Press Release
October 24, 2023

Proposed Resolutions on Reclamation

Joint with
24 October 2023 (Tuesday), 10:00 a.m.
Sen. Recto and Sen. Laurel Rooms, 2/F Right Wing, Senate

This is our second public hearing on two (2) proposed Senate resolutions filed about the land reclamation projects in the country: 1) Proposed Senate Resolution No. 300 filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros; and 2) Proposed Resolution No. 759 filed by Minority Leader Koko Pimentel.

Here is a brief recap of what transpired during our first public inquiry, in aid of legislation, held on September 27 on the said 2 resolutions:

* Along with the Chair, the authors of the mentioned resolutions, Senators Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros attended the hearing. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was also present.

* Resource persons from relevant government agencies, academic institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector were likewise present.

* Due to the absence of former EMB Director William Cuñado, who issued various controversial ECCs for reclamation projects, the committee has issued a subpoena to ensure his attendance at today's hearing.

* EMB Director Gilbert Gonzales provided presentation on the Reclamation Application process, explaining the involvement of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the DENR in the process.

* Atty. Literal of PRA addressed questions about the standard Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that PRA has with reclamation proponents and the joint venture agreements between LGUs and private entities. He clarified that the MOU specifies mandatory requirements and timelines for reclamation projects, starting with a PPP ordinance from the local government and including a bidding process, award, and joint venture agreement.

* DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga assured the committee that the DENR is finalizing its memorandum of agreement with scientists to conduct a Cumulative Impact Assessment for the Manila Bay reclamation.

* Drawing from personal experiences, the Chair spoke about her two-decade-long opposition to reclamation projects, particularly the Alltech reclamation project in Las Piñas City and highlighted the importance of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park, a legislated protected area and a Ramsar-listed Wetland of International Importance. She also raised questions about the ECC issuance process, particularly regarding the reinstatement of Alltech's previously canceled ECC.

* Senators Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros explored the complexities of ECC issuance. Senator Pimentel wanted a clear understanding of the process and to whom authority is delegated.

* On the other hand, Senator Hontiveros shared her concerns about the environmental impact of such projects. She was particularly worried about a Chinese state-owned contractor involved in reclamation work in Manila Bay. She questioned the Philippine Reclamation Authority if there were any concerns about this contractor's connections to a Chinese company known for aiding China in its militarization efforts in the West Philippine Sea. She also probed into the Coastal Impact Assessment and the potential adverse effects of reclamation. She inquired about the approval processes and its potential consequences for flood control, stressing the importance of designating certain areas as "no-go zones" for reclamation.

* Several experts and stakeholders were given the floor to share their perspectives:

o Mr. Rodrigo Narod Eco from UP Maritime Science Institute (UP MSI) addressed the effects of large-scale reclamation on the environment and coastal communities. He emphasized that natural hazards could escalate into disasters when they affect human populations. He also brought forward evidence showcasing the land subsidence resulting from reclamation, making areas more prone to hazards like storm surges, sea-level rise, and liquefaction.

o Dr. Laura David, also from UPMSI, underscored the necessity for a comprehensive assessment of Manila Bay. She stressed the importance of safeguarding habitats essential for food security and discussed the negative repercussions of reclamation on these habitats.

o Representing the Manila Yacht Club, Mr. Ildefonso Tronqued voiced concerns about maritime safety, specifically pointing out obstructions in Manila Bay.

o Mr. Esteban Sy, from Sofitel, raised alarms regarding the potential flooding and pollution stemming from reclamation activities. He emphasized the need for engaging stakeholders and ensuring the effective management of sewage.

o Mr. Yu of GSIS expressed his support for halting reclamation activities until comprehensive ecological impact studies are conducted. He pointed out GSIS's extensive property holdings in the concerned area and appreciated DENR's data-centric approach. He also lamented the vanishing views of Manila Bay's iconic sunset.

o Mr. Danilo Axalan, representing the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, discussed the authority's role and apprehensions regarding how reclamation might impede the navigational highway.

o Atty. Gloria Ramos, speaking on behalf of Oceana, stressed the significance of considering the environmental aftermaths, the impending threats of climate change, and the well-being of coastal communities. She raised pertinent issues concerning fisherfolk and environmental defenders and strongly advocated for public access to environmental impact statements.

o From the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, Dr. Arvin Diesmos emphasized the need to prioritize environmental impacts in any reclamation project. He shared insights gleaned from the ASEAN region about the implications of reclamation. Committed to the cause, Dr. Diesmos extended offers of technical support and assured the committee of a forthcoming report.

o Mr. Fernando Hicap of PAMALAKAYA dived deep into the environmental and societal repercussions of reclamation. He highlighted the dire effects on marine ecosystems and the subsequent strain on fishermen's livelihoods, also touching upon the forced displacements resulting from reclamation activities.

* The Chair requested the Philippine Reclamation Authority to provide the committee with copies of various Memoranda of Understanding it entered into, pertaining to reclamation projects. Senator Cynthia Villar also asked the PRA to furnish the documents and permits related to the clearances from MARINA, the Coast Guard, and the National Security Council. These documents, submitted by the Chinese contractors, came in response to queries from Sen. Hontiveros, emphasizing that these permits were essential before the contractors could start their operations.

* Overall, the 1st public hearing was an exploration into the complex world of land reclamation, its potential impacts, and the various stakeholder perspectives on the issue. We are still in the process of discovery as we push forward with our second hearing on the subject matter.

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