Sat. Jul 31st, 2021

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he would not allow any proposals from private companies to conduct massive land reclamation activities in the Manila Bay, which is currently one of the subjects of the government’s rehabilitation efforts.

Duterte made the announcement in a speech delivered during the inauguration of the Sangley Airport Development Project in Cavite City.

He said he may only consider the reclamation proposals made by government offices.

“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. 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 goes),” Duterte said.

Nearly 10,000 hectares of Manila Bay from Navotas City to Cavite are supposed to undergo 25 reclamation projects.

In December 2019, Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) general manager Joselito Gonzales said around four reclamation projects in Manila Bay have been approved.

The approved projects are the Navotas City Coastal Bay Reclamation Project, Pasay 360-Hectare Reclamation Project, Pasay 265-Hectare Reclamation Project, and the Horizon Manila 418-Hectare Reclamation Project, Gonzales said.

The projects, however, need to undergo value engineer approval before reclamation efforts can begin.

Duterte said reclaiming Manila Bay might result in environmental degradation.

“You know, when you govern, you try to be at least you try very hard to be equal and fair. But if I do that – of which I won’t do – I will choke Manila, the entire Manila City would be environmentally at peril,” he said.

Environmental group Climate Reality Project earlier cautioned the government that reclamation activities in Manila Bay would displace thousands of residents, cause flooding, and destroy its biodiversity.

Wait for next president

Duterte said he took back the power to approve all reclamation projects because he learned that many private firms are interested to reclaim Manila Bay.

“That is why yung reclamation authority, kinuha ko (I took it back). I got it back because I heard everybody was lobbying for it and it came to my attention that we have this project… Sabi ko (I said), no. No reclamation,” he said.

The PRA, previously under the supervision and control of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was stripped of its role to approve reclamation projects after such power had been transferred to the National Economic and Development Authority.

In February 2019, Duterte signed Executive Order 74, transferring the power to approve reclamation projects to the Office of the President through the PRA.

Duterte said the private sector can wait for his successor to pitch their proposed reclamation activities in Manila Bay.

He, however, said such proposals need to be studied “very carefully.”

“You wait until the next president who might look at it kindly at a different lens,” Duterte said. (IA/sovereignph.com/PNA)

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