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Duterte: Manila Bay reclamation will suffocate Manila

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte said he will never allow any massive reclamation projects in Manila Bay saying it will put the nation’s capital at peril.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech as he joins the Cebuanos in celebrating the 40th Sinulog Festival at the Cebu City Sports Center Grandstand on January 19, 2020. REY BANIQUET/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (REY BANIQUET/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a speech in Cavite City Saturday evening, Duterte said he will only allow a reclamation if it is in connection with a government project.

“Not during my time. I will only allow maybe plans of whatever reclamation if it is in connection with a government project. I will not allow massive reclamation for the private sector. Not now. Because if I — if you approve one, you approve all,” he said.

“Ako ayaw ko, wala ako (I don’t want it, I will not approve anything). I — I’m not… Government projects maybe, except for those na-approve na, wala na ako (except for those already approved but other than that, I won’t allow it),” he added.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) said December last year that at least four reclamation projects in Manila Bay were already given the green light.

The projects approved were the Navotas City Coastal Bay Reclamation Project, Pasay 360-Hectare Reclamation Project, Pasay 265-Hectare Reclamation Project, and the Horizon Manila 418-Hectare Reclamation Project.

The President said if he will be choking Manila if he allows the reclamation projects in Manila Bay.

“The entire Manila City would be environmentally at peril. So pag-aralan ninyong mabuti ‘yan (You have to study it carefully),” he said.

Duterte said those interested should just wait for the next administration as his successor may have a different view about it.

“For the next administration, whoever gets to be the president of this country, study it very carefully. Because that Manila there, that old city is an old city and it will decay if you add so many things in front of Manila Bay,” he said.

“No — no reclamation. You wait until the next president who would be — they would look — they might look at it kindly at a different lens,” he stressed.

In an interview with ABS-CBN last month, Duterte said reclaiming 10,000 hectares of the Manila Bay was almost “mind-boggling.” He 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.

“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 continued.

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.

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