By Argyll Geducos
“Not in my time.”
President Duterte said he was unlikely to approve any proposed reclamation project in Manila Bay as he expressed concern over its effect on the environment.
Duterte made the statement after the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said last month that at least four reclamation projects in Manila Bay were already given the green light.
PRA general manager Joselito Gonzales told DZMM last month that the approved projects were the Navotas City Coastal Bay Reclamation Project, Pasay 360-Hectare Reclamation Project, Pasay 265-Hectare Reclamation Project, and the Horizon Manila 418-Reclamation Project.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Duterte said it would have been fine if the projects were just investments to infuse money into the economy but added that reclaiming 10,000 hectares of the Manila Bay was “mind-boggling.”
“That entire, how many? Ten thousand hectares? It would be, surely, for habitation. There might be some offices or some residences there,” he said in the interview aired over DZMM Monday.
“But you have to make an audit now of whether or not the environment of the entire area there can absorb the waste and where would it go after being treated. Because now, you must have water treatment. If you have a new building, make sure you are connected to [a] water treatment facility,” he added.
Duterte said he was not ready to approve any reclamation project if there was no concrete plan showing how the environment would be protected.
“That big [of an area] is stupefying. Mukhang (I think), I am not ready for that. I am not ready even to say I will grant it. Not in my time,” he said.
“As long as there is no guarantee that the environment will be protected and the health of the people also safeguarded,” he added.
Environmental group Climate Reality Project earlier warned the government that dumping soil into the Manila Bay would displace thousands of residents, cause flooding, and harm its biodiversity.
However, Gonzales told DZMM last month that dumping soil into the Manila Bay would not cause it to overflow but said the water would go to the West Philippine Sea because of displacement theory.
In February last year, President Duterte ordered the creation of the Manila Bay Task Force to ensure the expedited and complete rehabilitation, restoration, and conservation of the coastal and marine ecosystem of the Manila Bay.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which was named head of the task force, was ordered to strictly enforce the Philippine Clean Water Act on the conduct of containment, removal, and clean operations, and the exercise of supervision and control on all aspects of water quality management.
The agency was likewise tasked to monitor compliance with critical environmental laws, rules and regulations, and issue notices of closure, cease and desist orders, and other appropriate sanctions to violators, including the filing of cases against erring government officials.