SC Mandamus ruling a big consideration in Manila Bay reclamation projects, DENR says

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said the 2008 Supreme Court's decision on the clean-up and rehabilitation of the Manila Bay must always be considered when undertaking reclamation projects within the historic waters.

In its Mandamus ruling, the High Court ordered 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay, restoring and maintaining its waters for commercial propagation of shellfish and milkfish, as well as for swimming, skin diving, and other recreational activities.

Loyzaga said the ruling also focused on the legal and regulatory context of reclamation activities, including the Manila Bay Mandamus Ruling, Loyzaga stated.

“Reclamation is an environmental issue that must be addressed from a lens that considers the intersectionality between ecological dynamics, socioeconomic and build environments, and the costs and benefits of these activities,” said Loyzaga  during the recent Multistakeholder Experts Dialogue on Reclamation organized by the DENR.

The reclamation forum featured the sharing of global best practices on reclamation from technical experts from the United States, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, and processes and issues on reclamation in the Philippines from academicians, government officials and private sector representatives.

It is a means for the DENR to look deeper and accelerate the review of both policy and practice of environmentally critical issues, such as reclamation

“Reclamation decisions must consider interactions between land, air and sea—and the multitude of environmental factors from physics and chemistry of water, biodiversity, and the demand for sources of food, power and water,” she added.

Loyzaga’s statement came amid the ongoing and future reclamation projects at the Manila Bay. 

The areas covered by the mandamus encompass local government units from Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan.

Aside from the DENR, other agencies involved in implementing the order include the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) , Department of Health (DOH) , Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Education (DepEd) , Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Budget and Management ( DBM) , Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) , and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) .

Loyzaga also emphaseized  the need to come up with cumulative impact assessments of all reclamation activities  “and not an evaluation of individual projects as they present themselves and stand singly and alone.”

The compounded risks due to hazards, according to her, must also be factored into the cumulative impact assessments and resilience analytics. These hazards include liquefaction and tsunami from the movements in the Manila Trench; the West Valley Fault and other fault systems affecting the region; and the impacts of climate change such as rising sea surface temperatures, sea level rise, the projected increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall events, and exposure to storm surge and flooding.

Loyzaga nonetheless said reclamation could serve a beneficial purpose, citing as successful examples much of the city of Rotterdam, new land for transportation infrastructure and urban expansion in Boston, and other reclamation projects across the globe.

She also noted that areas of Intramuros, Luneta and the CCP Complex in the cities of Manila and Pasay are also reclaimed.

“In each of these areas, however, the level of investment in terms of time, scientific knowledge, planning, evaluation and management was achieved through critical and extensive collaboration between the public and private sectors, and it was maintained through strong science-informed leadership and risk governance,” she said.

For his part, DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said reclamation drives economic activities and generates revenues for the government.

"However, reclamation should not only be confined within the economic parameters, but also on the context of environmental protection and conservation, disaster risk and climate change mitigation that are science- and evidence-based," said Leones. (Nicole Magmanlac)