Duterte transfers power to approve reclamation to Office of the President

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Amid an ongoing cleanup of Manila Bay and proposals to halt reclamation projects there, President Rodrigo Duterte transferred the power to approve reclamation projects from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), which he placed under his office in Malacañang.

This was made possible by Executive Order (EO) No. 74, which the President signed on Friday, February 1. Rappler received a copy of the EO and then confirmed with the Malacañang Records Office that such a document exists and was indeed signed.

After Rappler's story, Malacañang released the EO to the media on Monday, February 4. Below is a copy of what they released.

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EO 74 places the PRA under the Office of the President (OP). It had previously been under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"The PRA shall be under the control and supervision of the OP, while the power of the President to approve all reclamation projects, shall be delegated to the PRA Governing Board. Such delegation, however, shall not be construed as diminishing the President's authority to modify, amend, or nulify the action of the PRA Governing Board," reads Section 2 of the EO.

This gives Duterte more opportunity to look into reclamation projects.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Monday that the EO gives Duterte a chance to be "hands-on" with reclamation. He said one possible reason for the EO is to "speed up" the decision-making process on proposed reclamation projects.

No longer NEDA

NEDA, which used to have the power to approve reclamation projects, is reduced to being among the government agencies the PRA needs to seek advice from before approving such projects.

These other offices include the DENR and the Department of Finance.

The PRA gets the final word on "all reclamation projects, including those initiated by LGUs (local government units) and all other agencies, government-owned or controlled corporations or any government entity allowed under existing laws to reclaim land..."

It covers projects "for which there are no contracts/agreements yet executed between the government entity concerned and a private sector proponent prior to the effectivity of this Order."

Duterte's EO comes at a time when massive reclamation projects along Manila Bay have been given the green light. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has approved 3 major projects.

One of these is the 407-hectare New Manila International Community, a smart "city within a city," a project which involves the family of Jose Kho, the Chinese tycoon who donated a drug rehabilitation center in Bukidnon.

A Hong Kong developer proposing the reclamation of 147 hectares of Manila Bay to build a multibillion-dollar theme park and resort even got to present during a Cabinet meeting in September 2017.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had previously proposed stopping all Manila Bay reclamation projects if they would worsen the condition of the iconic bay.

No ECC, no reclamation

Duterte also wants reclamation projects to be approved by the PRA only if the DENR issues an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Area Clearance.

All reclamation projects must also go through competitive public bidding.

The PRA is likewise ordered to craft a national or regional "reclamation and development plan" that factors in "environmental, social, and economic impacts" of proposed reclamation projects. The public must be consulted in the creation of such plans, reads the EO. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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