PRA defends 22 Manila Bay reclamation projects
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) defended on Monday the 22 pending reclamation applications in the Manila Bay area even as its official admitted that the projects would cause environmental problems in the bay and nearby areas.
At the resumption of the House Metro Manila development committee meeting on the Manila Bay rehabilitation, lawyer Joseph Literal, PRA’s assistant general manager (GM) for reclamation and regulation, said around 22 Manila Bay reclamation projects are pending before their office. If approved, he said these could affect 20,000 hectares of the 199,000-hectare Manila Bay area.
President Rodrigo Duterte, through Executive Order No. 74, has transferred the power to approve reclamation projects from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to the PRA. The order also placed the PRA under the Office of the President from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Buhay Rep. and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza asked: “Walang epekto po ‘yun (Is there an effect on the environment)?”
“Meron po sir (There is an effect),” Literal admitted. “Meron naman po kasi silang mga ginawa pong sistema para mamenos ‘yung effect (But they are instituting systems to mitigate the effects).”
Atienza lamented that the reclamation projects as “catastrophic for all of us” even as Literal argued that the projects “may improve the condition” of the bay.
The congressman said he had attended public hearings on reclamation projects and he had witnessed that these consultations were mere “sales promotion efforts to explain the benefits of the projects” with little to no time to hear opinions of environmental experts.
“Therefore, I believe that the PRA is more inclined with approving rather than disapproving. So far they have not disapproved anyone,” Atienza said.
In explaining his opposition to the reclamation projects, the former Environment and Natural Resource Secretary pointed out that previous reclamation efforts in Navotas City resulted in “destructive results” such as worse floodings.
“Navotas never got flooded before but when fish ponds were covered up… natakpan po ‘yung natural basin, ngayon baha po lagi sa Navotas (they covered the natural basin, so now there is flooding in Navotas),” Atienza explained, noting that the same has happened in parts of Pasay City and the Baclaran area.
Lawyer Joselito Gonzales, assistant GM for land development, construction and technical services, cited how Pasay’s entertainment city, which was built on a reclaimed area of the Manila Bay, generated thousands of jobs.
The structures on reclaimed areas, Gonzales added, could also act as “coastal defense” if designed properly.
But Atienza slammed this as the “weakest argument” since casinos can be built even on areas that are not reclaimed.
Marikina City 1st District Rep. Bayani Fernando backed Atienza.
“‘Yung sinasabing employment, the government will end up going to put up necessary transport just to bring in workers from all over which has begun to be a problem and leaving all its communities around it poor forever. This is the bigger consequence or worst consequence which is a way to progress,” Fernando said. /ee
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