By Ben Rosario
All 22 reclamation projects that will cover at least 10 percent of the 199,000-hectare Manila Bay are as good as approved, and are just awaiting one final nod from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before these can be implemented gradually.
At the resumption of a congressional briefing on Manila Bay rehabilitation and reclamation, officials of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PCA) admitted that there were indeed serious environmental concerns that may be raised against the impending projects but said that these issues should be resolved by the DENR.
“They (reclamation project proponents) have complied with all the mandatory requirements,” said PRA Asst. General Manager Joselito Gonzales during the hearing presided by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo.
The 22 reclamation projects which have been widely criticized for feared adverse effects to the environment will cover a total 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay that stretches from Cavite to Navotas.
Gonzales said the implementation of the projects would be gradual.
Members of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development chaired by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo assailed PRA officials for their failure to address the concerns raised by the public before approving the projects.
With climate change threatening to bring various natural disasters into the country, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza warned that the reclamation of area of Manila Bay will bring “catastrophic effects.”
He observed that the currently reclaimed areas that have been transformed into heavy commercial usage have also denied the public the “free view” of the famous Manila Bay sunset.
On the other hand, Marikina City Rep. Bayani Fernando, former chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority, advised PRA officials to only approve projects that will help the poor.
“I don’t see any benefit the poor will get from these projects. It will only make the rich richer,” he pointed out.
Castelo cited one proposed reclamation project in Pasay City covered by a joint venture agreement with a private consortium.
Under the agreement, the local and national government will get 51 percent of the 100 hectares to be covered by the project. The remaining 49 will be the share of the developer.
Both Fernando and Castelo noted that the government share of 51 hectares contained the 21 hectares that will be transformed into road networks.
“What government will be getting is just 31 hectares, not 51 as claimed by PRA,” Fernando noted.
Castelo said the deal is lopsided considering that the private developer will only spend P25,000 per hectare of reclaimed area.
PRA officials admitted that the going rate for the developed areas of the already reclaimed areas stand at P250,000 to P252,000 per square meter.
Solons also slammed the lack of public consultation prior to PRA’s approval of the reclamation projects.
“Public hearings conducted are actually sales promotion efforts promising jobs and all other benefits. That is the reason why there were no oppositors,” said Atienza.