Various groups said government’s suspension of Manila Bay reclamation activities must be total and demanded the order should apply as well to the one project being allowed to continue.
Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that while it sees the order as positive, the government should scrap all permits issued related to the projects.
“To make President Marcos’ statement concrete, the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) must review the 21 environmental compliance certificates of the reclamation in Manila Bay,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Ronnel Arambulo said.
Scientists of the group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People also demanded the suspension of the remaining project as it called for transparency on which projects were suspended.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced last Monday that his government has suspended all but one of reclamation projects to allow the (DENR) to conduct a cumulative impact assessment.
“All were suspended. The reclamation (projects) are all under review,” the president said in a briefing on the flooding in Bulacan last Monday.
“One however was not suspended because it already underwent a review. There are many problems. We saw many things that point to bad management,” he added.
The President did not name the remaining unsuspended project.
Marcos had recently been attending public consultations in Central Luzon following devastating floods in Pampanga and Bulacan provinces in previous weeks.
Residents and officials complained to the President that floodwaters now linger far longer than they used to.
Reclamation to blame?
Groups opposing reclamation projects said these impede waters from rivers draining into the 1,994-square-kilometer Manila Bay.
The Philippine Reclamation Authority said it received 25 reclamation proposals for Manila Bay as of 2022 and had approved six.
Kodao research found out that local government units are listed as co-developers in several projects, along with private companies.
The City of Manila has 1,342 hectares, Navotas City has 650 hectare, while Pasay City has 265 hectares in reclamation projects in partnership with such private companies as SM Prime, Goldcoast, JBROS Construction, Waterfront, Pasay Harbor City, and others.
Waterfront is owned by the Gatchalian family who are politically allied with the Marcoses.
DENR secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said individual projects were processed without taking into consideration all their cumulative impacts.
“This is actually critical for future use,” she said.
Yulo-Loyzaga added that the DENR is authorized to review or modify reclamation contracts.
“Until we get a very good sense of what scientifically is going to happen in this area and until we can get a good sense of how the rule of law can be followed in this area, we want to proceed with much caution,” she said.
The environment secretary also said the reclamation projects impede government’s duty to preserve Manila Bay and to uphold their mandate under the Supreme Court’s writ of continuing mandamus issued in 2008.
Pamalakaya said that the companies undertaking the reclamation projects must be held accountable and ordered to rehabilitate destroyed mangrove areas.
The group also demanded that the 300 families displaced by reclamation projects should be allowed to go back to their communities.
Manila Bay should be declared a reclamation-free zone, Pamalakaya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)