Senator calls for inquiry into Manila Bay reclamation projects

by Aug 14, 2023Featured Article, News

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. JV Ejercito on Sunday urged the Senate blue ribbon committee to look into the “midnight gold rush” approval of 22 reclamation projects around Manila Bay.

Specifically, Ejercito questioned the authority of local government units (LGUs) to enter into contracts with private companies, many of which are owned by the Chinese government, to dredge and dump sand off the shores of Manila Bay.

“If we want to get to the bottom of these reclamation projects, all stakeholders and agencies concerned have to be summoned [to a Senate investigation],” Ejercito told the Inquirer.

The senator said he didn’t think then-President Rodrigo Duterte supported these reclamation projects. “Probably the people around him conspired to have these ‘midnight gold rush’ [deals] approved,” he said, without elaborating.

Ejercito said the blue ribbon panel, chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino, should review an order supposedly issued by the Philippine Reclamation Authority that allowed local governments around Manila Bay to approve the reclamation activities.

The senator, who had also served as mayor of San Juan City for nine years, said any project involving properties owned by the state should be approved by national government agencies.

Possible overreach

During a Senate hearing last week, Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan said his department was not involved in the approval of the reclamation projects, thus the possible overreach by the LGUs.

“Is it proper for LGUs to award the contracts for the reclamation projects? From what I know, all bodies of water, including Manila Bay, are patrimonial assets owned by the state,” he also told radio dzBB’s Bantay Balita sa Kongreso.

“That’s why I don’t understand what happened here and why the LGUs were authorized to grant the contracts,” he said. “It’s one of the contentious issues here.”

Last week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. suspended all reclamation projects at Manila Bay pending a comprehensive government review.

This came days after the US Embassy in Manila raised concerns over the impact of these projects on the environment plus the involvement in the reclamation of a Chinese construction company that Washington had blacklisted three years ago.