By HANA BORDEY, GMA Integrated News
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will review all reclamation projects nationwide after it finishes its report on the Manila Bay projects, DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga said Wednesday.
Yulo, however, said it may take some time before they can start the review.
“The cumulative impact assessment is a very complex undertaking and will require institutional support on the ground as well. We happen to have some resources for this engagement in the Manila Bay situation. However, for the rest, and we’re doing this now regionally, we will have to organize the scientific teams that will actually undertake each of the impact assessments,” Loyzaga said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the DENR’s proposed P25 billion budget for 2024.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. ordered the suspension of Manila Bay reclamation projects in August over impact concerns.
At the moment, Loyzaga said the DENR is already in the final stages of forming teams that will review the Manila Bay reclamation projects, and then the drafting of teams for the review of the rest of reclamation projects in the country will follow.
“We will move on to the other areas [after the Manila Bay review]. Principally, these areas [for review are] where large scale urban development is taking place already, and where infrastructure is deemed to be needed in order to support that by way of a port facility or other types of commercial or institutional requirements,” Loyzaga pointed out.
“We’re concentrating on those areas,” she added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, however, asked the DENR chief if such reviews of reclamation projects can be done simultaneously.
Loyzaga conceded that with limited resources, a simultaneous review isn’t realistic.
“We can try that, but realistically, it’s an issue of budget, it’s an issue of the team formation, and we do have to do a regulatory review of what actually has been issued there. So the compliance review is just one element. The impact assessment is the second… This is the one that will take the longest time,” Loyzaga said.
“And so it is a matter of having to organize these two activities and yes we can do it simultaneously, but we will need the resources and the manpower to actually do it,” she added.
But for Senator Cynthia Villar who also serves as the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee, the DENR is in for a Herculean as Local Government Units tend to favor reclamation projects.
“Lahat ng reclamation [proponents], kakampi ang local government. Kapatid ko, mayor, nag-away kami diyan [sa reclamation] eh,” Villar said.
(All reclamation proponents are allied with LGUs. I even had a quarrel with my sister, who is a mayor, about it.)
Villar hails from Las Piñas City where her sister, Imelda Aguilar, is the sitting mayor.
“Siyempre gusto nila [na mga LGU] ‘yun (reclamation) for whatever reason, but ako, I don’t like it because it will cause flooding in our city, hindi ako pumayag,” Villar added.
(She is in favor of it, for whatever reason. but I am not.)
In closing, Loyzaga said that moving forward, the DENR has revised its guidelines in issuing Environmental Compliance Certificate or ECC in critical environment areas to include mandatory disclosure of the following:
- Proximity to the proposed project in any protected area or within the protected area.
- Historically important cultural properties which will be impacted by the proposed project.
—VAL, GMA Integrated News