By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has raised the possibility of allowing reclamation projects in Manila Bay to raise revenues for the government’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President floated the idea after worrying about the government’s insufficient funds for the COVID-19 response, including social amelioration programs for the affected sectors.
“Malapit na. Ilang buwan lang ang reserba natin. Talagang ako handa akong ipagbili ‘yung buong Dewey Boulevard sa gustong mag-reclaim. Bigyan ninyo ako ng bigas, i-approve ko (The decision point is nearing. Our reserves will last for a few months. I am prepared to consider selling the entire Dewey Boulevard to those who want to reclaim it. Give me rice and I’ll approve it),” Duterte said during his public address Monday night.
Duterte however admitted his misgivings on projects to reclaim the land along Manila Bay, saying he has opposed such activity to protect the environment and the sustainability of country’s capital.
“Hindi ako pumayag na mag-reclaim. Because a reclamation sa Manila Bay would trap us environmentally — mag-collapse ang Manila (I don’t allow reclamation because a reclamation of Manila Bay would lead to an environmental trap and the collapse of Manila),” he said.
“I would say may mga siyudad na bago, mga apartments, mga high-rise. But then the city of Manila, given its lack of ‘yung water treatment o treatment sa waste wala, so ‘pag ganon ang ginawa mo, patay ang Maynila (I would say there are new cities, high-rise apartments but then the city of Manila given its lack of water treatment facilities, if you do that, Manila will collapse),” he said.
Given his opposition to the private sector-led reclamation projects in Manila, Duterte has advised potential investors to just wait for his successor.
“So sabi ko kung gusto ninyo, you just wait for two more years, bahala na kayo. Ang susunod sa akin, he will decide for us (I told those interested, you just wait for two more years, that will be up to my successor. He will decide for us),” he said.
In his public address Monday, the President admitted that the government’s funds for the COVID-19 response would not be enough amid the extension of the Luzon-wide quarantine until the end of April. He has directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to look for additional funds even if he has to borrow or steal money.
Back in February, the President declared that he would not allow reclamation projects initiated by the private companies in Manila Bay due to its environmental impact on the capital. He said he would only allow reclamation activities only if these are connected with government projects.
Asked about the President’s position on the Manila bay reclamation, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said no official directive has yet been issued on the matter.