By Genalyn Kabiling
The Office of the President (OP) will now have control and supervision over the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) based on a new order issued by President Duterte.
In Executive Order (EO) No. 74, the President also delegated to the PRA Governing Board
the power of the President to approve the reclamation projects in a bid to rationalize operations for sustainable resource development.
The new presidential directive repealed two past executive orders that placed the PRA under the control of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its power to approve projects held by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
“The PRA shall be under the control and supervision of the OP, while the power of the President to approve all reclamation projects, shall be delegated to the PRA Governing Board. Such delegation, however, shall not be construed as diminishing the President’s authority to modify, amend, or nullify the action of the PRA Governing Board,” the order read.
“There is a need to rationalize the approval process for reclamation projects towards an economically and environmentally sustainable resource development,” it added.
The order also highlighted the State’s policy “to increase competitiveness, promote ease of doing business, and rationalize and streamline functions of agencies to facilitate efficient delivery of government services.”
Under EO 74, the President has mandated PRA to seek the “advisory opinions” of three concerned government agencies on any proposed reclamation project.
It must get the opinion of NEDA on the consistency of the project with national and regional development planning and programming, and established national priorities of the government; the DENR on the environmental sustainability of the project and compliance with environmental laws; and, Department of Finance on the economic and fiscal viability of the project.
The order covers all reclamation projects including those initiated by local government units and other government entities allowed under existing laws to reclaim land, “for which there are no contracts/agreements yet executed between the government entity concerned and a private sector proponent prior to the effectivity of this Order.”
EO 74 also stated that no reclamation project shall be approved without the required area clearance and environmental compliance certificate issued by the DENR. All reclamation projects must also undergo competitive public bidding.
Proposed reclamation projects must also be evaluated by PRA based on cumulative impacts instead of specific project basis. “Every proposed reclamation project shall be accompanied by hydrodynamic modeling, except for relatively small reclamation projects of less than five hectares, and detailed horizontal and vertical development plans,” the order read.
The PRA has also been ordered to craft a National and Regional Reclamation and Development Plan (RDP) that will take into consideration the environmental, social and economic impacts of proposed relocation projects. These plans, in coordination with the DENR, NEDA and affected local government units, must undergo public consultation and shall be consistent with the greater public interest.
The same EO also enjoined the PRA Governing Board to set aside five percent of its net earnings to develop its capability and expertise to reclaim lands. A five-year development to transform the PRA into a “premier reclamation authority” has also been ordered by the President.
The order, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, took effect immediately.
The President’s latest directive comes amid the ongoing cleanup of Manila Bay and the looming reclamation projects in the area. Some environmental groups have called on the government to halt the planned reclamation projects to protect Manila Bay’s environment.