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Calls mount vs reclamation agency, Manila Bay projects

Calls mount vs reclamation agency, Manila Bay projects

By Erika Sauler
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:48 pm | Thursday, February 7th, 2013
15  163  124

A modern-day “Battle of Manila Bay” is brewing between
business interests that want to reclaim parts of it to build
mini-cities and environment groups who don’t want it touched.

An environmental lawyer is calling for the abolition of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) to stop projects that could cover as much as 26,000 hectares on Manila Bay and adversely affect coastal communities.

Ipat Luna, chair of the green advocacy group Tanggol Kalikasan, said the government should instead focus on redeveloping neglected areas inland.

“We are studying how to question the very existence of the PRA, which is anathema to our constitutional right to a healthy environment,” Luna said at Thursday’s launch of People’s NICHE, a national alliance for the protection of marine ecosystems, at Remedios Jubilee Mission Center in Malate Church in Manila.

“At this time of climate change, we are calling for the abolition of the PRA. Why have an agency with a mandate to keep reclaiming coastal habitats that will raise the sea level and destroy another place (where the soil is sourced)?” Luna said. “What we need is a Philippine Redevelopment Authority to restore abandoned buildings and neglected areas.”

In the same forum, Fr. John Leydon, parish priest of Malate Church and member of the newly revived coalition SOS Manila Bay, invited the public to watch the Manila Bay sunset on Tuesday, Feb. 12, starting at 4 p.m. in an activity he called a “natural mobilization (against the) privatization of the commons.”

“Manila Bay belongs to everybody” and yet it will be privatized because of reclamation, he said. “These finance-driven projects, which will benefit a few people, are detrimental to the environment and will most probably add to urban decay.”

“People are invited to watch one of the greatest sunsets in the world; let’s experience it together and see what we’re going to lose,” Leydon said.

The PRA, formerly known as Public Estates Authority (PEA), is an attached agency of the Office of the President. It was created in 1977 through Presidential Decree No. 1084 to serve as a clearing house for reclamation projects.

The People’s NICHE (People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems) also called on the city government of Manila to repeal an ordinance that lifted the ban on reclamation projects in Manila Bay and allowed Manila Goldcoast Development Corp. to reclaim a portion of the bay for commercial purposes.

Luna said local governments should not allow themselves to be used by private developers that want to subvert the ban on owning public domain.

“Further reclamation of Manila Bay will greatly endanger the fragile marine ecosystem which contributes to food production and mitigates the disastrous effects of calamities and floods in nearby areas,” according to People’s NICHE spokesperson Jojo Carabeo.

The group also called on the national government to impose a 10-year moratorium on all reclamation projects.

“The history of reclamation projects is riddled with corruption and the lack of social acceptability, like what we experienced in the controversial PEA-Amari deal and the anomalous Diosdado Macapagal Highway project. Thousands of families are also displaced by these reclamation projects,” Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr. said.

“Reclaimed areas also promote a consumptive and unsustainable lifestyle,” Luna said. “In their defense, they say adverse environmental effects will not happen. Probably if you reclaim just a portion of a coastal area, but not if the plan is to reclaim 26,000 hectares of Manila Bay” from Cavite to Bataan, as projected in the PRA national reclamation plan.