MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers on Wednesday grilled officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) over a proposed Manila Bay reclamation project.
Members of the House committee on natural resources asked engineer Cesar Siador Jr. of the Environmental Management Bureau under the DENR to explain why the consent of lawmakers and stakeholders were not sought in planning the project.
Former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, who has earlier filed a Writ of Kalikasan against AllTech Contractors Incorporated, Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), and the DENR, told the committee that she was not informed of the project back when she represented Las Piñas.
“The transaction has been completed. How come congressmen did not know? We researched how it will affect us and we are concerned that 37 barangays (villages) in Bacoor, 17 in Las Piñas, and 11 in Paranaque will be submerged in floodwaters [should the project push through],” she said.
“Why did they not ask us when we are the ones who will suffer in floods?” she asked, pointing out that floods with a depth of 0.15 to 5.12 meters could sweep through many of their villages.
Villar filed the petition at the Supreme Court last March 16 against the 635.14-hectare reclamation project. The petition was granted and a Writ of Kalikasan was issued in April.
Hearings on the petition are meanwhile ongoing at the Court of Appeals.
Siador insisted that the project went through the proper process.
The PRA lawyer Joselito Gonzales also said that they did not enter into an agreement with AllTech. “This was a project of Parañaque and Las Piñas local government units. PRA is outside their agreement with AllTech.”
He said that they had memoranda of agreement with Las Piñas and Paranaque LGUs.
Gonzales also told legislators that PRA regulated AllTech but when asked for the list of its owners, the lawyer said that he “can’t anymore recall the exact names of the individuals. We didn’t bring a copy.”
Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino also asked the EMB about consultations conducted in relation to the project. Representatives of fisherfolk concerned with the project said that they were not asked for their consent.
“Ibig sabihin kahit lahat kontra ang importante ay may consultation?” asked the lawmaker.
Siador said that what they did during the consultation with fishermen was to get their concerns and pass it on to the project’s proponents. But he could not recall a time when the proponents came back to discuss the issues with the fisherfolk.
Villar said she felt that there was a “shortcut” in the consultations and further urged legislators to look into the issuance of an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) for the project.