By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives wants to declare Manila Bay as reclamation-free zone.
The group of progressive lawmakers filed House Bill 9067 that seeks to prohibit all forms of reclamation activities that will affect a part of or the entire Manila Bay area.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who led the filing of the bill, said there should be “genuine” rehabilitation of the Manila Bay and it should not be used to disguise the reclamation of the coastal area.
“If we intend or opt for genuine rehabilitation of Manila Bay, ‘wag na nating hintayin na talakayin isa-isa ang napipintong reclamation projects,” he told reporters in a press conference.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio also warned the government against pursuing the reclamation projects, saying the looming reclamation is a “form of privatization” which would only benefit big businessmen.
“Reclamation means destroying the coastal resources at mapapahamak ang kabuhayan ng libo libong taong nabubuhay sa (and putting at risk the livelihood of thousands who depend on) Manila Bay,” he said.
“Ang rehabilitasyon ay ginagawang tabing para pabanguhin ang malakihang reclamation projects (The rehabilitation is just a smokescreen for the big reclamation projects),” he said.
He noted that a businessman with close ties with President Duterte is involved in the reclamation project.
Under House Bill 9067, the sea waters of the Manila Bay Area are declared a reclamation-free zone.
The acts prohibited under the bill are all activities that seek to fill, cover, or overlay the sea waters of the Manila Bay Area with soil, gravel, stones or other similar materials to create artificial land space beginning from the coast; or any activity that will construct artificial islands or floating structures, build overhang infrastructure above the sea waters or will result in the receding of the sea waters and the surfacing of the soil beneath the sea waters.
“All plans for reclamation projects pending with the office of the Philippine Reclamation Authority or any government agency or local government unit are hereby disapproved,” the bill said.
HB 9067 seeks to revoke all Environmental Clearance Certificates (ECCs) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and all permits issued by any government agency or LGU (local government unit) for the purpose of reclaiming a part of or the entire Manila Bay Area.
The measure also disapproves all applications for ECCs pending with the DENR and all applications for permits pending with any government agency or LGU for the purpose of reclaiming a part of or the entire Manila Bay Area.
The bill provides that the violators of the proposed Act shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of six years to 12 years imprisonment and a fine ranging from P5 million to P15 million.
Any public officer who violates the proposed Act shall also be dismissed from public service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
“If the offender is a juridical entity, the highest ranking official and the members of its board of directors or trustees who authorized the violation shall suffer the penalty imposed under this Act. The operator or owner thereof shall not be allowed to operate similar establishment or enterprise in a different name or style or in a different location,” according to the bill.
The measure tasks the DENR shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for its effective implementation of the proposed Act.
Four firms closed
Meanwhile, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has shut down four more establishments found dumping untreated wastewater into the Manila Bay.
It issued cease and desist orders (CDOs) against Billion Building, HK Sun Plaza, Tramway Bayview Buffet Restaurant in Pasay City, and D Circle Hotel in Manila.
LLDA also issued additional 13 notices of violation (NOVs) and four ex-parte orders, just a few days after the kickoff of the Manila Bay rehabilitation on January 27.
Earlier, it issued CDOs against Aristocrat, Gloria Maris, Esplanade, and E Universe Entertainment and KTV Bar. They were found discharging pollutive water into Manila Bay and have no proper wastewater facility.
Improper wastewater disposal is a violation under Republic Act (RA) 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 and could be a ground for closure of the establishment and its wastewater facilities. (With a report from Ellalyn Ruiz)