bay with land, for a reclamation project in Pasay City, on February 21, 2023.

Rappler

After 'rigorous evaluation,' the Pasay reclamation projects are deemed compliant to parameters set by the Philippine Reclamation Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) approved the resumption of two reclamation projects in Pasay City, amid a standing order to suspend ongoing reclamations in Manila Bay.

In a statement Wednesday, November 24, the PRA said that after a “rigorous evaluation” with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it was concluded the that concerned projects adhered to the conditions set in the environmental compliance certificate and area clearance.

The projects in question are the 265-hectare Pasay Harbor City reclamation project by Pasay Harbor City Corporation (PHCC) and SM Prime Holdings’ 360-hectare Pasay reclamation project.

“Following the comprehensive compliance review by DENR confirming alignment with ECC and AC conditions and adherence to PRA parameters, the resumption of the aforementioned Pasay City reclamation projects following the suspension order issued by PRA has been approved,” said the PRA in a statement.

The environment department issues these certificates and clearances, part of the lengthy application process for reclamation projects. The DENR is currently assessing all reclamations in the Manila Bay area for its cumulative impact on the environment.

Though they are to resume, the PRA said it will continue to monitor the projects’ compliance to existing laws, ECC, and AC.

Permission to proceed is “contingent on the results of the ongoing cumulative impact assessment being conducted by DENR.”

DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga said they were undertaking two separate processes: the review of projects’ compliance and the cumulative impact assessment. Before resumption, Loyzaga said there had been several technical conferences with the concerned parties.

“So what we are able to do is evaluate and assess compliance,” said Loyzaga in a Palace briefing on Wednesday. “We do not suspend. We do not lift the suspension. That is a matter for the PRA.”

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Preceding events

Last week on November 23, Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda led the hearing on reclamation projects at the House of Representatives, four months after Marcos’ directive.

Executives from PHCC, SM Prime Holdings, and Waterfront Manila Premier Development – the proponent of Manila Waterfront City – gave briefings on their projects.

Waterfront finance director Ricky Ricardo said that there was “no opportunity” for them to give their side since the suspension. The House hearing was the first one.

Donny Pile, chief executive officer of PHCC, said that around 170 hectares of 260 were already completed, the bulk of the project done during the pandemic. Pile said last week that they are commencing as soon as they are allowed.

In the same hearing, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the department was meeting with executives the next day to discuss their compliance.

A few days after the hearing, some news outlets reported that Pasay City Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano announced that the reclamation projects in the city were already allowed to resume construction.

However, the city government’s announcement was not backed by any statement from the national government until the PRA’s statement.

In a message sent to Rappler on Tuesday, November 28, Salceda’s office only said that the lawmaker had always supported the Pasay City reclamations and Waterfront for being the “most environmentally-compliant projects.”

“As for announcements, I am deferring to the Malacanang’s most proper place of making them– as ultimately, this also involves a general policy direction from President Marcos,” Salceda’s statement read.

The PRA had only confirmed the resumption of reclamations in Pasay, but not the Waterfront project in front of the US Embassy complex.

Ineffective order?

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s suspension of ongoing Manila Bay reclamation projects had been fraught with questions from the start.

Besides a verbal announcement from the President, there was no document to show to the public that the suspension was to be implemented.

Marcos said then that there was one reclamation project – though he did not name it – that was exempted. A few days later, the DENR clarified that all projects were suspended and under review.

There have been hearings in the Senate questioning the process of DENR and PRA regarding approval of proposals.

Even the Dutch ambassador to the Philippines Mariella Geraedts, in a press conference last October after a bilateral meeting, said reclamation was not suspended.

“But that project wasn’t suspended,” Geraedts said.

“That’s why I didn’t [understand] the question,” said Hanke Bruins Slot, Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs. “It isn’t suspended.”

Dutch dredging company Royal Boskalis is involved in the design and construction of both projects in Pasay. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

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