By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Deputy Speaker and Pangasinan Rep. Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas wants to prohibit and declare a total ban on further reclamations of Manila Bay.
She also called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), PRA, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs), and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to convene inclusive multi-sectoral consultations on the proposed reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
She branded as “alarming” the ongoing rush to execute the reclamation projects, citing that in 2011, the Philippine Reclamation Authority has identified 102 near-shore reclamation projects covering 38, 272 hectares in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Of these, 38 projects with an aggregate area of 26, 234 hectares are intended to reclaim virtually the entire near-shore zone of Manila Bay, she said.
“The environmental costs far outweigh the projected economic benefits from these reclamation projects,” Arenas said in filing House Resolution 2495.
Citing a 2017 news report quoting geologist Kevin Rodolfo, she expressed serious concern that the land in the National Capital Region (NCR) is sinking, mainly from over pumping of ground water caused by population pressure.
“This, combined with the effects of global warming, the rising sea level, and the fact that the NCR is barely one meter above sea level near the coastline, makes the NCR a recipe for disaster. Reclamation will speed up the sinking of the land, either from the withdrawal of groundwater, or from the added weight of buildings, or both,” Arenas said.
The Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives also earlier filed a bill seeking to declare Manila Bay as a reclamation-free zone.
Under House Bill 9067, the group of progressive lawmakers seeks to prohibit all forms of reclamation activities that will affect a part of or the entire Manila Bay area.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who led the filing of the bill, said there should be “genuine” rehabilitation of the Manila Bay and it should not be used to disguise the reclamation of the coastal area.
Under House Bill 9067, the sea waters of the Manila Bay Area are declared a reclamation-free zone.
The acts prohibited under the bill are all activities that seek to fill, cover, or overlay the sea waters of the Manila Bay Area with soil, gravel, stones or other similar materials to create artificial land space beginning from the coast; or any activity that will construct artificial islands or floating structures, build overhang infrastructure above the sea waters or will result in the receding of the sea waters and the surfacing of the soil beneath the sea waters.
“All plans for reclamation projects pending with the office of the Philippine Reclamation Authority or any government agency or local government unit are hereby disapproved,” the bill said.
HB 9067 seeks to revoke all Environmental Clearance Certificates (ECCs) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and all permits issued by any government agency or LGU (local government unit) for the purpose of reclaiming a part of or the entire Manila Bay Area.
The measure also disapproves all applications for ECCs pending with the DENR and all applications for permits pending with any government agency or LGU for the purpose of reclaiming a part of or the entire Manila Bay Area.
The bill provides that the violators of the proposed Act shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of six years to 12 years imprisonment and a fine ranging from P5 million to P15 million.
Any public officer who violates the proposed Act shall also be dismissed from public service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
“If the offender is a juridical entity, the highest ranking official and the members of its board of directors or trustees who authorized the violation shall suffer the penalty imposed under this Act. The operator or owner thereof shall not be allowed to operate similar establishment or enterprise in a different name or style or in a different location,” according to the bill.
The measure tasks the DENR to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the proposed Act.