Marcos Halts Majority of Manila Bay Reclamation Initiatives, Except One

Feliz Grace Bueno     August 9, 2023

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Marcos Halts Majority of Manila Bay Reclamation Initiatives, Except One

On Monday, August 7th, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced that the government has halted all reclamation projects in Manila Bay, except for a single project. This pause will remain in effect until the environment department completes its assessment of the cumulative impacts.

“Nakasuspinde lahat… under review ang lahat ng reclamation. ‘Yung isa lang ang natuloy dahil na-review na. Maraming problema, marami kaming nakitang hindi masyadong maganda ang patakbo,” said the President.

Following a situation briefing, Bulacan 5th District Rep. Ambrosio Cruz Jr. expressed his views, suggesting that the recent flooding in Bulacan province was not adequately addressed by the “engineering intervention.” He pointed out that the flooding was primarily due to the water’s inability to reach the sea.

To tackle these concerns, he has introduced House Bill 3148, also known as “An Act Establishing a Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control Coastal Defense and Expressway,” which aims to provide a solution for these challenges.

Image from the Philippine Information Agency

Previously, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga mentioned that her department was forming a group of scientists and specialists to conduct a cumulative impact assessment of the reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

Furthermore, President Marcos Jr.’s statements coincided with apprehensions expressed by the United States Embassy in Manila regarding the ecological consequences of the rehabilitation initiative.

The embassy specifically voiced reservations about the participation of a Chinese company in these projects.

The embassy said, “We are also concerned that the projects have ties to the China Communications Construction Co., which has been added to the US Department of Commerce’s Entity List for its role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea.”

The embassy further adds that the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have cited the company for having fraudulent business practices.

A total of 13 reclamation projects sanctioned by the prior administration will necessitate around 5,000 hectares of Manila Bay area.

The Manila Waterfront Reclamation Project: The Only Exemption

In an “information box” advertisement featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, paid for by the Gatchalian family, it was stated on Monday, August 7th, that the Manila Waterfront Reclamation Project, associated with their name, has met the prerequisites set by both the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Waterfront Manila Premier Development Incorporated, in this paid advertisement, affirmed that it acquired official permissions, including a Notice to Mobilize and a Notice to Commence Actual Reclamation Work, on November 29, 2021. The advertisement also highlighted that an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR had been obtained.

A map of various Manila Bay reclamation projects including the Waterfront

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, speaking at a recent public forum, acknowledged his father’s involvement, William Gatchalian, in the project. However, he firmly asserted that the project had acquired all required licenses and clearances. The senator further clarified that he had no role in the project.

Last week, DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga pointed out that a comprehensive assessment considering all projects and their collective impact on the Manila Bay ecosystem had not been conducted.

As the DENR formulates recommendations for the government’s future actions, Loyzaga emphasized their commitment to legal adherence and the consideration of overlapping legislative frameworks. There is currently no update on whether the department has issued its recommendations or if these recommendations influenced President Marcos’ statement regarding the suspension of reclamation projects.

The recent developments surrounding the Manila Waterfront Reclamation Project and its associated controversies highlight the intricate balance between development ambitions, environmental concerns, and regulatory compliance.

As the DENR crafts recommendations for the government’s course of action, it is evident that the delicate interplay between legal considerations, environmental safeguarding, and public discourse will shape the future trajectory of these reclamation projects and their implications for Manila Bay’s sustainability and well-being.

Image from the Philippine News Agency

References:

  • Gozum, I. (2023, August 9). Marcos suspends all Manila Bay reclamation projects except one. RAPPLER. https://www.rappler.com/philippines/marcos-jr-suspends-manila-bay-reclamation-projects-except-one-august-2023/
  • GMA Integrated News. (2023, August 9). Marcos: All but one Manila Bay reclamation projects suspended, “under review.” GMA News Online. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/nation/878324/marcos-all-but-one-manila-bay-reclamation-projects-suspended-under-review/story/
  • Antonio, R. (2023, August 9). PBBM suspends reclamation projects in Manila Bay; only one reviewed project OK’d. Manila Bulletin. https://mb.com.ph/2023/8/8/pbbm-suspends-all-but-one-reclamation-projects-in-manila-bay

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