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Standoff looms over Manila Bay reclamation project

A STANDOFF looms between project proponents and various stakeholders in Manila over a massive reclamation project on Manila Bay.

Members of the SOS Save Manila Bay Coalition vowed to stop Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Reclamation- North Sector Reclamation Project (NSRP), which targets the reclamation of a 144-hectare portion of Manila Bay, near the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex.

In a news conference at the Manila Yacht Club in Manila on Saturday, the group, led by Doris Magsaysay-Ho, president and chief executive officer of Magsaysay Shipping, vowed to thwart the Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. in its bid to resurrect the same project which was shelved in 1992.

“We will bring the matter to the court of public opinion.  This project has to stop,” Ho said.

According to Ho, their group, which originally blocked the project more than 20 years ago, is also preparing to wage legal battle to stop the project.

Ho was among those who opposed the same development project in the 1990s, when it was given the go signal by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), then known as the Public Estates Authority, which issued to Goldcoast’s parent company, the Elco Development & Construction Corp., to “reclaim and develop ” the southern parcel of the NSRP.

“During that time, public opinion mattered. We sought public support to oppose the project and did a lot of lobbying.  We asked our presidential candidates then and we succeeded in stopping the project.  We will do this again,” she vowed.

The group, during the same news conference, launched a petition-signing campaign, which it will file before the City Council of Manila in its bid to reverse the tide in their favor.

Ho said: “We will also go to mayoral and even presidential candidates to stop this project.”

Lory Tan of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said any reclamation project, given that the country is highly vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change, is dangerous.

He said there’s a need for science-based study of the potential impacts of the project.

According to Tan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), particularly the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), should carefully look into its impact on the people, their health and well-being, businesses, as well as the environment, before issuing the project proponents an environmental clearance certificate (ECC).

Tan said the project would potentially worsen flooding woes of those living along Manila Bay. He warned that with the threats of intensifying typhoons, excessive rainfall, flashfloods and sea-level rise vis-à-vis the ground subsidence experienced in low-lying areas because of overextraction of groundwater over the past few decades, such massive reclamation projects only aggravate the threats of disaster.

“This project creates a flood zone.  It is poorly planned.  It will only worsen flooding in Manila.  There’s a need for a multi-sectoral study for this kind of project,” he said.

Lawyer Galahad R.A. Pe Benito said the project is illegal because it did not pass through public bidding. A project that was shelved 20 years ago, he said the government, being now a proponent of the project, should have followed bids and awards processes before proceeding with the reclamation project.

He added that the development of Manila Bay, which was declared a national park by then-President Ramon Magsaysay under Proclamation 41 in 1954, covers the cities of Manila, Pasay and Parañaque.

Benito, who acts as legal counsel of the group, said the agreement entered into by the City Council of Manila with the developer is also highly questionable as he cited the 70-30 sharing scheme in favor of Manila Gold Coast.

“This [is] lopsidedly in favor of Manila Gold Coast,” he said.

Among other legal issues the group vowed to raise to stop the project are Republic Act (RA) 7568 issued in 1992, which recognized the value of having a national park in Manila Bay and included in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.

The group also said that on January 13,1993, the City Council of Manila passed City Ordinance (CO) 7777 prohibiting any form of reclamation along Manila Bay from the US Embassy to the CCP Complex.

However, this ordinance was revoked when on June 6, 2011, the City Council of Manila passed another ordinance, CO 8233, amending CO 7777 and all rules and regulations inconsistent with the ordinance, and authorizing the mayor of Manila, to file an application with the Philippine Reclamation Authority to reclaim certain portions of Manila Bay.

In April 2012, the City of Manila signed a contract with the Manila Gold Coast Corp. as contractor for the reclamation, without a genuine consultation with the people, and in apparent contradiction of RA 7586, which declares, among others, that the Manila Bay should be among areas considered as protected landscape and seascape of national significance.

Despite that, however, there are existing laws that prevent the development of such magnitude along Manila Bay, namely, Resolution 2012-04 of the national Historical Commission of the Philippines declaring Manila Bay and Waterfront from Del Pan Bridge to the CCP along Roxas Boulevard as a National Historical Landmark, and thus, protected by RA 1066 or the National Cultural Heirtage Act of 2009.

Under the agreement between the city government of Manila and Manila Gold Coast Corp., the company will fund and implemented the reclamation and provide construction facilities, while the city will provide utilities, facilitate right of way, and assist in importing or exporting construction tools and even labor.

The DENR, however, has yet to issue an ECC for the said project.  A pre-requisite is the filing by the project proponent of an environmental impact assessment, promising what to do or what actions to take to prevent environmental damage or cause environmental pollution.

Local officials believe that the project will spur economic activities in Manila and boost the city’s growth and development as the country’s financial center once more.

In Photo: The SOS Save Manila Bay Coalition, in a news conference on Saturday, vowed to stop once more yet another plan to reclaim 144-hectare portion of Manila Bay near the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex. In this photo during the news conference are (from left) Lory Tan of the World Wide Fund for Nature; Fr. John Leydon of the Malate Parish Church; Doris Magsaysay-Ho, president and chief executiver of Magsaysay Shipping; and Emily Abrera, chairman of the CCP. (Nonie Reyes)









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