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Villar eyes PRA review power over reclamation projects
Posted at 10/16/2013 11:38 PM | Updated as of 10/16/2013 11:38 PM

MANILA - Senator Cynthia Villar is asking her colleagues in the Senate to review the power given to the agency in charge of approving reclamation projects.

She believes that some reclamation projects either threaten the environment or are potentially dangerous to residents of nearby communities.

In a privilege speech at the Senate, Villar said that the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) has approved a National Reclamation Program (NRP) that covers a total of 102 reclamation projects.

The program includes a total area of 38,272 hectares within Manila Bay, Visayas and Mindanao.

Thirty-eight of the total 102 reclamation projects will involve 26,234 hectares in Manila Bay alone, or 70% of the entire program.

"They are building another Metro Manila in Manila Bay," Villar said.

Citing various studies, Villar said that the NRP threatens to affect an equivalent of one-tenth of coastal and marine habitats in the country, which could potentially translate to a loss of nearly P30 billion per year in sea grass goods and ecosystems alone.

"Land reclamation is noted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as an irreversible form of environmental degradation, thus running counter to the State's guarantee to provide its citizens with a 'healthful and balanced ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature' and 'protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities,'" she added.

Villar has been vigorously opposing the Manila Bay reclamation project, which allegedly endangers the lives of residents of Cavite, Paranaque, and Las Pinas, who could be subjected to severe flooding.

The area in question is located around the 175-hectare Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).

The LPPCHEA is a protected area included in the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance, along with Tubbataha Reef and the Palawan Underground River. The area is also protected by virtue of Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1412 and 1412-A

Earlier this year, Villar elevated to the Supreme Court her petition against Alltech Contractors, the PRA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the concerned local government units of Las Pinas and Paranque which are involved on the said reclamation project.

Villar, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Government-Controlled Corporations and Public Enterprises, also filed Senate Resolution 294 seeking a review of the mandate of PRA and an assessment of the exercise of its powers.